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Last Updated: 04/12/2018


Microsoft Improves Word for the Blind

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May 7, 2008

Microsoft has joined with Sonata Software Ltd. and the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium to launch an initiative to make Word documents more accessible to blind and print-disabled users. “DAISY” is the comprehensive system for the next generation of information to be delivered to blind or print disabled persons called "Digital audio-based Information System" and the DAISY Consortium is the worldwide coalition of libraries and institutions serving print disabled persons, developing the open standards, tools, and techniques for the next generation of "digital talking books" (DTB).

The usability of a DAISY digital book could be compared to that of a cassette tape, the format in which most accessible books were, until relatively recently, available. As audio tapes are fast becoming obsolete, the DAISY format was originally developed for the world of digital talking books delivered on CD, other portable media, or over the Internet.

Created via an open-source project, the new "Save as DAISY XML" add-on for Word 2003, XP, and 2007 makes it possible to save documents as “Daisy Standard”, the globally accepted method used to publish content for print-disabled users. The free add-in for the "Save As DAISY XML" Translator can be downloaded from the SourceForge Web site. This link will take users directly to the download for the add-in for the following versions of Microsoft Office Word: Word XP, 2003, and 2007. There is a single setup for these versions of Microsoft Office. The software will automatically detect the version of Microsoft Office Word used and install the appropriate add-in. If problems are experienced with the download, there is also an optional link on the page called "this direct link". The Command Line "Save As DAISY XML" Translator can also be downloaded from SourceForge. A list of the features included in the "Save As DAISY XML" Translator 3.0 is also available.

Two support documents are also provided, the DAISY Translator Instruction Manual and the DAISY Trouble Shooting Guidelines. Prior to installation, read the Instruction Manual, in particular, "Prerequisites for Installing the Open XML to DAISY XML Translator". Note that these documents are .docx files. If users do not have the most recent version of Microsoft Office, .doc files for the Translator Instruction Manual and the Trouble Shooting Guidelines are also available for download.

The DAISY XML is not a DAISY book. It is the XML file from which a DAISY book can be created. There is at least one DAISY player/reading system that will play a DAISY XML file since it creates a DAISY book internally, i.e. the whole set of DAISY 3 files. Most players will not be able to play the DAISY XML file. There are DAISY conversion tools available from DAISY Consortium Members and Friends.

"This new 'Save as DAISY XML' functionality for Microsoft Word has the potential to break down barriers for millions of visually impaired individuals around the world and enhance the experience for virtually anyone who loves to read," said Chris Capossela, Microsoft's senior vice president of the Information Worker Product Management Group of the initiative. "We are proud of our collaboration with the DAISY Consortium and Sonata Software to deliver valuable benefits for people with a visual impairment. This tool will make it easier for anyone--from a child writing to his or her grandparent, to a government agency providing vital information to its citizens--to create accessible content."

The first version of “Daisy Pipeline” was also released on May 7, 2008. The suite helps users convert Daisy XML files into DAISY Digital Talking Book (DTB), making content even more accessible to users with print disabilities. The DAISY Pipeline supports the migration of digital content to various formats efficiently and economically, facilitating both production and distribution of DAISY DTBs.

The current release of the Pipeline is targeted primarily to production environments rather than as a 'personal use' tool. Before installing the Pipeline, users should read the online
installation instructions at: Prior to installing, users will need to have the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) version 5 or later installed on their system (details are provided in the installation instructions). It is also recommended that users read the online User Guide.


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