What is DAISY?
Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) refers to a globally recognized technical standard for producing accessible and navigable multimedia documents. The standard was originally developed to benefit people who are unable to read print due to a disability, but it also has broad applications to improving access of information for everyone. The DAISY Consortium’s vision is that all published information is available to people with print disabilities, at the same time and at no greater cost, in an accessible, feature-rich, navigable format. These multimedia documents representing print publication can be referred to as Digital Talking Books (DTB), which can include text, images, and recorded synthesized speech.
Benefits of DAISY Books
The DAISY book offers students easy and flexible navigation through digital recording. It is the same concept of reading a print book, where one may skip through the introductory matter of a book, find chapter headings, look at a specific page, etc. Students can navigate through a DAISY book by sentence, paragraph, specific page numbers, and various heading levels. It is also possible to fast forward, rewind, and to jump to certain time increments when using the audio component. Depending on the playback equipment being used, a book can be searched for specific words. If students need to refer back to a specific point in a book when studying, they can also place bookmarks and record their own notes for future reference.
Publishing a book in the DAISY format means that functionality can be built in at the beginning, including full text, images, audio, print page numbers, footnotes etc. This allows students to decide how they want to access the material. For students who may only want to listen to the audio, they can access the auditory feature. For students who have partial vision, they may want to access the images as well as the audio. If they have dyslexia, they may benefit from listening to the audio and seeing the synchronized text at the same time. For students who are tactile learners, it provides them the opportunity to explore documents on the computer or DAISY players and interact with information in a way that holds their attention and improves their learning.
There are two types of DAISY players available: Hardware and software. Hardware DAISY players are quite portable and can benefit students who commute or travels frequently. Software DAISY players enable DAISY books to be played on a computer. It has capabilities of being transferred onto a refreshable Braille display for those who prefer their information in Braille. DAISY books can also be accessed online and downloaded to a hardware player, streamed over the internet, or downloaded into a portable MP3 player.
Different DAISY players offer different levels of functionality - some are very basic, only offering access to the audio and navigational structure of the DAISY book. Some players offer enhanced functionality, such as being able to search the text (if is produced with the functionality in the original file), record audio notes and view the text and synchronized audio together as the book is playing.
Examples of Hardware Players
CD-Based DAISY Players
These players vary in size and have the ability to play DAISY books, standard audio CDs, and MP3 CDs. Complementary audible information with a visual display for showing status information and section headings are available on some models. These products are suitable for students who do not require access to text and graphics. Controls are relatively easy and uncomplicated to operate, which will benefit young children or students with learning disabilities.
SD-Card based DAISY players
These players store media such as SD (secure digital) cards. Reading material can be transferred to the unit via a USB cable or by putting the storage card into a card reader connected to the computer. These players can read DAISY and MP3 files, as well as can also use digital voice recorder functions to record class lectures or their own study notes. They are very portable as the size of the device is generally smaller than the CD-based DAISY players. The disadvantage is that it does not have a visual display, so it may not be suitable for students who are visual learners.
DAISY players with visual display screen
These portable devices include a visual display screen. It is recommended for students who read best when they have a visual display that incorporates a touch screen. A dictionary with visual and auditory output is also provided. There are also several personal digital assistants made specifically for use for people with low vision that include software for reading DAISY books.
Examples of Software Players
These software packages can all play DAISY, regular audio, and MP3 CDs and files (for books and music). They have built-in basic screen-readers with very clear speech, but users can also use their own preferred screen reading program. They provide full DAISY navigation, such as skipping the content by page numbers or paragraphs. They allow for multiple bookmarks. They all have built-in "go to" feature allowing students, educators or staff to search for keywords and phrases.
Points to Ponder
When choosing a software DAISY player:
- Does it allow text or audio notes to be added to DAISY files? An external microphone is required to make your own verbal notes.
- Is it compatible with your current computer’s operating system and access software (such as the screen magnifiers/readers, and scanning and reading software)?
- Is it easy to use with the interface for accessing menus?
- Can it be customized for more than one person if the package is shared amongst students, educators and staff?
- Is the easy to search through their DAISY files or library?
- Is there a trial period before purchasing the software player?
- Is the software player compatible with the DAISY format (link to DAISY format section below)?
- DAISY 2.0 – A current playback hardware and software will easily support this format. The DAISY 2.0 specification will identify headings, page number references, and metadata for book cataloguing or identification.
- DAISY 2.02 – Has optional skippable structures that enable students to configure their player to automatically "skip over" elements found in most books and student materials. Footnotes, optional producer notes, sidebars, and the voicing of page numbers are the items that this specification addresses.
- DAISY 3 (formally ANSI/NISO Z3986-2005) – In addition to skippable structures as in DAISY 2.02, this format provides information that is missing from a document or is visually inaccessible to the reader. Instead of defining levels of heading as “level 1, 2, 3”, it describes the types of headings such as “part”, “section”, “chapter” in a book. This format enables students to set bookmarks and to highlight passages in a book, label the marked sections with text or audio notes, and export their own notes to other playback devices.
Free or Open Source DAISY software players
AMIS project page - AMIS is free open source DAISY playback software developed by the DAISY Consortium. Features of AMIS include its self-voicing interface, playback rate control, text searching and bookmarking, reading options, and page style customization. AMIS is available in multiple languages. AMIS runs on Windows and supports DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3.
DAISY books have a great deal to offer in terms of enhancing literacy skills in students and providing them with alternative ways to read educational information. The technology is accessible in schools, both in terms of cost and usability. Unlike analogue talking books, an important feature of DAISY books is easy and rapid navigation, providing students similar process in accessing information as their peers using conventional books.
Students can listen to DAISY books on:
- Standalone DAISY Players
- Computers using DAISY playback software such as AMIS
- Mobile phones
- MP3 players - with limited navigation
- iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Students can access a computerized text DAISY book by:
- Using refreshable Braille display or screen reading software
- Printing the content as Braille book on paper
- Converted to a talking book using synthesized voice
- Printing text on paper as large print book
- Read as large print text on computer screen
- Using screen reading software on the computer
Click here on how to create DAISY formats
DAISY Consortium- The DAISY Consortium is an international association that develops, maintains and promotes international DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) Standards. It is managed by a Board made up of representatives from all Full Member organizations. The Consortium is constituted as a not-for-profit association under Swiss law and is governed by Articles of Association.
CNIB - The Canadian Institute for the Blind (CNIB) has a collection of over 60,000 titles, including 300,000 individual talking book copies. The organization's services include talking books, braille books, electronic books, children's PrintBraille books, Braille music, magazines, descriptive videos, and tactile diagrams. CNIB does not provide readers for their books on tape or DAISY talking books. However, the organization does have an online library, where reading material is available in a format called "online digital audio," which can be read using Windows media player. The entire collection can be browsed through the web.
Bookshare.org - Bookshare.org is a not for profit American organization that provides access to books in a variety of alternate formats, including DAISY. It is free for all U.S. students with qualifying disabilities, and membership is available to individuals, schools and groups. Although they offer approximately 90,000 digital books, textbooks, teacher-recommended reading, periodicals and assistive technology tools, not all of their material can be supplied outside the USA due to copyright restrictions. Canadian students with paid membership can still gain access to the 22,000 books they offer to Canadian residents.
DAISY relates to the following sections of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Integrated Accessibility Regulation
1. DAISY is a widely used digital format of a talking book that when used with a DAISY player provides individuals with an alternative means to access information and educational resources.
2. People interact, learn and communicate in diverse ways. Learning opportunities are increased when flexible ways of engaging with learning materials are provided. Considering how people communicate is important for knowledge to be exchanged. Alternative formats take into account diverse ways of exchanging information.
3. The AODA legislates that educational institutions and its employees know how to produce accessible or conversion ready versions of textbooks and printed material and be knowledgeable at interacting and communicating with people with disabilities who may use alternate formats and devices.