Blind World Magazine

Daisy gives the blind access to books.

The Jakarta Post, Indonesia.
Saturday, April 22, 2006.

Most people take reading for granted, but for blind people, people with learning disabilities, and those who cannot hold a book, it is perceived as a distant luxury not a basic need.

Recent advances in technology have made it easier for people with print disabilities to access information. Screen reader technology, such as JAWS, has emancipated many people with visual impairments from isolation by opening up the Internet; and audio books, in digital format or in the form of cassettes, have brought the richness of literature a little closer.

But even with the ease that technology affords, differences in digital formats often bring confusion to the blind. And it's certainly no fun to navigate through hours of audio recording to find where you left off in a novel, for example.

Recently introduced at a seminar at the State Ministry for Information and Communication in Central Jakarta, was the Digital Accessible Information System (Daisy), a standard that tries to bring order to the world of digital talking books, and make it easier for people to navigate through them.

"Compared to the traditional audio cassette recording, audio books produced with the Daisy standard are navigable by chapter, page, and even searchable through words and phrases," the seminar's organizer, Firdaus, who is from non-governmental organization Mitra Netra Foundation, told The Jakarta Post.

The brainchild of a consortium of international nonprofit organizations serving blind and dyslexic people in Switzerland in 1996, the Daisy allows producers the flexibility of mixing text and audio; ranging from audio-only, to full text and audio, to text-only, which can be used for the production of braille books.

"In this way a person who is totally blind can access the books using audio-only, while those with low vision can read the enlarged text of the books using a computer," Firdaus said, adding that Mitra Netra had used the standard for the production of its digital talking books since 2000.

The standard also allows digital talking books to be used in a range of digital multimedia players, including CD and DVD players, as well as the PC.

"But portable players that can fully utilize the Daisy talking book are still rare in Indonesia, at most you can use the Bomba DVD player to play audio but without navigation tools," Mitra Netra's digital talking book editor Nasihah said, adding that as yet people who needed the talking books could use the computers at the foundation's library in Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta.

Thursday's seminar was aimed at introducing the Daisy standard to a wider audience, particularly publishers, so that the digital books can be widely produced, and help those with visual impairments.

End of article.

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