What is DAISY you might ask? The DAISY Consortium, a coalition of talking-book libraries and nonprofit organizations, was formed in 1996 to harness the rich capabilities opened up by the transition from analog to digital technology to ensure that all published information is available to people with print disabilities at the same time and at no greater cost in accessible, feature-rich, navigable format.

What does this mean? Well early next year Microsoft will release for Word a downloadable plug-in at no charge that will enable the millions of Open XML documents to be translated into DAISY XML, the lingua france of the globally accepted standard for digital talking books.

DAISY-formatted files enable users to scroll through auditory content using simple keystrokes to hone in on specific sections, and configure its playback to skip over items like footnotes.

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

“It gives you the power to be a sophisticated reader,” says George Kerscher, secretary general of the DAISY Consortium. DAISY’s specifications have been shaped by feedback from talking book users and the spectrum of needs they identified, he says.

Those with low vision lamented, for instance, that with auditory cassettes they could hear the words but not see how they were spelled, Kerscher recounts. Accordingly, DAISY gives these users the option of visually following the text in large print as it is heard. People who are blind can track auditory output using a refreshable Braille display composed of tiny electronically-activated pins that pop up to denote words on screen as they pass their fingertips along the display.

DAISY works by creating a digital audio file narrating the document’s content that maps to a text file with the XML structure of the text marked up.

For much more information go to the press announcement which can be fund at: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2007/nov07/11-13daisy.mspx