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Product and Project Updates

2017 April 8

Accessible Math

During the 2017 code sprint at CSUN this year, Rachel Comerford from Macmillan Learning, George Kerscher, Charles LaPierre and Neil Soiffer continued an ongoing effort to incorporate MathML accessiblity in EPUB. This sparked a renewed determination to figure out a method to recommend to publishers for including math into their EPUB books with a graceful fallback when MathML is not supported by either the Reading System or the Assistive Technology accessing it.  A MathML in EPUB Task Force was established, in addition to Neil, Charles and George, they were joined by Sina Bahram, Jason White and Avneesh Singh from DAISY.  Since CSUN this group has met a number of times and have come up with three proposed solutions that they will be sharing with the publishing community for feedback.

Accessible PEEP

As you may know, DIAGRAM Center and NCAM have partnered to develop a proof of concept intended to add accommodations to an online digital education resource for young children. The project will also develop research methodologies for studying how these accommodations improve engagement and learning for children with disabilities. The work is based on the television show PEEP and the Big Wide World, an animated program intended to excite and teach young children about STEM subjects using the world around them. NCAM began working on this three-year project last year and have so far finalized a research plan and built accommodations for four stories and a memory game. Stay tuned to learn more as work on this project progresses!

Poet Training Tool

We’ve made some strides with the new Poet Training Tool in the early part of 2017! The latest version of the interactive web-based tool introduces best practice guidelines and examples (based on the DIAGRAM Image Description Guidelines and other content developed by DIAGRAM community) to help users determine when and how best to write extended descriptions for key STEM diagrams. In April, we conducted our first round of feedback tests with a handful of new users. The initial feedback from users was extremely positive and we look forward to sharing the revamped Poet Training Tool with the Content Working Group and the rest of the DIAGRAM community in the coming months.

Technical Advisory Subcommittee Update

2017 April 8
by Charles LaPierre

The TASC group met on April 3 and the notes are now from that meeting.  Some notable takeaways from that meeting were the formation of a new Math in EPUB sub-committee, inspired by the work done at the CSUN code sprint.  Neil Soiffer gave an update on a hack-a-thon that he and his son Rory participated in where they used machine learning to convert spoken math to MathML and text that could then be displayed ultimately in a browser. Congratulations to Neil and his son, as they won one the main prize at the event. Larry Goldberg also brought to our attention the ongoing work needed to provide access to emergency information on television, because it is still too difficult to get access to charts and graphs that are onscreen during emergencies.

Standards Working Group Update

2017 April 8
by Charles LaPierre

Now that there is a new Accessibility 1.0 Standard for EPUB and the adoption of accessibility metadata in the 3.2 release of, this group has switched its focus to providing guidance and techniques on how to get MathML in EPUB and update our guidelines on extended image descriptions using the soon to be adopted ARIA-details once ARIA 1.1 is formally approved.

Developers Working Group Update

2017 April 8
by Charles LaPierre

Most of the activity with this group has been in the sub-committee for Math in EPUB, we did, however, have one informational meeting on March 27th where we highlighted all the topics we worked on during the code sprint at CSUN.  For those interested here are the minutes from that meeting.  There was no Drag and Drop meeting this past month but we are currently planning on having one in early May.

Content Working Group Update

2017 April 8

The Content Working Group has been actively working to update the Accessible Image Sample Book. Special thanks to working group Member Kimi Sugeno who tirelessly worked on migrating the HTML version of the Sample Book to the DIAGRAM website and Joshua Tallent who acted as technical advisor for the migration project. We are thrilled to announce that the project is complete and you can now read the Sample Book online directly on our website. The next project in the works is adding a new chapter on accessible multimedia to the book. Big thanks to group members Bryan Gould, Geoff Freed and Madeline Rothberg who wrote the chapter.

Out and About

2017 April 8

eBooks and EPUB Accessibility, NFB Conference

March 23, 2017, Baltimore, Maryland

  • George Kerscher gave the Keynote address, “Ushering in the Born Accessible Era” in which he discussed how the EPUB Accessibility Specification 1.0 will help publishers ensure their content is born accessible. He also reviewed what it takes to meet the minimum baseline for accessibility and explored how the certification of born accessible material can impact education.
  • Brad Turner presented a session titled “Toward a Born Accessible World”. His slides are available for download here.
  • Rick Johnson, a DIAGRAM community member presented a session called “An Update on What is Possible”.
  • Sue-Ann Ma presented a session titled “Content Beyond Text: Making Images Accessible”.
  • Amy Mason, also a DIAGRAM community member, presented a session called “Choosing a Reading System: Your Silent Partner in Accessibility”.

Editor’s Note: we will update this post if and when more slide decks become available for download.

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Annual Convention and Expo

April 19 – 22, 2017, Boston, Massachusetts

  • Lisa Wadors presented at the CEC annual convention and expo, which is one of the biggest special education professional development events of the year. Her session “Access to the General Curriculum Through Innovative Technology Solutions” explored accessible technology, tools and programs to increase accessibility and access in the K-12 classroom.
  • Lisa Dieker, who is a member of DIAGRAM’s General Advisory Committee and Technical Subcommittee, presented a session titled, “Transforming Schools and Classrooms for the Future: Infusion of inclusive Practices and Technology”. Her presentation focused on practice ideas to transform schools and classrooms in the areas of technology, inclusion and high learning outcomes.

NISO Virtual Conference

May 17, 2017

Charles LaPierre will be giving a thirty-minute presentation on accessibility titled “Convergence: The Web and Publishing On the Web”. His talk will explore how publishing is more web dominated than ever and what that means for accessibility.

IMS Global Conference

May 17, 2017, Denver Colorado

George Kerscher will be presenting two sessions, Impact of the EPUB Standard on Accessible Course Materials and Accessible Content and Publishers: I’m on the Right Track, Baby I Was Born this Way! Both sessions will focus on moving forward with the Born Accessible movement, with the second taking a deeper dive and exploring “Buy Accessible” and “Find Accessible” as well.

Better Together Conference

June 28, 2017, The Hague, Netherlands

  • Brad Turner will be presenting on image description.
  • George Kerscher will be speaking during the closing plenary session on how to help delivery of born accessible material.

W3C DPUB Working Group Meeting

June 22-23, New York

Charles LaPierre will be attending the first meeting of the new digital publishing working group meeting. He will be reporting on that in our August newsletter.

What We Are Reading

2017 April 8
  • Benetech’s President Betsy Beaumon was recently honored by the Silicon Valley Business Journal as one of 100 women of influence. You can purchase the full article here, or read a summary on the Benetech Blog.
  • Hamilton has taken the world by storm, and recent productions have worked towards making theater more accessible with the inclusion of live American Sign Language interpreters. You can watch or listen to a closed caption youtube video of one of the hit songs from Hamilton being performed in sign language.

Community Spotlight

2017 February 28
by Amaya Webster

Spotlight on Emily Moore

A head shot photograph of Emily Moore smiling. Emily Moore is an educational technology expert and a new member of DIAGRAM’s General Advisory Committee as well as the Technical Advisory Subcommittee. She’s been highly involved in our interactives work as well as helping to build partnerships to further the accessibility work. Emily is the Director of Research and Accessibility for the PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder. Founded in 2002, PhET works to creates free interactive math and science simulations based on extensive education research. The purpose of these simulations is to engage students through an intuitive, game-like environment where students learn through exploration and discovery. On a more personal note, Emily is from Georgia but spent her teen years traveling around the western United States in a camper van with her parents.  This past August she and her husband welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Adalene Blue, into their family. Congratulations Emily and thanks for joining our community, we are thrilled to have you!

Two photographs of Emily Moore's daughter. In one she is lying on her back smiling and in the other she is lying on her stomach on a piece of paper that she is finger painting on.

New Accessibility Conformance Specification; W3C and IDPF Complete Combination

2017 February 28
by George Kerscher

Since the beginning of the year, a lot has happened in the Standards space. Here is a very short summary.
On January 5, 2017 the IDPF officially published the EPUB 3.1 family of specifications for digital publishing. Most interesting for the accessibility community is the inclusion of the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Requirements for EPUB Publications.

On January 5, 2017 the IDPF officially published the EPUB 3.1 family of specifications for digital publishing. Most interesting for the accessibility community is the inclusion of the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Requirements for EPUB Publications. For the first time we have a formal specification that enables publications to be certified as accessible. This specification builds on WCAG 2.0 and adds requirements specific to published documents.

On February 1, the combination of the W3C and the IDPF was announced. The press release can be found at: This merger enables all IDPF Members to participate in the W3C Publishing Business Group (PBG) for two years at the same rates as were paid under the IDPF. Also, the EPUB 3.1 family of specifications, including the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Specification have been submitted to the W3C. We are looking forward to having the W3C Lead the Web to its full potential for publishing! The Work previously conducted by the IDPF is moving to a variety of W3C groups:

  • The “Digital Publishing Interest Group” is developing a charter for a publishing working group that will lead to a specification to add the functionality of web publications (books in browsers) as well as an off-line downloadable form (e.g. EPUB 4).
  • The “Publishing Business Group” will be formed to lead publishing activities in the W3C.
  • An “EPUB 3 Community Group” has been formed to further develop the EPUB 3.1 family of specifications.  This is of particular importance because the publishing community needs a rock solid specification to use now and in the future; this provides a clear roadmap for publishing to use EPUB 3 now and eventually move to EPUB 4 and to web publications.

The EPUB 3 Community Group is free to join and open to anybody. You can learn more and sign up at:

New Microsoft Accessibility Features

2017 February 28
by Amaya Webster

Contributed by Elise Livingston

Editor’s note: Elise Livingston works for Microsoft as Program Manager on their Office Graphics team in Redmond, Washington. DIAGRAM staff members Amaya Webster and Sue-Ann Ma, had the pleasure of working with Elise last year, doing user testing on the upcoming Poet Training Module, with members of her team as well as product managers from Microsoft’s Mountain View, California location.We’re excited to have her contribute a post to the blog!

This year, Microsoft is making improvements to alt text in Microsoft Office. With guidance from the DIAGRAM center, Microsoft Office aims to make alt text more usable and discoverable for everyone. Early in the year, machine learning and computer vision will be used to help generate descriptions for photographs inserted into Office. This feature aims to bring alt text into the document writing process for all Office users and make more documents more accessible. Look out for this and other improvements made for alt text in Office365 coming this year. Microsoft is always looking for feedback on our work. If you would like to provide feedback or allow Microsoft to contact you for usability studies and interviews, please reach out to Elise Livingston (

Update on Accessibility Certification Work

2017 February 28
by Charles LaPierre

Benetech has added two new publishers to the pilot program certifying the accessibility of books and have thus far inspected 30 EPUB books.  Here are our current findings:

Based on our review of a broad sample set of publisher files reviewed in the pilot to date, the current average score is 63% and we are observing the following trends:
1. Lists are generally well constructed with a current average of 86%
2. Tables present a challenge to publishers and fail on an average of 55%
3. General accessibility which includes styling, navigation, metadata, etc. is also very poor with an average score of 60%
4. Image accessibility including alt-text, longer descriptions when needed and decorative designations where appropriate is currently averaging 47%

The results thus far provide terrific insight into concrete places for improvement and next steps. Stay tuned for news about upcoming activities in this new certification arena!

Save the Date – DIAGRAM will be hosting a new webinar!

2017 February 28

DIAGRAM will be hosting a brand new webinar on March 15th at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time. Andreas Stefik of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Sina Bahram of Prime Access Consulting and Richard Ladner of the University of Washington will be presenting on accessible coding and computer science. Details and registration information coming soon!

DIAGRAM General Advisory Committee

2017 February 28

The DIAGRAM General Advisory Committee held their first meeting of 2017 which opened with the introduction and welcome of the newest committee member, Patricia Snyder. Attendees were updated on one of DIAGRAM’s newest projects the Registry Repository of Accessible Images (RRAI) as well as on the progress in the Born Accessible arena including the recent publication of the EPUB 3.1 specification family, the IDPF and W3C merger and Benetech’s work on accessibility conformance review. The bulk of the discussion focused around the upcoming DIAGRAM Report which will examine new and upcoming technology that will likely have an impact on people with disabilities. Those technologies consist of:

  1. Coding/computer science
  2. Machine learning
  3. Speech recognition
  4. Personalized learning
  5. Multimedia interactives
  6. Multi modal user interface and tactiles
  7. Video
  8. Artificial intelligence –which we grouped up into machine learning
  9. 3D printing
  10. Robotics
  11. Gaming
  12. Haptics
  13. Gesture recognition
  14. Augmented reality
  15. Emotion detection
  16. Sonification

It was a lively meeting and more detailed accounts of each project discussed will be given in our next newsletter so make sure to check back!

DIAGRAM Standards Working Group Update

2017 February 28
by Charles LaPierre

On January 5th 2017 the IDPF released the latest EPUB 3.1 specification and a new Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Specification which for the first time finally draws a line in the sand on what makes an EPUB book accessible at a baseline.  This specification along with its accompanying EPUB Accessibility Techniques document will help publishers and authors to create truly accessible publications.  Not only does this specification help the publishers with creating accessible materials but also will help everyone Find Accessible EPUBs with the new accessibility metadata that must be added to these books in order for them to be certified as being accessible.  I was fortunate to be a part of this historic moment as co-chair for this accessibility task force who helped create this accessibility specification, and a big thank you to all those who contributed in making this happen.

DIAGRAM Content Working Group Update

2017 February 28

While the Content Working Group has not met yet this quarter, that hasn’t stopped them from being productive. The group is currently working hard to migrate the HTML version of the Accessible Image Sample Book to the DIAGRAM website so that it can be linked to the DIAGRAM Image Description Guidelines. This will hopefully make both resources easier for everyone to use. Special thanks to Kimi Sugeno and Joshua Tallent for spearheading this project. The Content Working Group is looking to meet in late March to discuss next steps and implementation of new content for the Accessible Image Sample Book. Exciting things are afoot!