Microsoft, DAISY Make Reading Easier for People With Print Disabilities

REDMOND, Wash. — May 7, 2008 — Microsoft Corp. today joined with industry and advocacy group leaders worldwide to launch new software that will make it easier for anyone to create documents and content that will be accessible for blind and print-disabled individuals. The new “Save as DAISY XML” add-in, designed for Microsoft Office Word 2007, Word 2003 and Word XP, will allow users to save Open XML-based text files into DAISY XML, the foundation of the globally accepted DAISY Standard for reading and publishing navigable multimedia content (http://www.daisy.org).

The “Save as DAISY XML” add-in was created through an open source project with Microsoft, Sonata Software Ltd. and the Digital Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY) Consortium and can be downloaded by Microsoft Office Word users for free at http://www.openxmlcommunity.org/daisy.

Also released today is the newest version of the DAISY Pipeline, a free downloadable transformation suite that supports the seamless conversion of DAISY XML into DAISY Digital Talking Book (DTB) format. Together these technologies provide a comprehensive solution for converting text documents into accessible formats for people with print disabilities. Users can download the DAISY Pipeline from the DAISY Project page at http://www.daisy.org/projects/pipeline/. Information about other technologies that can convert DAISY XML into DAISY DTB format and other products that support the DAISY standard is available on the DAISY Web site at http://www.daisy.org/tools/index.shtml.

Groups such as the World Health Organization and the World Blind Union estimate that more than 160 million people throughout the world are either blind or have a significant impairment to their vision. This number does not even begin to address the additional hundreds of millions of people with physical, developmental, or learning disabilities who can benefit from the rich applications of DAISY.

Global access to the “Save as DAISY XML” add-in for Microsoft Office Word is an important step forward for people with print disabilities around the world, including those in developing countries, because it will support access to information contained within billions of Microsoft Office Word documents, helping them to lead more independent and productive lives.

“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, senior vice president of the Information Worker Product Management Group at Microsoft. “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.”

“Microsoft’s initiative to put ‘Save as DAISY XML’ in Microsoft Word is the first step to bring fully accessible content to people who are blind or who have a print disability. We know that much of the information in documents today is created with Microsoft Word; this new add-in provides an unprecedented leap forward in the worldwide effort to make information available to all,” said George Kerscher, secretary general of the DAISY Consortium.

“As an advocate of technologies that help blind and low-vision individuals, and as chair of an organization managing a digital library based on DAISY XML formats, I can attest that this ‘Save as DAISY XML’ plug-in for Microsoft Office Word is a landmark development,” said Dominique Burger of BrailleNet. “The ability to generate DAISY XML content from within an application used by millions of people around the world is welcome news for all who have been pushing for such a broad-reaching solution.”

This new tool also presents the opportunity for organizations and independent software vendors to consider ways in which the technology may be employed to meet the needs of those not yet served by text-only or audio-only formats. Corporations such as insurance agencies, healthcare providers and companies that publish training manuals require a method to deliver fully accessible documents to their customers and employees with different needs. For these organizations, the “Save as DAISY XML” add-in is the breakthrough they have been waiting for.

“Because it’s part of a familiar tool, this plug-in for Microsoft Office Word significantly reduces the friction for content creators in producing accessible digital material,” said Andrew Savikas, director of publishing technology at O’Reilly Media Inc. “Support for DAISY, along with the emerging ePub standard, is an easy way for software makers to build accessibility into their products, and I hope to see others follow suit.”

“Technologies that address the specific challenges that universities and public institutions face in providing books and publications for those who cannot read standard print are in great demand,” said Sam Ogami, assistive technology expert for the California State University Office of the Chancellor. “Functionality like the new ‘Save as DAISY XML’ feature within Microsoft Office Word could greatly streamline the production — and reduce the expense — of delivering powerful and accessible content to those who need it.”

“Libraries today are often ill-equipped to provide content for people with print disabilities, and the methods they have at their disposal are antiquated,” said Helen Brazier, a member of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). “But things are beginning to change, and state-of-the-art technology like the ‘Save as DAISY XML’ add-in and the new DAISY Pipeline are making it easy and cost-effective for libraries to essentially level the information playing field for people with disabilities and do things they never before could have imagined.”

The open source nature of the Open XML to DAISY XML translation project enables technologists to utilize the source code and other resources for their own applications. As Open XML adoption continues to expand across the software industry for use on various platforms, including Linux, Windows, Mac OS and the Palm OS, solution providers interested in creating their own Open XML to DAISY XML translators can reference information available through the SourceForge open source project site at http://sourceforge.net/projects/openxml-daisy.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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