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Microsoft develop DAISY plugin

  • By Paul Crichton
  • 20 Nov 07, 04:19 PM

Here’s some great news from Microsoft for visually impaired people. In early 2008, they will be releasing a free plugin to convert Word documents to DAISY format.

What makes this so exciting? Well, according to the RNIB, only 5% of all materials available to sighted users are also provided in an alternative accessible format.

And whilst documents can be changed into other audio formats easily enough, the resulting file tends to lack structure, like headings. Large, complicated documents can end up being as easy to follow as drunken, freeform jazz. It can be hard enough work wading through a company’s financial reports without this additional complication.

DAISY format documents make things much easier, as the headings, page numbers and references can all be identified by a suitable player. With a proper structure, it suddenly becomes possible to skip chapters and move backwards and forwards through a document.

This is great news, and full credit goes to Microsoft for both developing the plugin and making it free. The big issue will be making people aware that it exists. Hopefully in future releases of Word, the DAISY converter will be installed as standard. Given the popularity of Word, that small step could have a greater impact on making more documents accessible than almost any other measure that could be taken.

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