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4th European eAccessibility Forum

eAccessibility of Public Services in Europe

12/04/2010, 9:00 - 18:00
Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie - Paris, France

  Version française
Printable version

AltText: The future of easy and independent accessible content publishing

Kathleen ASJES (Amsterdam (Netherlands))
Dedicon Netherlands, accessible information for people with a print impairment

Speaker's information

Manager of the Research and Development department at Dedicon in Amsterdam.

Kathleen studied political science at Leiden University in the Netherlands and Yonsei university in South-Korea. She obtained a Master of Science at Leiden University in 2006. After working as a researcher at Leiden University (the Netherlands), municipality Haarlemmermeer (the Netherlands), National Youth Commission (Australia) and the University of Melbourne (Australia), she joined Dedicon in 2008.



[Notice : The short papers of this conference have been prepared by BrailleNet who accept any responsibility for them. But presentation materials provided for download (full-papers or slides) have been provided by the authors themselves]

In the information processing chain most produced content is inaccessible to the reading impaired. Dedicon aims to increase the accessibility of this content by: a) raising awareness among content providers about content adaption; b) allowing content providers to deliver content in a way that suits the needs of the information receiver; c) developing an online service that converts written text into several accessible formats (Braille, audio or large print).

In the current accessibility debate and activity, there is a strong focus on assistive technology and digital content. The reasons for this focus are clear; digital media are rapidly developing and a lot of information is published via websites. Even though there is a strong development towards setting up e-government services and digital communication, official documents are still sent in print in the Netherlands. For instance, people can fill in and submit their tax forms online, but the final outcome of the payment is sent to them by post. To facilitate the independence of anyone with reading disabilities, the altText project aims to assist content providers in creating accessible material.

Four steps to accessible documents

The innovation within the altText project allows all content providers to produce accessible information online, in an efficient and cost-effective way. They can make their information accessible in four simple steps:

  1. Upload the document.
  2. Correct the document according to a checklist and a set of clear guidelines.
  3. Select the accessible format of choice (Braille, large print or audio).
  4. Order the accessible document or get is send to the target group directly.  

The conversion portal allows two input formats: word documents and open office text documents (.odt). The main interchange format for content processing within the portal is DaisyXML. In order to convert the import formats into DAISY XML, the document has to be structured properly. With the assistance of an analyser, the user learns if there are elements in the document that do not have a marked structure yet. The mark-up can be changed by the user, and analysed again until the validation process considers the document ready for conversion into accessible formats. From the DAISY XML format, the portal can export the content as Braille print, Large Print  or audio produced with synthetic speech.

The importance of structure

Identifying the structure of print material is often left to a range of visual cues, such as bold capital letters for the title of a chapter and bold italics for the heading of a subchapter. Even if adaptive technology allows the user to access a document and read it following the "visual structure" of the original, the adaptive device will flatten the visual structure, leaving a document with no structure at all. Without structure, navigation through the document is more difficult. Especially when the document is longer, finding information becomes more complex without structure detection. Providing documents with an "inner" structure makes it possible for adaptive devices to distinguish between a paragraph and a footnote, between a chapter and a subchapter. This enhances the level of accessibility of the whole document, allowing the user to move through it in the same way those without disabilities do when looking at the printed document, following the same "logic". In an ideal world, any document made available in electronic format should contain this inside structure that benefits everyone.

With a strong focus on creating awareness among content providers, the altText project aims to change the traditional information processing chain. The main focus in the project lies on applying ‘accessible structures’ to content. The conversion portal provides users with instructions on how to structure their document, and analyses the document to check whether the applied structure is correct. Structured information is the first big step towards high-quality accessible information. By structuring content, powerful new navigational possibilities emerge which are beneficial to all users, not only the visually impaired.

Accessible publishing chain

The technology is emerging which allows content providers to structure their information in such a way that it complies with existing accessibility legislation and guidelines. In doing so new markets and wider access are developing for that content. By integrating existing and emerging technologies within the publishing chain, it is possible to actively include the changing needs of end-users, and in so doing open new opportunities to provide information to everyone, in the format they prefer.


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