2001 Conference Proceedings

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Accessible Textbooks-Industry and Education Partnership: Update and Future Plans

Jim Allan, Statewide Technical Support Specialist
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1100 W. 45th St., Austin, Texas 78756
voice 512.206.9315 
fax: 512.206.9453 

For 500 years, from the time of Gutenberg, publishers have been putting ink on paper. Recently, the publishing industry started a revolutionary process to embrace emerging technologies including the internet, eBooks, and digital talking books (DTB). In 1999 the Open eBook Forum was created to standardize the format used for eBook publishing. Simultaneously, a world wide (DAISY)(and national-NISO) effort emerged to create a standard specification for the creation of digital talking books (including synchronized full-text/full-audio books). Efforts are moving forward to converge these overlapping standards developments. Concurrently, the timely delivery of braille and other alternative media textbooks has become a national concern for producers serving people with print disabilities, including students who are blind, low vision, or learning disabled. It was clear to many involved that the E-book/digital talking book technology and changes occurring in the publishing industry could be leveraged to meet the need for timely delivery of alternative media textbooks. To that end, the American Association of Publishers, American Foundation for the Blind, and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic co-hosted a meeting to share knowledge and demonstrate new and evolving technologies to use publisher's files to efficiently create alternative media text books. The 41 stakeholder included representatives from the publishing industry, the field of visual impairments, and the field of print disabilities.

From this meeting emerged the Joint Technology Task Force, a collaborative effort between the publishing industry and the disabilities field, and a commitment from all parties to work toward all students receiving textbooks in print, braille, and audio at the same time. Additionally, it was learned that the DAISY/NISO effort has included mark-up to facilitate the production of braille from digital talking book files; publishers are moving toward dual publishing media (print and E-book). Since that meeting the Joint Technology Task Force has established two goals. The first goal is creation of a single file format that can be used for the production of printed, internet, eBook, DTB, and braille textbooks. The second goal is to ensure the respective alternative media production personnel and facilities are ready to implement the file format when it is finalized.

Using the E-book/DAISY/NISO as a foundation, work has already begun on the creation and testing of the file format. Results of the use of this XML based file format and its efficient transformation into braille and Digital Talking Books will begin to emerge in January 2001. Work will continue to refine the file format. The process of refining the format includes improving the tools; braille translation software, and digital talking book recording/synchronization software to automate the creation of alternative media textbooks as much as possible. This presentation will discuss the current status and accomplishments of the Joint Technology Task Force. Please see http://www.tsbvi.edu/textbooks/afb/jttf.htm for up to date information concerning the timely provision of alternative media text books. 

"Be BOLD and mighty forces will come to your aid." Basil King

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