Publishing in the W3C is moving forward briskly since the combination of the IDPF into the W3C and there is much to report on, as well as opportunities for our community members to become more involved. Here are the things that have particularly grabbed our attention.
First, EPUB 3 spec maintenance and further developments are taking place in the EPUB Community Group, which is free for anybody to join. One area of interest is the development of “epubcheck” to support EPUB 3.1, which is the current recommendation. Epubcheck is an open source application that will examine an EPUB and determine if it is valid or not. For example that it has the required metadata, like a title. It will also run through the internal links to make sure the target is present, e.g. the link to chapters are good. Epubcheck will be a big win for the Born Accessible movement. If this work strikes the fancy of any Java coders, the group could use your help with development. Contact Charles or George for more information.
Second, the Web Publishing Working group is actively developing the next generation of publishing standards for the web and for offline reading. Yes, we’re talking about EPUB 4. It may take several years for EPUB 4 to be a functioning standard, but it’s exciting to think of what is ahead, especially knowing that EPUB 3 is solidly in place to support publishing for a long time.
Third, accessibility in publishing at the W3C will be integrated into traditional WAI work. WCAG 2.1 is under development and is expected to become a recommendation in 2018. Publishing has been incorporated into the scope of WCAG, and some of the metadata developed for EPUB and standardized in schema.org are also in WCAG 2.1. The metadata is located in the optional conformance section, and the Accessibility Task force within the Publishing Community are quite happy to get this included at such a late date. For those interested, the link to the August draft is: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/
Last, but not least, there has been a shift of naming in the accessibility work. From the beginning, the term Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was used. The shift will be in referring to this as “Accessibility Guidelines” (AG) and the codename for this is “Silver.” Get it? (AG, silver, and the Atomic Number 47 my new favorite number, grin.)
As part of our continuing work creating tools for making more accessible content available to students with disabilities, Benetech has long explored copyright issues surrounding the distribution of such content. Fortunately, recognizing the need for clarification of copyright issues, OSEP required that the DIAGRAM Center explore the application of certain key legal principles to the provision of accessible educational materials. Working with pro bono counsel from the law firm of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC, based in New York City, we now have a clearer understanding of the legal arguments that can be brought to bear for good faith efforts such as ours to provide equitable access to educational materials to students with disabilities. They made some great recommendations that we plan to implement.
Much of the DIAGRAM Center’s work has been about enabling the creation of alternative derivatives of educational content that explicitly meet the format and feature needs of students with a range of disabilities. We believe that for any reproduction, distribution, public display, or creation of such derivative work by Benetech focused on creating accessible content, we will have a strong fair use defense against claims of copyright infringement. Additionally, Benetech can make a public policy argument that our use of copyright protected work to create accessible content comports with the spirit of copyright law and with Congressional actions to ensure equal access for disabled individuals. In short, entities like Benetech should, by taking some basic precautions, be able to avoid direct copyright infringement liability arising from accessibility tools like Poet or Imageshare.
Benetech’s plan to have content creators utilize the production tools offered by DIAGRAM to create accessible content and further contribute content to Imageshare may also raise secondary infringement liability concerns as well. But with the right precautions, we believe potential secondary liability based on the use of our production tools is minimal. As Imageshare may begin accepting accessible content submitted by third parties, such as teachers, it may also benefit from the application of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbors. This path requires being in compliance with specific rules, including those around take-down requests that are made by copyright holders.
We view these recommendations as a positive and encouraging sign. As planned, we are moving forward with Poet and Imageshare with renewed confidence that a legal door remains open to ensure that copyright law is supportive of the production of accessible educational materials intended to benefit students with disabilities.
Introducing the first annual DIAGRAM Report, a guide to some of the most important ways technology is changing the educational landscape for students with disabilities. This edition focuses on six technology areas:
- Accessible Coding
- Machine Learning
- Multimodal User Interactives
- Multimedia Interactives
- Personalized Learning
- Speech Recognition
the report includes a high-level overview of each technology or trend in order to offer information about relevant opportunities and challenges as well as resources and suggested next steps for those interested in pursuing more information.
Each year, we will refresh the DIAGRAM report to include the latest information about the top technologies we will continue monitoring and add new technologies that should be on your radar. We, therefore, welcome your feedback so that the report can be improved.
Thanks to the many members of the community who contributed their expertise to the report. We are incredibly excited about it and hope it proves to be a valuable resource!
The updates below are a combination of updates from the latest working group meetings and the ideas and next steps that came out of the DIAGRAM Strategic Planning Meeting. This update serves as a brief overview. We will go more into depth on the working groups and their projects and next steps during out upcoming webinar in July.
- Tactiles Working Group
This is a group that has evolved, as befitting a research and development center. It started as the Tactiles working group back in 2015, morphed into the 3D Printing Standards working group, then into the 3D Tactile Standards Working Group and now, after the DIAGRAM Strategic Planning Meeting will be under the new leadership of Jim Allan, and will once again be called the Tactiles Working Group. The charter for the newest iteration of this group is still in production, but given the work they’ve already accomplished, such as their most recent publication, a guide to producing braille with a 3D printer, we’re excited for what’s to come!
- Content Working Group
The Content Working Group has expanded the Accessible Image Sample Book with a new section on using video closed captions in EPUB. It is a companion to the Resource for Providing Accessible Multimedia that was created in partnership with NCAM. The expanded Image Sample Book is currently available to read online. The EPUB version is forthcoming. The group is now thinking about resources for those creating interactives as well as resources for students who are Deaf and hard of hearing. They are also in the process of creating new sub-groups to explore accessible interactive content and resources for visual literacy and American Sign Language based on feedback and conversations the came out of the DIAGRAM Strategic Planning Meeting. The group is also working to update their charter and expand their mission statement which will be shared during the upcoming webinar in July.
- Developers Working Group
The Math in EPUB Task Force met on June 14th with feedback from Macmillan Learning and Elsevier providing some initial feedback. They are still working on finalizing what we can recommend to publishers on how to put math into an EPUB which will be accessible and still be visually perfect. During the DIAGRAM Strategic Planning meeting, the decision was made to create a new Developers Sub-group, the “Thinking Outside the Box” subgroup. Stay tuned for information on what this group comes up with. We’re sure it will be “outside of the box” and fascinating!
- Standards Working Group
The W3C has approved the new Publishing Working Group’s charter, whose mission is to enable all Web Publications — with all their specificities and traditions — to become first-class entities on the Web. The WG will provide the necessary technologies on the Open Web Platform to make the combination of traditional publishing and the Web complete in terms of accessibility, usability, portability, distribution, archiving, offline access, and reliable cross-referencing. Both Charles LaPierre and George Kerscher are a part of this new Working Group. This is important because only Working Groups can create official W3C Recommended standards where the DPUB Interest Group could only create reference Notes and recommend that other working groups within the W3C add specific accessibility requirements to their specifications.
The W3C has also approved the Digital Publishing Accessibility API Mappings as a W3C Candidate Recommendation:
This is an important step which we needed to happen in order for the new DPUB specific roles for ARIA to be adopted such as (doc-abstract, doc-chapter, doc-endnote, doc-example, doc-glossary, etc.). Now we just need ARIA 1.1 to become a W3C recommendation that includes these accessibility API mappings.
Thank you to everyone who came to the DIAGRAM Strategic Planning Meeting. We had a wonderful turnout and it was great to see the old faces and meet the new ones. We were joined by many members of our advisory committee, the working groups and even members of the Department of Ed. It was a jam-packed two days and we succeeded in addressing the topics that came up from our community members prior to the meeting and during the course of it as well. We are thrilled to report that it was an unqualified success. The enthusiasm and passion in the room were almost palpable and we couldn’t be more excited to explore the topics and decisions that have come out of it.
For all of you who weren’t there, and even for those of you who were, we will be synthesizing the notes and major themes that came out of the meeting and hosting a webinar in July to do a deep dive into the key takeaways and the plans for how to move forward based on input we received and learnings we had at the meeting. We encourage all of you to join and spread the word.
We started the meeting Sunday night with an informal S’mores roasting party that gave us all a chance to catch up and in some cases, meet in person for the first time. Then Monday, the real work began. Our first session, “In the Classroom Today” focused on the challenges and solutions of providing accessible educational materials. This session was facilitated by six of our meeting participants who each led small group discussions on their experiences ranging in topics from practices for an inclusive classroom, which was led by Gaeir Dietrich and looked at the ways she helps educators not only adapt accessibility practices but get excited about them to a discussion Derrick Smith facilitated on learning and teaching math, that explored how educators can support digital learning and digital math for students with disabilities. Other topics included Teaching Science which was led by Chelsea Cook, LMSes and online learning led by Sina Bahram, What teachers Wish They Had in the classroom led by Ting Siu and Publishing Production: Born Accessible standards, which Ted Gies led.
In the second session of Monday morning, we again held small group discussions on how to make DIAGRAM stronger. Once again, each of these discussions was facilitated by one of the meeting participants. Mark Hakkinen led the discussion on how we can code better together and how we can better support Open Source projects. Bryan Gould led a conversation on ideas for better engagement. This conversation ultimately led to the decision to revive the Outreach Working group, which we are now working on making happen. Laurie Vasquez led a conversation on new collaboration frontiers, focusing especially on areas we aren’t currently exploring but should be. Meeting participant and our program’s external evaluator, Maureen Hawes, led a conversation on how we are measuring the impact of DIAGRAM and how we should be doing it and Elaine Ober, who is one of the co-chairs of the Content Working Group facilitated the conversation on how we can communicate with each other better internally. It was a fast-paced and engaging morning filled with great ideas and strategy for collaboration moving forward.
After lunch, members of the Office of Special Education Programs were nice enough to join us for an hour of speed demos that ranged from a demo by Raja Kushalnager on eye tracking and multimodal applications for Deaf and hard of hearing students to Bryan Gould’s demo on accessible augmented learning tools with the early learning TV program, PEEP and the Big Wide World. Other demos included Doug Schepers work on interactive maps, Sina Bahram’s work on accessible computer science, Emily Moore’s work on PhET interactive simulations and the work that was done at the DIAGRAM’s 2017 CSUN code sprint. Neil Soiffer demoed Machine Learning, Lisa Wadors demoed one of DIAGRAM’s newest resources, ImageShare, Charles LaPierre demoed out Born Accessible work and Sue-Ann Ma and Volker Sorge teamed up to demo accessible math.
Energized by the amazing work our colleagues are doing, we jumped into our last session of the day, breaking into groups to discuss and update the charters of our working groups, The Content Group, Standards Group, Tactile Group, and Developers group. This session proved to be especially exciting as it led to the formation of several new working group subcommittees which are further discussed in the working group updates section.
Tuesday gave us a chance to delve deeper into the tech side of things with seven small group discussions. Bruce Walker led one on accessible gaming and simulations. Neil Soiffer led one on machine learning, Lisa Dieker led one on robotics, Melissa Malzkuhn led one on visual literacy, Mark Hakkinen on voice recognition, Emily Moore on interactives and Volker Sorge on Math and MathML. Our final Tuesday session was dedicated to the themes of the meeting the participants felt were the most important to explore further. Helen Popper led a discussion on content creation which covered accessibility issues for a range of disabilities. Melissa Malzkuhn further explored visual literacy in the small group discussion she led. DIAGRAM Product Manager Sue-Ann Ma led a discussion on product brainstorming and user personas. Bryan Gould, as the new chair of the Outreach Working group, led a discussion doing a deeper dive into outreach strategies and DIAGRAM’s technical lead Charles LaPierre led a discussion on accessible EPUB versus PDF. Our last activity of the day, as well as the meeting, was to look ahead and commit in writing to things that each of us will do as follow up from the meeting. These ranged from committing to joining a new working group, to exploring and building new ways to use machine learning. We will be making the commitments available soon as well as following up with people that made them.
All and all, it was a hugely successful two days with the biggest takeaway from the meeting is that it’s a starting point. It provided us with a game plan for what we believe is important to achieve and the strategies we think need to be implemented to do so. The conversation is far from over, and the work itself is just beginning. Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to making it such a success. For those of you who couldn’t be there, know that you were missed. We hope and look forward to your future participation in DIAGRAM events and our ongoing collaboration as we move forward to address making education accessible for everyone!
NextBillion.org is a community & mentorship program for people with disabilities in tech. It is now accepting mentor and mentee applications for Cohort 2 – a 12-week online mentorship program that connects people with disabilities to industry professionals from top technology companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Paypal, etc. You can learn more about the program on their website and read impact stories from Cohort 1 to learn more about their community.
Students with disabilities & professionals in engineering, product, design or technology in North America are eligible to participate as mentees or mentors. Apply online at www.NextBillion.org, before April 14, 2017.
DIAGRAM kicked off the 2017 Webinar Season by hosting “Computer Science for All Through Inclusive Design” with presenters Sina Bahram (Prime Access Consulting), Richard Ladner (University of Washington) and Andreas Stefik (University of Nevada Las Vegas). The webinar, which covered the current landscape of computer science, the accessibility challenges in the field, and what is being done to make it more accessible, was a huge success, drawing over 150 registrants! If you weren’t able to attend, don’t worry. A closed-caption recording of the webinar and the presentation slide deck are both available on our website.
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.
Now that there is a new Accessibility 1.0 Standard for EPUB and the adoption of accessibility metadata in the 3.2 release of Schema.org, 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.
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.