Corvallis, Oregon USA, Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - ViewPlus Technologies today announced an experimental project to make American Physical Society (APS) journals accessible to the blind. The project is a collaboration between APS and ViewPlus, funded by a Small Business Innovation Research grant Number R43EY018799 from the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health. The experimental project will develop streamlined procedures that are cost effective and timely, for converting current APS XML documents to the DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) form.
DAISY is an international organization of nonprofit organizations dedicated to serving needs of people who are blind or have other severe print disabilities. Files in DAISY XML format can be read in speech or with on-line refreshable Braille displays using any of several DAISY Reader computer applications. "I am excited that the American Physical Society may be able to offer its journals in DAISY format" says Dr. George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium. "This new project is a tribute to the APS advanced XML publishing methods and to DAISY's development of standards that include accessibility to math and figures. By offering material in the DAISY format, the APS is opening its ranks to a whole new group of scientists with print disabilities including blindness, low vision, dyslexia or other disabilities."
DAISY's new SVG plug-in expands DAISY's capabilities, allowing ViewPlus' SVG-based IVEO system to make DAISY figures accessible by "audio/touch". Methods exist today that permit blind people to read the text portions of the APS journals. Under this grant, ViewPlus will utilize and expand their IVEO Hands-on Learning System technology to make the entire journal accessible - text as well as previously inaccessible diagrams and math. A tactile copy of the visual image will be made by printing the figure on a ViewPlus embosser or using "swell" paper. Once the tactile copy is placed on a touch-sensitive pad, a blind person may touch the tactile figure and hear text labels spoken. Titles and descriptions of graphical objects are also spoken when touched. "This project has been my dream for two decades" says Prof. John Gardner, ViewPlus Founder and President. "The technology developed through this grant will eliminate a giant hurdle for blind people who are pursuing careers in math and science."
"Currently most uses for XML MathML are to feed a composition process that result in a display of the material. Our goal is to be able to re-purpose our XML and MathML for different reading experiences. Making content available to reading by listening is potentially only one of the deliverables" says Robert Kelly, APS Director of Journal Information Systems.