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March 2015 Training & Outreach Update

2015 March 23
by jnoblitt

DIAGRAM Webinar: Tactile Graphics with a Voice

The DIAGRAM webinar series kicked off in 2015 with “Tactile Graphics with a Voice,” Richard Ladner’s great overview of the tactile graphics landscape, along with the latest research from the University of Washington’s Tactile Graphics Project. Feedback was enthusiastic to say the least. One participant wrote:

“Very great presenter and presentation itself. I learned lot of new information. This will change how I provide services to students with blindness. Thank you!”

One of the nearly 100 participants dialing in that day, P.F. Anderson, Emerging Technologies Librarian for the University of Michigan Health Sciences Libraries, was inspired to create a “Storify” version of the webinar, and then went on to write a terrific blog post called “Tactile Graphics, An Introduction.”  You can find the slides from the webinar, a closed-captioned recording of the session, and a written summary of the Q & A by visiting the DIAGRAM webinars page.

Outreach Working Group Update

The DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group met on March 12, 2015 to continue our discussion of the best way to collect stories to answer the question, “What would the world have been like if DIAGRAM had not been established five years ago?” What has our impact been so far? We finalizing a plan to collect the stories and synthesize them. Contact Outreach Working Group Chair Julie Noblitt at julien [at] benetech [dot] org if you would like to help or if you have a story to share. As always, the DIAGRAM Outreach Working Group wiki is the place to find our past meeting notes.

W3C Approves Longdesc

2015 March 24

Submitted by Geoff Freed

After years of debate, the longdesc attribute has been approved as an extension to the W3C’s HTML5 recommendation.  The new extension is available at, and it defines a simple method of associating long descriptions with images.  The longdesc attribute is not new— it was originally included in HTML 4.0— but it was removed from HTML5 because of disagreement about its effectiveness.  Its (re)approval by the W3C now means that authors can continue to use it to provide long image descriptions in a standards-compliant manner.  The presence of longdesc-delivered descriptions is announced by JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes and ChromeVox screen readers (VoiceOver does not currently recognize the longdesc attribute), and longdesc is supported by Firefox, IE and Chrome browsers.  Other assistive technologies may provide support for longdesc as well.  Additionally, by downloading and installing the Firefox longdesc extension, sighted users can right-click on an image and see a menu choice for viewing the associated long description.

The longdesc attribute is, however, not the only means by which long image descriptions can be delivered to users.  Other methods include:

To see the refreshed recommendations on when to use the longdesc attribute from the DIAGRAM Standards Working Group, please visit

March 2015 Standards Update

2015 March 24
by jnoblitt

Standards Working Group Update

Submitted by George Kerscher

The DIAGRAM Standards Working Group continues to meet jointly with the TIES (Transition to Inclusive EPUB 3 eco System) Working Group on a biweekly basis, every other Tuesday, preparing for the upcoming EPUB 3.1 revision, scheduled to be completed in 2015. The next joint DIAGRAM and TIES working group meeting is March 31, 2015 at 15:00 UTC.

From the accessibility perspective, we have been working on requirements for the next revision of EPUB, which is scheduled for completion in 2015.

I attended the Google Accessibility Summit and presented the work on EPUB including media overlays. I also met with many experts present from the deaf community and expressed an open door policy to the deaf community for the development of synchronized sign language video with text, especially for the teaching of reading text, which is a second language in the deaf community.

Readium held meetings in January at the New York Public Library. There was a huge turnout; the New York Brooklyn library has joined Readium as well. Very interesting developments on the library side.

I want to make sure this community knows that there is an accessibility sub-working group associated with the W3C DPub developments. In addition, BISG has started an accessibility working group. One of the challenges will be to coordinate the accessibility efforts around digital publishing; I am very optimistic in this regard.

Finally, the USA Access Board has released information about the long-awaited Refresh of 508 and 255:

The snip below represents the spirit of many sections that refer to published information:

“guidelines also would require documentation in electronic formats—including Web-based self-service support and electronic documents—to conform to all Level A and AA Success Criteria in WCAG 2.0 or ISO 14289-1 (PDF/UA-1).”

Please contact George Kerscher at <kerscher [at] montana [dot] com> if you would like more information about the Standards Working Group. All meeting notes continue to be posted on the DIAGRAM Standards WG wiki.

March 2015 Content Working Group Update: AISB 2nd Edition

2015 March 23
by jnoblitt

The DIAGRAM Content Working Group has been hard at work on the next revised edition of the Accessible Image Sample Book. The revised edition will include several new samples (such as music and cartoons) and new modalities (such as haptics). We are delighted that Joshua Tallent, Chief eBook Architect at Firebrand Technologies, has joined our Working Group and is working on the revised edition. You can find the latest version on GitHub here:  Notes from all meetings are available on the Content WG wiki. If you have any questions about this Working Group please contact co-chairs Elaine Ober <Elaine [dot] ober [at] pearson [dot] com> and Lucia Hasty [lucia [at] tactilegraphics [dot] org>.

Accessible Assessments: New Item Writer Guidelines from NCAM

2015 March 23
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Bryan Gould

NCAM has announce the publication of new Item Writer Guidelines for Greater Accessibility, a comprehensive and unique resource that can be used to train item writers on accessibility basics with examples and instructions.

Focusing on item construction and the use of images, these guidelines will help reduce the need for additional work to make items accessible for students who use assistive technology. By addressing the decisions that test item writers face while they are actually creating the test, the NCAM Item Writer Guidelines explain how to create items that minimize the need for text alternatives. The Guidelines also provide examples of small changes that will help ensure clarity for students using assistive technology and, potentially, produce better items for all students. Considering accessibility at the earliest stage in the test creation process and the results will be a more thoughtful test, ready for effective text alternatives, that will lead to a truly accessible testing experience for all students. Please forward these to anyone who could benefit from them!

March 2015 Software Development Update

2015 March 23
tags: ,
by jnoblitt

Tools Working Group Update: Accessible Chemistry

The last DIAGRAM Tools Working Group met on December 17, 2014 for a special presentation by Volker Sorge of the University of Birmingham and the Scientific Document Analysis Group, who demonstrated his work on accessible chemistry. Refer to the meeting notes for a link to the recording of the session as well as contact information for Volker. The next meeting will be held on Monday, March 30, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific/ 2:00 p.m. Eastern when both the Standards WG and the Tools WG will hear an update on the accessible math landscape from Neil Soiffer of Design Science. Contact the Tools Working Group Chair Geoff Freed at <Geoff [underscore] Freed [at] wgbh [dot] org> if you would like more information.

Next DIAGRAM Webinar: Tactile Graphics with a Voice

2015 February 9

Registration is now open for the next DIAGRAM webinar:

Title:                Tactile Graphics with a Voice
Date:                Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Time:               11:00 a.m. Pacific (2:00 p.m. Eastern; 19:00 GMT)
Presenter:       Richard Ladner, University of Washington


Description:    Are you a publisher, tactile graphics expert, or TVI who is interested in staying up to date on the latest developments in accessible tactile graphics? The Tactile Graphics Project at the University of Washington, with funding from the DIAGRAM Center, has created “Tactile Graphics with a Voice” (TGV), a QR-code reading app that allows text within tactile graphic images to be read and voiced by a mobile device such as an iPhone or Android phone. In this webinar, lead researcher Richard Ladner will discuss the importance of tactile graphics, some alternative approaches to creating them, and give a demonstration of the TGV in action.  A user study of TGV will be also be presented. Dr. Ladner will give us a peek into the future of new approaches to tactile graphics, including wearable devices such as Google Glass. See the published paper about this work, which won Best Student Paper at the October 2014 ACM SIGACCESS conference on computers and accessibility.

Visit the entire library of free training resources from the DIAGRAM Center!

DIAGRAM Out and About: December 2014 Update

2014 December 30
tags: , ,
by jnoblitt

And, please save the date for our third annual DIAGRAM “Office Hours” get-together on Thursday March 5th (5:30 – 7pm). This year we will include a mini “Maker Space” with 3D printing and haptics demos. Further details forthcoming in the new year.

What We Are Reading

2014 December 30

Here are a few items that caught our attention since our last newsletter:

New Team Member at DIAGRAM

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

Amaya WebsterAmaya Webster has joined the DIAGRAM team to help out on a part-time basis as a project coordinator. She has been with Benetech in Customer Support for Bookshare for the past two years, and now will help keep us moving on our many upcoming projects in DIAGRAM, including the Accessible Image Sample Book update and many other projects. Welcome Amaya!

3D Printing for Accessible Education: IMLS Award Update

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

Submitted by Lisa Wadors, Project Lead

In October we kicked off the start of the 3D Printing for Accessible Education grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.  We have just concluded the formation of the advisory committee and will have our first planning meeting this January.  Members of the committee represent a variety of educators, researchers, museums, libraries, technologists and organizations that support people with disabilities. All are leading the field in 3D printing for education. The committee will focus on the planning of a National Forum and help assess, explore, and collaborate around innovative 3D-printed learning tools, particularly for STEM education. Committee members will serve as liaisons to their respective communities to help us better understand their specific opportunities, needs, and challenges around 3D printing. Send your questions about the 3D Printing for Accessible Education project or sign up for updates by emailing us at <3D [at] benetech [dot] org>.

December 2014 Content Working Group Update: AISB 2nd Edition

2014 December 30
by jnoblitt

The DIAGRAM Content Working Group met on December 11, 2014 to discuss plans for the next revised edition of the Accessible Image Sample Book. The group is now considering which new image modalities to include, starting with Chemistry and Music. Find notes from the discussion on the wiki site for the Content WG. If you have any questions about this Working Group please contact co-chairs Elaine Ober <Elaine [dot] ober [at] pearson [dot] com> and Lucia Hasty [lucia [at] tactilegraphics [dot] org>.

DIAGRAM 2014 Year-End Roundup

2014 December 30

We may collectively look back on 2014 as the year that a tipping point was achieved in the widespread acknowledgement among mainstream publishers that accessibility of educational materials is not only critical but also achievable. It’s the year that Elsevier announced all images in 2015 publications will contain alt text. It’s the year that Pearson announced that MathML will be used in books produced in 2015 and beyond. It’s also the year that the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) established an Accessibility Working Group to create a “quick start guide” as a reference for all publishers who want to make their digital content accessible. The voices of all of us in the DIAGRAM Advisory Board and Working Groups have very much influenced this collective conversation. Because of your hard work all year, we are ever closer to achieving our goal of “born accessible” image content for current and future generations of students with disabilities.

Highlights from the year include:

For your part in all these accomplishments and so many more, we thank you. Onward and upward in 2015 and beyond!

December 2014 Software Development Update: Chemistry & Math

2014 December 30

Tools Working Group Update: Accessible Chemistry

The DIAGRAM Tools Working Group met on December 17, 2014 for a special presentation by Volker Sorge of the University of Birmingham and the Scientific Document Analysis Group, who demonstrated his work on accessible chemistry. Refer to the meeting notes for a link to the recording of the session as well as contact information for Volker. Contact the Tools Working Group Chair Geoff Freed at <Geoff [underscore] Freed [at] wgbh [dot] org> if you would like more information.

MathML Cloud video

Earlier this fall, we created a very short overview video describing what MathML Cloud does and we put a version of it up on YouDescribe, the crowd-sourced video description tool created by our friends at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. Be one of the first to see it, and let us know what you think. If you prefer, see the original version on YouTube (closed-captioned).

Description Templates for Common Graphics: Final Report

2014 December 30

Editor’s Note: This is a summary of completed DIAGRAM subcontract work, submitted by Steve Landau. Find the full report and links to the surveys for the templates by visiting the DIAGRAM Development web page.

Research Team: Steve Landau, Principal Investigator, with Lucia Hasty, Yue-Ting Siu, Josh Miele, and Val Morash

Project Overview

Rather than being expected to develop unique prose for each image they are tasked to describe, image describers should be supported to describe according to established guidelines. This will simplify their work, and may reduce cognitive load for readers. This project has created software that prompts describers with image description templates for common types of graphics, based on the NCAM STEM description guidelines. Image describers respond to questions regarding the basic characteristics of a diagram, and are guided through a fill-in-the-blanks process, which generates the first paragraph of an image description. The describer is then free to edit that paragraph and to append additional explanatory language. An assessment program built into the proposed project provides feedback on the consistency and accuracy of descriptions provided by users of the templates.


In analyzing the data generated during this study, the researchers determined that guided and unguided descriptions were equally likely to contain syntactic or content errors, contain text or table elements, and provide a description of the data and data trends. Guided and unguided descriptions were also equal in how long they took to create and their text word counts. However, guided descriptions were more likely to contain important image information, including the chart type, title, caption, and units. Furthermore, the participants found description using guidance/templates to be significantly easier, and they preferred this method over unguided description.

Future Directions

The current report assesses the production of image descriptions through unguided and guided interfaces, and compares the resulting descriptions on their accuracy and completeness. The guided descriptions were no more or less accurate than the unguided descriptions, but were more complete. The current research does not address whether unguided or guided descriptions promoted comprehension and usability. Further research will be needed to investigate what properties of descriptions work best for students and teachers, and whether these properties are encouraged or discouraged by our guided-description system.

For further information, please contact <info [at] touchgraphics [dot] com>.