Microsoft Announces DAISY for Word

Microsoft has made another affirmation of its commitment to providing the visually impaired with useful software, announcing this morning it is developing a plug-in for Microsoft Word that translates documents into DAISY XML, a standard for digital talking books.

DAISY works by creating a digital audio file which narrates the document's content that maps to text. Refreshable Braille displays comprised of digitally-activated pins are also made to correspond with DAISY files, so the reader can know how words are spelled, or to promote quicker content scanning.

The DAISY Consortium was formed in 1996 by a number of non-profit groups and talking book libraries to utilize the changing structure of digital information and storage. A main goal of the group is to ensure that all published information is equally available to the print disabled at no extra cost. Unfortunately, only a reported 5% of material for sighted readers has been converted to accessible formats thus far.

In 2002, Microsoft announced the development of its Integrated Data Library System, an XML internet portal and infrastructure based on Microsoft's .NET platform. Work on this technology earned Bill Gates the Louis Braille Gold Medal.

Then in 2004, Microsoft Accessible Technology Group (ATG) held a summit in Redmond where Gates reaffirmed the company's commitment to doing its best to help libraries leverage new technology to convert their collections from analog to digital formats, to improve distribution, and to provide better services to the blind and visually impaired.

Approximately 300,000 DAISY systems have reportedly been sold.

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