Open XML to DAISY XML Translator

Microsoft announced today a project to create a "save as DAISY" plug-in for Word that will be available as a free download on SourceForge.

DAISY (Digital Access Information SYstem) is a standard for digital talking books (DTBs). DAISY-encoded DTBs include content that can range from XML text only, to text with corresponding spoken audio, to audio with little or no text, and they're designed to make print material accessible and navigable for blind or otherwise print-disabled persons. (Print-disabled is a term used in the accessibility community to describe persons who are unable to read print due to any visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability.)

A good way to get a feel for what DAISY is designed to accomplish is to check out the prioritized feature list for DTB playback devices referenced by the DTB specification. DAISY uses several W3C specifications and also takes advantage of standards from the Open eBook Forum, and the resulting documents can be used with any DAISY playback device.

The DAISY Standard has been adopted throughout the world by libraries and organizations producing and distributing accessible reading materials. So this new plug-in, which will be available in early 2008, will allow those organizations to save any Open XML word-processing document in DAISY XML format as a "DTBook." the benefits of this capability are explained in the DAISY monthly newsletter:

Everyone who uses desktop publishing to create content in Word will be able to save this content as DAISY XML. As content creators will not need to be DAISY or XML experts to use this converter, the number of DAISY publications should increase substantially. Individuals who have a print disability will thus have access to a greater number and much wider choice of reading and research materials.

George Kerscher, secretary general of the DAISY Consortium, explains the DAISY translator plug-in project this way:

“Microsoft’s announcement is monumental in greatly facilitating the availability of text in DAISY books. It provides a clear, production path for organizations and universities who will be able to use the Microsoft plug-in to move into DAISY XML. Putting tools in the hands of people who create content is a giant step toward creating equal access to information ... It’s going to move DAISY ... from the niche of the libraries for the blind community into the mainstream.”

For Open XML developers, the DAISY project will also offer a sample Open XML implementation that will demonstrate best practices for Open XML development. One of the goals of the project is to provide a reference model for other Open XML solution providers, and the project on SourceForge will make the architectural details available for developers to study. As this project progresses, I'll be covering some of the more interesting technical details here, as examples of how Open XML content can be transformed for a rich variety of output devices.

Microsoft press release:

The Daisy Planet, Daisy's monthly newsletter:

Quotes from the DAISY community:

Official DAISY web site:

Microsoft accessibility web site: