Friday Apr 01, 2011

Braille output from OpenOffice.org is the SourceForge project of the month

Under the aegis of the AEGIS project (hard to resist that pun), the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven developed odt2braille, the open source extension to OpenOffice.org (and Oracle Open Office and also LibreOffice) that turns Writer documents into braille. And today, Sourceforge picked odt2braille as its open source project of the month (read an interview about it here).

Congratulations to Bert Frees and Christophe Strobbe and the folks at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven for their work on this excellent extension. If you already have OpenOffice.org (or Oracle Open Office) you can get the extension directly from the OpenOffice.org extensions website.

Sunday Dec 05, 2010

Updates on document accessibility: Australia PDF study & a new release of odt2Braille

Document accessibility, and support for authors to create accessible documents, is receiving a lot of attention lately.

Recently in the news is a report from Vision Australia. Titled "The Australian Government's study into the Accessibility of the Portable Document Format for people with a disability", it describes the real-world problems the people with vision impairments have when trying to read PDF documents through various assistive technologies. The Supplementary Report goes into great detail on how they conduct the study and all of the specific results they found.

In somewhat related news, the AEGIS-supported odt2braille project just list of new features. While this release includes a number of important new features, we will have to wait a bit longer to use it on platforms other than Windows...

Both the PDF study and the work of the odt2braille project (and the related, AEGIS-supported odt2daisy project) point to the most significant issue in document accessibility: the accessibility of the document depends upon the author creating it with all of the necessary document structure markup (and ancillary metadata). If the structure and metadata are there, the document can be printed well in braille, and rendered as a rich and effective DAISY book, and be read by someone with an assistive technology (though additional requirements come into play for AT use). If the structure isn't there...

Which is a good segue into noting that the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative work on version 2.0 of the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines is in "Last Call Working Draft" state, and will hopefully soon join WCAG 2.0 as a final specification of guidelines for authoring modern documents for use on the Web.

Wednesday Sep 01, 2010

Another release of odt2braille - Braille from Oracle Open Office & OpenOffice.org

Hot on the heels of the first release of odt2braille comes the new release: version 0.0.2 of odt2braille. This new release includes many features and enhancements, as well as new and updated braille translation tables in several languages (Catalan, Danish grade 2, Portuguese grade 2, and Spanish). This release also includes an updated user manual and a 6 part video tutorial on how to use it.

When combined with either Oracle Open Office or OpenOffice.org, odt2braille provides a powerful Braille embossing solution - even thought it is only at version 0.0.2... Great stuff!

Thursday Aug 12, 2010

The Dragon speaks to the Oracle... Oracle Open Office Writer that is

Last month Nuance released version 11 of their voice recognition and dictation application Dragon Naturally Speaking. Among the host of new features in this release is one of particular interest to Oracle Open Office (and OpenOffice.org) users: support for dictation, correction, selection, and playback in Writer. More information can be found in David Pogue's NY Times article, and Daniel Dern's article in Information Week.

Tuesday Sep 30, 2008

odt2dtbook, Vincent, and Dominique take gold

[This seems to be the month of medals - perhaps it has something to do with the recent Olympics in Beijing...]

I just heard that Vincent Spiewak and Dominique Archambault of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris have "taken the gold" for their work on the ODF to DAISY DTBook OpenOffice.org extension, as part of the Innovation in Open Source Community Award Program. As such, Dominique, Vincent, and the odf2dtbook project share part of the $1 million in Open Source Community award monies. Congratulations Vincent & Dominique!

I encourage you to listen to an interview with Sun's Simon Phipps and several of the award winners (including Dominique and Vincent). Also worth checking out is a video showing how to use odt2dtbook to create DTBooks from within OpenOffice.org.

Regular readers may recall that I first mentioned this work last May, just a few days after Vincent posted the extension on the new OpenOffice.org extensions website. Since then the various versions have been downloaded thousands of times, enabling many many people to publish DAISY books without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on proprietary authoring environments. Truly a worthy project!

Thursday May 29, 2008

OpenOffice.org plug-in for creation of DAISY books

When we formed the OASIS OpenDocument Format Accessibility Subcommittee and reviewed ODF v1.0 for accessibility concerns, one of the things we thought about was the creation of DAISY books - the suitability of ODF to be the source format for digital talking books for people with print impairments. While most of the 9 recommendations we made for accessibility improvements (all incorporated into ODF v1.1) were of use to DAISY book creation, there was one in particular that had no other purpose save for DAISY: noting the page number whenever pagination occurs (whether or not a visible page number is displayed in the document) so that DAISY book users in a setting with users of printed books could know the printed book page number.

While the OASIS OpenDocument Format Accessibility Subcommittee concerns itself only with file format issues, we all of us on the subcommittee recognize how important it is that applications make use of the accessibility features in ODF (else they would be only of academic interest). To that end we published the OASIS ODF Accessibility Guidelines. Also to that end, one of the subcommittee members (Dave Pawson, then of the Royal National Institute of the Blind) contributed code to the DAISY Pipeline project back in April 2007 to support ODF as a source for DAISY books.

Today I'm delighted to report on the early availability of an ODT to DAISY DTBook plugin to OpenOffice.org (one of the over 100 extensions now available for OpenOffice.org). This open source project - using the GPL v3 license - is a cross-platform extension to OpenOffice.org written in Java that generates DAISY DTBook XML files - the penultimate stage in the DAISY process toward creating a (talking) DAISY book. While only at "version 0.0.4", it already supports an impressive list of tags, and includes a rich set of example documents illustrating a wide range of document scenarios (including addresses, lists, tables, nested tables, and mathematics). This OpenOffice.org extension is being developed by Computer Science Masters student Vincent Spiewak and his professor Dominique Archambault of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. It has just been featured in the May issue of The DAISY Planet, and since it was made available 6 days ago, has been download more than 150 times.

Announcement at LinuxTag on OpenOffice.org 3.0 Beta

Earlier today, at the LinuxTag conference in Berlin, Sun issued the press release titled: "OpenOffice.org 3.0 Beta and Extensions Show Strong Momentum; Office Productivity Suite Delivers Document Accessibility for Mac Users with Disabilities" (emphasis is mine). The release immediately goes on to state: "Advanced Integration of OpenOffice.org with Apple VoiceOver, ODF Editing is Now Accessible on All Key Desktop Platforms".

I am incredibly proud of the OpenOffice.org community for their great work on accessibility overall, and especially for their work realizing accessibility on Macintosh with this release. With this beta (and the subsequent final release later this year), Macintosh users will finally have an accessible office suite - blind users of VoiceOver are able to read and write office documents (including Microsoft .doc files, since OpenOffice.org supports reading/writing those as well as the native OpenDocument Format).

As is stated in the press release:

OpenOffice.org 3.0 Beta is receiving very positive feedback from the community for its strong accessibility support on Mac OS X. OpenOffice.org is the first application that is multi-platform accessible, exposing a rich set of information to assistive technologies on Windows, Solaris, GNU/Linux and with this upcoming release, Mac OS X (Intel-based Macs only). OpenOffice.org 3.0 will be the first version to run on Mac OS X that will have the look and feel of an Aqua application while supporting the Mac OS X accessibility APIs, and integrating well with the built-in Macintosh VoiceOver screen reader - offering better accessibility support than many other applications available for Mac OS X.

For nearly a decade Sun has argued that the right way to realize technology accessibility is to divide the task into three parts: (1) the tasks of the platform or OS (to define an accessibility framework); (2) the tasks of the application (to expose its contents and information via that accessibility framework); and (3) the tasks of assistive technologies (to utilize the information provided by applications via the platform accessibility framework in order to make things accessible). As the Macintosh platform has had a rich and powerful accessibility framework in OS X for some time now, and assistive technologies utilizing it like VoiceOver since at least OS X v10.3, that means that 2/3rds of parts are taken care of and it now the remaining task of applications to leverage the accessibility framework for AT compatibility. And that is precisely what the OpenOffice.org Mac team has done - making OpenOffice.org the first and to my knowledge only office suite (and one of the very few large third party Macintosh applications) to be accessible through VoiceOver.

The press release (and this blog posting) close with a quote from Curtis Chong:

"We are very pleased with this latest demonstration of leadership by Sun, Apple, and the OpenDocument community to further the cause of accessibility to the Open Document format by the blind and other people with disabilities," said Curtis Chong, president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. "This move - to make OpenOffice.org accessible on the Mac - is an important step for people who want access to the OpenDocument format and the OpenOffice.org software, and it is reassuring to know that as OpenOffice.org moves into the Mac arena, it will be usable by everyone. We sincerely hope that similar efforts are underway to ensure access to OpenOffice.org on all platforms where it is available."

Wednesday May 07, 2008

OpenOffice.org 3.0 beta - with support for Mac, VoiceOver & Mac accessibility

The OpenOffice.org community has just announced the availability OpenOffice.org 3.0 beta. This release contains an impressive set of features, including native support for Macintosh, and support for most of the portions of the upcoming ODF v1.2 specification.

For me, one of the most noteworthy aspects of this beta release is direct support for the Macintosh accessibility framework and specifically interoperability with the VoiceOver screen reader. With OpenOffice.org 3.0, blind users on the Macintosh will finally have access to an office suite - enabling them to read and write office documents and spreadsheets and... In fact, because OpenOffice.org supports reading and writing .doc and .xls and .ppt files, this will allow blind users of the Macintosh to work with colleagues on Macintosh and Windows who might be using Microsoft Office. Of course it also means that ISO 26300:2006 format ODF documents are now accessible to the blind on Macintosh.

Earlier this year Sun demonstrated VoiceOver working with a development build of OpenOffice.org for Macintosh at the CSUN Conference on Technology and People with disabilities. We also had a chance to meet with a number of Macintosh AT vendors at the conference, and saw good results with their AT tools and the OpenOffice.org development build.

Download your copy of OpenOffice.org 3.0 beta today! Download the Macintosh version of OOo 3.0 beta here. Please be sure to report any problems found with the beta at the OpenOffice.org QA site. You may also want to check out the set of test cases to use as a reference for accessibility interoperability.

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Peter Korn

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