The dream is to make all new publications simultaneously available in formats such as Braille, large print and audio. This will mean the blind, the partially sighted and those suffering from reading disabilities such as dyslexia have the same access rights to information as the rest of society.
While the driving force behind the research is helping the ‘print impaired’, who make up between 6-8% of all Europeans, a substantial and hence profitable new mainstream market is also being created.
The EU-funded EUAIN project and its successors have brought together the publishing industry in Europe with accessibility organisations for the first time, and a whole new type of publishing is in the process of being created as a result.
Project co-ordinator David Crombie says while there are plenty of accessibility projects for the Internet, this one is different in that it deals with allowing access to documents in any digital format.
The researchers also viewed accessibility as a being part of a process rather than as a product.
“At key points in the process of creating a digital document, you have to put in accessibility,” he says. “The sooner in the process you add accessibility the better and cheaper it is.”
The same principle applies to publishing. Page make-up and mark-up instructions are included in the original formatting of a digital document, and form the publishing equivalent of an architect’s plan.
These instructions not only provide publishers with information they need for a standard print run, but also for Braille, large-print and even audio versions of the book.
“Printing on demand is a relatively new technology which is just now starting to become mainstream,” Crombie says.
With many of the intermediate steps between receipt of the manuscript and printing of a book now made redundant by digital technologies, a file containing the words and formatting instructions goes straight to the printing press.
The partners in EUAIN have been working on demonstrating to publishers that it is in their best interests, as well as in the interests of the print impaired, to include different sets of formatting instructions from the start of the process.
In the US a commercial start has already been made in this respect with large-print books, the most popular format after standard print. Online shoppers at Amazon.com can order books in either standard or large-print format, and these are then printed on demand.
In European countries a number of book accessibility initiatives have been started over the years, but most of them have been conducted in isolation from each other.
Third-party organisations, rather than the publishers in each country, are responsible for producing books in accessible formats, but only in relation to a small number of selected ones.Carrots not sticks for publishers
“It’s no longer a question of publishers being told ‘You must give us this’, but of everybody sitting around a table and talking about markets and how to best serve them while ensuring a profit for the publishers,” Crombie says.
One field in particular where there is likely to be a major crossover, and a whole new mainstream market created, is in synthesised print and audio titles.
Advances in publishing have made well-structured digital audio versions of books extremely flexible, with listeners able to jump from page to page, chapter to chapter or even paragraph to paragraph and easily conduct word searches.
Synthesising the printed text and audio, using a speech synthesiser on the computer reading instructions from the electronic book file, produces a whole new experience for users.
A trial of the methods was recently conducted at a university with a course book. When other students saw how well this worked they started demanding that their course books also be synchronised, Crombie says.
“This is a new and interesting way of interacting with the information which many people will find useful,” he says.
Although EUAIN itself wound up last year, there is a still a long way to go before all publishers make all books accessible on demand. But the EUAIN team has laid the building blocks in the form of a new association, and spin-off projects such as one to set up standards and industry guidelines and produce training materials and courses.
The partners from the project are also trying to set up a new entity that will use the Open Document Format to provide publishers with the ability to electronically plug in to the system and get their books automatically formatted for accessibility.
Two hundred years after the first Braille book was published, there is now a real hope that all books will one day be available in that and other accessible formats.
The EUAIN project received funding from the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research.
Ahmed ElAmin | alfa
Cutting edge research for the industries of tomorrow – DFKI and NICT expand cooperation
21.03.2017 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI
Molecular motor-powered biocomputers
20.03.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy