Web Publications Working Group
The formal W3C working group continues to meet weekly. George and Charles are active participants ensuring accessibility is built in to any new standard this group publishes. The most pressing need in the publishing industry is a specification for audiobooks. Audiobooks are very popular today, but the production and distribution of this content from publishers is disorganized. The working group will focus on this area of publishing first to develop a specification that can be used next year.
W3C Personalization Task Force
The Personalization Task Force, co-facilitated by Charles LaPierre and Lisa Seeman, made huge steps forward with the publication of three public working drafts and an explanatory document for the specification on how to make the web personalized. The three modules are: Personalization Semantics Content, Personalization Help and Support, and Personalization Tools. Having these as W3C public working drafts is a big deal as this means they have evolved from something that was just a whitepaper into something now that is on track to become a W3C specification. This work will fundamentally change how we perceive the web by allowing us to customize how the information is presented to us to suit our specific needs. For example, say you are on a weather website and numbers are challenging. You could have the temperature be expressed with pictures instead.
Other Developments at the W3C
Knowledge Domains Targeted for Development
A “knowledge domain” is an area that relies on symbols for communicating information, such as math, chemistry, or music. All of the knowledge domains have been identified as having significant accessibility barriers. A task force has been formed to look at how these barriers can be addressed. It is clear that simply delivering images of math or music, for example, is not appropriate and significantly disadvantages persons with disabilities.
Correct Pronunciation Task Force Launched
For a long time, Text-To-Speech (TTS) has suffered from the mispronunciation of many words. Now that TTS is being used in high-stakes testing and assessments, more of a focus has been brought to this problem. A task force has been formed to identify how correct pronunciation can be added to HTML.
Braille Music Technical Developments
The DAISY Braille Music Working Group met in London on November 30, 2018. This meeting attracted more than 35 organizations in the DAISY community. The primary focus was on embossed braille music and the distribution of files for embossing. A third meeting is being planned for May, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.
For more information on any of the Standards activities, contact George Kerscher: kerscher[at]montana[dot]com
All About EPUB 3 and the Born Accessible Movement
Over the past year, the EPUB 3 Community Group has been working on harmonizing the features of the various versions of EPUB 3. The goal was to produce a backward compatible version – for example, a conforming EPUB 3.01 would also conform to the EPUB 3.2 – which will be launched in the first quarter of 2019. To support the launch of EPUB 3.2, EpubCheck needed to be updated, and the DAISY Consortium received the contract to perform this work. Once the software is released, there will be a promotion to move everyone to that version of the specification, with the understanding that EPUB 3.0 and EPUB 3.01 are perfectly acceptable, and publishers do not need to change their publishing processes to create valid EPUB 3.
2018 has also seen a major collaboration between publishers, the standards community, and the leaders in the Disability Service Offices (DSO) community around Born Accessible EPUB. The rank-and-file face the never-ending task of tagging PDFs (the myth of Sisyphus comes to mind here), and it was clear that the DSO community needed to understand the depth of the transition to Born Accessible EPUB. The collaboration targeted the Accessing Higher Ground conference in November; a track on EPUB was offered and EPUB advocates literally descended on the conference. Eleven of the thirty-nine presentations were on the transition to Born Accessible EPUB. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive with many DSO people stating that they never really understood the difference between EPUB and PDF. The DIAGRAM Center has been asked to produce a series of follow-up training materials for higher education.
Speaking of Born Accessible, the Accessibility Checker for EPUB (Ace by DAISY), which is free and open source, has received huge acceptance in the publishing industry. For instance, a major publisher now requires every title they distribute to pass Ace. In addition, they require all subcontractors to use Ace before they return a publication for ingestion. DIAGRAM provided technical guidance and early prototype design, testing and feedback of Ace including a new beta version of Ace which is even easier to use. Publishers are being encouraged to place accessibility metadata in their EPUB files, such as the conformance and accessibility summary. Global Certified Accessible by Benetech, which uses Ace as part of its program, is also taking hold with educational publishers. The addition of accessibility metadata will make it easier for people to find and purchase an accessible publication over a publication with an unknown accessibility rating. We love seeing accessibility as a competitive factor. Please encourage the purchase of Born Accessible EPUB!
2018 saw the creation of a brand new DIAGRAM Research Working Group chaired by Dave Edyburn from the University of Central Florida. This purposefully small group, still in its infancy, has met twice since forming in late 2018 but has been received with much excitement from working group members. Over the next five months, the group will identify funding streams and create a research agenda to better facilitate, support, and grow accessibility research for people with disabilities.
The Outreach Working Group spent a large portion of the year determining the best way to distill and present the information available on the DIAGRAM website to online visitors. The group started by identifying the target audiences and ultimately settled on six groups that would benefit the most from the website: parents, students, educators, publishers, researchers, and developers. Once established, the next step was to determine what tools and resources available on the DIAGRAM website would be most beneficial to each of the six audiences and to distill this information onto the new Community Portal pages. The hope was to help direct new visitors to tools and resources most relevant to them as well as better engage with DIAGRAM as a whole.
If you haven’t already, please provide feedback on these new pages. Thanks to the working group members for all of their hard work and special thanks to Bryan Gould of NCAM for chairing and leading this work. Having accomplished the goals set out for 2018, we will be discussing how this group should manifest in 2019 and beyond at the upcoming Strategic Planning meeting. We welcome any ideas at the meeting regarding what you would like to see tackled by the Outreach Working Group or email Amaya directly with suggestions at amayaw[at]Benetech[dot]org.
The 3D group has been meeting regularly and adding new members from K-12 and higher education. Our major project has been to create and review more than eighty 3D models in the areas of math concepts and aids, sculptures and architecture from around the world, and biology and other science objects. To date, we have over seventy-five reviews from College of the Desert. The models are currently split between DIAGRAM Center, Texas School for the Blind, and Houston Community College. Next year, the group will focus on expanding existing tactile graphics curricula (raised line) to include 3D objects, completing the evaluation of models, and completing guidelines and best practices for others creating 3D models for instruction for all students.
The Data Visualization Task Force’s goals are to create a shared understanding of the landscape of existing accessibility techniques for data visualization, extend these state-of-the-art techniques, and develop a best practice guide for creating accessible data visualizations. This year we began work on a Google document showcasing the state of the art with respect to accessible data visualizations. We will continue this effort in 2019 and create our best practices document.
The Drag and Drop Task Force has continued working on three documents started in late 2017. The first is an analysis document that provides an overview of current issues regarding accessible Drag and Drop Interactions. Accompanying this document are two supporting documents classifying the various drag and drop interactions in terms of difficulty level along with examples. In 2019, the group will combine these documents into a single, cohesive web document, which will be used to create a set of best practices and guidelines on when and how to use them.
The Developers Working Group finalized a technique for making math accessible in EPUBs. It allows publishers to present math equations as an image with an alt-text description of the math. For reading systems and eReaders that can understand MathML, it provides improved access to the content when using assistive technology. The technique has now been incorporated into a new accessible Math EPUB test book. In January the book will undergo testing on a variety of reading systems, platforms and assistive technology combinations in order to determine feature compatibility. The results of these tests will be published on the epubtest.org accessibility results page, as well as in DIAGRAM’s Math Support Finder.
The Developers Working Group also helped plan the 2018 DIAGRAM Code Sprint with many participating as well. Members from the group are continuing work on various projects, including one that converts spoken math into an accessible digital version using machine learning. Another project builds a speech priority queue that the University of Colorado PhET team has already begun to incorporate into some of their accessible STEM simulations. The Developers Working Group will continue discussions and support the planning for the 2019 DIAGRAM code sprint soon after the new year.
- Expanding Employment Success for People with Disabilities, an article by Jim Fruchterman and Joan Mellea of Benetech, examining the obstacles and opportunities in employment for people who have disabilities.
- Everyone Can Code, an article about a program aimed at deaf and blind students learning to code that Apple is rolling out in several schools in the United States.
Dr. Yue-Ting Siu (Ting to those she knows, Dr. Ting to her students) has been a long time member of the DIAGRAM Community. She first became involved in 2012 when she worked as a consultant on Poet’s former iteration as an image description tool. Her role with DIAGRAM has always been around translating educational needs and classroom practices for DIAGRAM Development, and deciphering DIAGRAM tools and technology making them usable for teachers. In addition to contract work, over the years Ting has volunteered her time to participate in the Content Working Group, the Tactile Working Group, the Outreach Working Group, and the Advisory Committee, as well as strategic planning meetings and other DIAGRAM, hosted events. I had the opportunity to sit down with Ting and learn more about what she does when she is not participating in DIAGRAM activities.
Ting is an assistant professor and is in her 3rd year coordinating the Visual Impairments (VI) Program within the Department of Special Education at San Francisco State University where she trains teachers of the visually impaired who are getting their teaching credentials or pursuing Masters degrees. At the start of 2018 she was in the process of majorly refreshing the VI course curriculum, especially in regards to technology. She wanted to make sue that learning to use technology was integrated throughout all coursework with different courses focusing on different technology aspects.
Ting also believes very strongly that students need to graduate from the program not only prepared to teach, but able to keep evolving their own professional development in order to remain relevant in their practice. According to Ting, this is even more important for teachers of the visually impaired who are often much more isolated in their fields. Most TVIs are itinerant, meaning they travel from school to school to see students, a practice that can easily cut them off from the informal professional development that happens in schools as well as professional community building in general.
Thanks to Ting’s efforts, TVI students in her program are now learning about multimedia accessibility throughout the program, even making video tutorials to share with colleagues in the field. There is also an added emphasis on learning to connect and staying connected with the professional learning community via social media. The program upholds accessibility standards so that learning materials are provided to students in an accessible format, including the learning management system and the use of the Zoom video conferencing platform for all classes. All students’ work also meets standards for accessibility including the dissemination of accessible reports and use of image and video description in all course projects. In addition, the program has a rolling admissions process and is now delivered via synchronous instruction on Zoom with face-to-face Lab Weekends once per semester. For those wanting more information on the TVI program at SF State, updates can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube by searching for @VIProgramSFSU.
As mentioned in our August newsletter, the Second Annual DIAGRAM Report has been published and is available on our website along with the 2017 report. But as the saying goes, there is no rest for the weary, and our team has already begun work on the third annual report. We have reached out to many of our community members to solicit feedback on the technologies we should explore for the 2019 report and find out who might be interested in writing a section for the report on a technology you feel passionate about. If you haven’t received a survey and wish to provide your opinion, please let us know. You can email your input to CharlesL[at]Benetech[dot]org. Don’t be shy; the more feedback we get, the stronger the report will be!
By now, many of you are familiar with Imageshare, an open source platform DIAGRAM created for educators and consumers to find and share alternative image resources related to key science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts. The tool aims to curate STEM materials frequently encountered in the classroom and allows users to search the collection using accessible metadata (e.g., contributor, resource type, target grade(s), and language). The new version of Imageshare also adds the ability for educators and end users to add instructional teaching notes, production notes, as well as usability ratings and comments for specific resources.
Imageshare was soft launched at the end of August and is now live and ready for more content! More STEM resources will continue to be added, with content feedback to be provided by additional students and educators in the coming months. To date, the College of the Desert and employees of LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco have already provided input on the usability of 3D-printed models identified and produced by DIAGRAM’s Tactile Working Group. Further testing with end users has been scheduled with the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and other academic institutions aiming to better understand accessible educational alternatives. In addition to contributing and evaluating content, members of the Tactile Working Group have also helped test the accessibility and usability of the Imageshare platform, and we thank this group for their active participation the development of this tool.
The DIAGRAM Center has been exploring whether it’s possible to make complex diagrams more appealing and engaging for tactile learners by adapting the 2D tactile graphics production process for non-braille learners. Innate in the traditional 2D production process are the simplification of visual content and the removal of things like clutter and perspective. These simplified graphics have the potential to better support students with special needs such as: cognitive disabilities, learning differences, autism, and low vision. While best practices highlighted in the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) guidelines for 2D tactile production process were applied in the experimental resources, several non-traditional versions were also created for testing: a version where braille is replaced by English text, a version where texture is replaced by vibrant colors, a version combining texture and color, and a version that provides a higher-level context of the original graphic.
The DIAGRAM Center has been working with Lucia Hasty from Rocky Mountain Braille Associates and Nicole Johnson, formerly with Central Access at Central Washington University and now a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, on this project. A working draft of the design principles and assumptions used to produce these resources will be shared as this project progresses.
We are thrilled to announce that version 2 of the Mathshare prototype is now available! Highlights in the recent release include updating the visual design to be more student-friendly, adding a workflow that supports teacher-generated problem sets, and allowing students to save, share, and revisit their work. While development of Mathshare is ongoing, with additional curriculum and accessibility improvements expected in the coming months, we look forward to sharing our updated tool with edtech companies and piloting the updated version in general and special education classrooms. If you are interested in piloting the new version of Mathshare in your classroom, with specific students, or connecting us with an edtech platform provider in the coming weeks, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.