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August 2014 Training & Outreach Update

2014 August 26

New Models for Creating Accessible Interactive Widgets for STEM Learning

On August 7, 2014, Kyle Keane of Wolfram Research and Madeleine Rothberg of NCAM teamed up to present new DIAGRAM research into current best practices for making dynamic scientific graphics accessible to persons with print disabilities. A walk-through of a working example and its source code was included as well as demos of examples of interactive widgets forthcoming from Pearson. More than 60 publishers, UX designers, accessibility researchers, and developers tuned in, and reactions were enthusiastic to say the least. Here is a sampling of comments that came in via the chat window during the webinar:

“This is fantastic…”

“Thank you for such amazing work! This is fantastic! REALLY great stuff!”

“I am stunned with amazement over this accessible drag-and-drop…”

“I am alerting all my Facebook and Twitter friends to your code…”

“Thanks everyone for making this happen!”


Visit the DIAGRAM Center webinars web page to download the PowerPoints and view the closed-captioned recording of the webinar. You can also download a copy of Kyle Keane’s full report and experiment with his working example by visiting the Research page on the DIAGRAM web site.

Outreach Working Group Update

After a break following the DIAGRAM strategic planning meetings in June, the DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group will resume regular meetings next month. Working Group members, please watch your in-box for a note on scheduling for that meeting. Following on outcomes from the Airlie strategic planning meetings, we will be focusing on synthesizing the DIAGRAM tool suite with narrative of our story to show clearly how students can benefit from our work and discussing what we can use to determine metrics for success of DIAGRAM initiatives. If you would like to join this Working Group, please contact Julie Noblitt at <julien [at] benetech [dot] org>. As always, you can access past meeting notes on the Outreach Working Group wiki.

DIAGRAM Out and About: August 2014 Update

2014 August 26
tags: , , ,
by jnoblitt

Tobi 2.4 Brings Parallel Production Capability for EPUB 3 Projects

2014 August 26
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Varju Luceno

In June 2014, the DAISY Consortium announced the new release of the next generation open source multimedia book production tool, Tobi. Tobi is a unique software tool that can produce publications compliant with both the DAISY 3 and the mainstream EPUB 3 specifications. It includes the unique capability of adding accessibility enhancements, such as image descriptions, to the mainstream EPUB 3 publications. From the Change Log:

DIAGRAM image descriptions: EPUB3 export (XHTML5), including audio and alternative images (like DAISY projects), based on @longdesc, @aria:describedAt, @aria:describedBy / iframe + fixed metadata issue when importing DIAGRAM XML.

This release also addresses reported issues and includes other bug fixes. To download Tobi or to learn more about it, please visit the Tobi project area For more information about what’s new in this release, please visit the change log

DAISY Pipeline 2 Version 1.8 Brings Enhanced File Conversion Options

2014 August 26
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Varju Luceno

The DAISY Pipeline 2 is a cross-platform, open source tool for converting documents into accessible formats for people with print disabilities. The latest release, Version 1.8 includes a variety of bug fixes and improvements, including the new Text-to-Speech (TTS) based DTBook to DAISY 3 converter, better handling of image descriptions, rewritten HTML5 converter as well as the production of EPUB 3.0.1-compliant publications.  For details, please see the release notes on Github. (Pipeline 2 releases are hosted on GitHub servers since version 1.7.)

The HTML to EPUB 3 converter intends to implement the DIAGRAM Center’s “Image Guidelines for EPUB 3” by converting any local DIAGRAM descriptions to off-page HTML descriptions embedded as visually-hidden iframe elements and linked to images by aria-describedby attributes.

The first preview of the newly developed Text-to-Speech based audio production modules and Natural Language Processing-based structure detection modules is included in this release, available in a new DTBook to DAISY 3 converter. Text-to-Speech based production will be further tested and improved over the coming months to support the production of EPUB 3 with TTS-based Media Overlays from DTBook or HTML. TTS adapters are available for a variety of platforms and TTS engines including Acapela TTS (v7), eSpeak, SAPI 5 voices on Windows, and Mac OS X voices. Developers are working on a simple Graphical User Interface (GUI) that will be available in the end of 2014.

Pipeline 2 Version 1.8 requires the installation of Java SE 7. Also, please note that the SAPI 5 adapter currently requires the installation of Visual C++ Redistributable Package’s runtime components, available for free on Microsoft’s web site.


SETDA Recommends DIAGRAM’s Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB 3

2014 August 26

In June 2014 the SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) published a policy brief entitled, “The Accessibility of Learning Content for All Students, Including Students with Disabilities, Must Be Addressed in the Shift to Digital Instructional Material.”  The brief includes a recommendation that readers follow DIAGRAM’s “Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB 3” (see page 8 of report). Full text of brief is available in PDF. An article about the report is here:

August 2014 Content Update

2014 August 26

Content Working Group Update

After a break following the DIAGRAM strategic planning meetings in June, the DIAGRAM Content Working Group will soon resume regular meetings. Working Group members, please watch your in-box for a note on scheduling for that meeting. Following on outcomes from the Airlie strategic planning meetings, the WG will continue to discuss possible updates to Version 1.1 of the Accessible Image Sample Book, and the design of an accessible image registry, as well as work on updates to the image description guidelines. If you would like to join this Working Group, please contact co-chairs Elaine Ober at <elaine [dot] ober [at] pearson [dot] com> and Lucia Hasty at <lucia [at] tactilegraphics [dot] org>. Visit the wiki page to see past meeting notes.

DIAGRAM Resources Cited in New CAST UDL Web Site

As part of CAST’s web-based resource called “UDL On Campus: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education,” the Accessible Image Sample Book, and DIAGRAM’s Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB 3 are cited the section called, “EPUB: Supporting Learner Variability in EPUB Creation.”

August 2014 Software Development Update

2014 August 26
by jnoblitt

New DIAGRAM Subcontract with the AMS

Submitted by Sue-Ann Ma

We have an exciting update to our January 2014 blog post on Microsoft’s decision to fund Benetech’s MathML Cloud project. Last month, we signed a new subcontract with the American Mathematical Society (AMS), marking a big step for work that aims to broaden the reach of math accessibility across various reading platforms. The AMS work will extend the availability of existing visual and aural rendering capabilities using MathJax’s display engine and Chromevox’s speech rules. By eliminating Document Object Model (DOM) restrictions that require the presence of specific polyfill, JavaScript, and content support, content creators will soon be able to auto-generate math images, descriptions, and mathematical source codes directly on a server. These MathML Cloud components can then be inserted into the original source file, making mathematical expressions accessible in a scalable, platform-independent way. For more information about the MathML Cloud project, and to sign up for updates, visit

Tools Working Group Update

After a brief summer break following the DIAGRAM strategic planning meetings in June, the Tools Working Group will resume regular meetings next month. Working Group members, please watch your in-box for a note on scheduling for that meeting. We will be working on our refreshed goals from the Airlie strategic planning meetings and hope to have some interesting guest speakers this fall as well. Stay tuned! In the meantime, contact Tools Working Group chair Geoff Freed <geoff [underscore] freed [at] wgbh [dot] org> if you have any questions. And, as always, you can access past meeting notes on the Tools Working Group wiki.

August 2014 Standards Update

2014 August 18
by jnoblitt

Standards Working Group: New Temporary Meeting Schedule for 2014

Submitted by George Kerscher

Following the strategic planning meetings at Airlie in June, the DIAGRAM Standards Working Group has accelerated its meeting schedule from quarterly to bi-weekly in order to quickly resolve issues related to the DIAGRAM Content Model. Because of the large membership and interest overlap between the DIAGRAM Standards Working Group and the DAISY Transition to Inclusive EPUB 3 Ecosystem (TIES) project, the two groups have converged for the purpose of discussing the Content Model outstanding issues. The weekly meeting agendas will focus alternately on TIES and DIAGRAM topics until the Content Model discussion has concluded, most likely through November or December 2014. The DIAGRAM Standards WG will then resume its previous schedule.

The last meetings were held on July 15, August 12, and August 19, 2014. Meetings are generally held on Tuesdays at 8:00am Pacific, 11:00am Eastern, 3:00pm GMT. Please contact George Kerscher at <kerscher [at] montana [dot] com> if you would like more information. Meeting notes continue to be posted on the DIAGRAM Standards WG wiki.

EPUBTest Now Includes Accessibility Characteristics of E-book Systems

Submitted by Geoff Freed

EPUBTest ( now includes the accessibility characteristics of e-book reading systems, thanks to work done by George Kerscher, Marisa DeMeglio and others.   If you want to participate by contributing evaluations, please send a note to Marisa at marisa [dot] demeglio [at] gmail [dot] com.

DIAGRAM Community Meeting

2014 July 31
by jnoblitt

DIAGRAM Community Group PhotoIn June 2014, forty members of the DIAGRAM Community met at the beautiful Airlie Center in Warrenton, VA (near Washington, D.C.). We celebrated what we have achieved so far and set our agenda for the final funding year under the current award, which concludes on April 30, 2015. Our strategic planning included ideas for how to extend our work beyond the end of the award. Several important themes emerged from the two days of active discussions:

  • Legacy: leaving clear and useful assets, nurturing the community no matter what the future brings
  • Impact: making sure our tools and standards are used
  • Synthesis: putting all the pieces together to create comprehensive solutions
  • More: doing more of what works, more guidelines, more training, more tools, etc.
  • Future: Thinking big! Tackling new technologies (3D printing, online math, etc.), getting new funding

We left our meeting a great sense of satisfaction, connection, and excitement about the future as well as refreshed and expanded goals for the remainder of the award. We also emerged with a new understanding of our group’s amazing talents when it comes to things like championship Foosball, impromptu a cappella singing, and skeet shooting. (Sorry, no room to elaborate here, but I encourage you to ask your colleagues for details!) We were glad to see that 100% of respondents to our post-meeting survey agreed or strongly agreed that the meeting was worthwhile, useful, and relevant to future planning. From our point of view here at DIAGRAM, the community input that came from the meeting was an essential part of our planning, and we thank you!

The notes from our breakout discussions and a summary of our Goals and Objectives have been made available in a DIAGRAM-only blog posting entitled, “DIAGRAM Strategic Planning Meeting at the Airlie Center.” Note: you must be a registered user to access this article. Contact Julie Noblitt at <Julien [at] benetech [dot] org> if you need assistance with registering. In addition, a webinar to debrief the event will take place on Wednesday August 6th at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time. All DIAGRAM Advisory Board and Working Group members are welcome to attend. Look for webinar registration details via email.

It is hard to convey in this short article the deep connection we felt as we planned for the future. The DIAGRAM Center truly is the center of creativity and commitment for creating access to images for students with print disabilities. We can’t wait for all that is to come!