Microsoft develops digital talking books for visually challenged

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Mumbai, Dec 9: It would be a relief to millions of visually challenged people as Microsoft along with Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium has developed a standard-based development project that would enable translation of millions of Open XML documents into DAISY XML, which is the lingua franca for digital talking books.

Speaking about the initiative, National Association for Blind (NAB) Director (IT&Services) Dipendra Manocha said, ''With the largest blind population in the world, India needs initiatives like these to redress the problems faced by the visually challenged.'' In recent times, individuals with disabilities have been accessing information using assistive technologies, including screen readers, large print, refreshable braille, and text-to-speech synthesizers.

But their problem is, they cannot visually navigate complex page layouts.

DAISY publications have a structure, which makes it possible for these individuals to navigate quickly by heading or page number, and by using indices and references -- all with correctly ordered, synchronised audio and text.

DAISY material can be played on dedicated devices or PCs by installing special software.

DAISY Consortium secretary general George Kerscher said, ''In this information age, access to information is a fundamental human right, which is why leading organisations of and for the blind throughout the world were committed to the advancement of the DAISY standard.'' Microsoft India director (Business Division) Sanjay Manchanda, informed that the Open XML to DAISY XML translator for Microsoft Office Word would begin translation of Open XML-based content into an enriched multimedia format, accessible to users around the world, regardless of the degree of their visual impairments.


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