If you are hard of hearing or are writing a letter, article or any other kind of Microsoft Word document for someone who has reading difficulties, then what you need is the latest version of DAISY. DAISY (Digital Audio-based Information SYstem Consortium) is a file format standard that Microsoft have supported to enable any Word document to be converted into a talking book.
Once installed, the plugin adds a “Save as DAISY” option to Word which then enables DAISY to translate it into the spoken world or make it easier to navigate for those with reading difficulties. The DAISY XML format is structured to help the blind to navigate text via page numbers and headings and use indexes and references that are embedded into documents. However, the XML file itself is not a talking book but by downloading and installing DAISY Pipeline, you can translate it into one. This latest release of the DAISY features several usability improvements including a new Windows installer, partial Hindi localization, as well as performance enhancements.
Jim Marks, director of services for students with disabilities at Montana university told Microsoft how DAISY had transformed the learning potential of his students and himself as he is also blind:
When you don’t see print, you lose more than the ability to read words. You lose the ability to see the page, jump around in the text and be drawn to bolded or italicized information. When I switched from the ability to read print to audio, it was like a stream of consciousness. Trying to find the page number on an audio cassette was a miserable experience. In an increasingly information-driven society, it’s an issue of equity, particularly for blind or visually impaired students. It’s not just access to information that gives students equal footing, but the ability to manipulate that information.
Hats off to Microsoft for supporting and collaborating with open source developers on creating the DAISY XML format when even open source office suites such as Open Office don’t yet even support it. Note that currently DAISY Pipeline works with Windows XP, 2003 and Vista Operating Systems and with Microsoft Office XP, 2003 and 2007.