2010 Conference: i-access®-How Vision Australia is improving access to information by Andrew Furlong and Karl Hughes

This paper was presented at the 2010 conference of the Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities. You can read the full paper below, download the Word version, flip through the slides or listen to an audio recording of the presentation.

Download this presentation

Word version of full paper

Audio recording of Andrew Furlong and Karl Hughes’ presentation (81.1 MB)

Presenters’ bios

Andrew Furlong: With a technical background, and specialising in audio, Andrew is responsible for Technical and Production development at Vision Australia – supporting existing production systems and clients reading systems, as well as new process and system development.

Karl Hughes: Karl is the National Production Manager at Vision Australia and is responsible for the production of accessible content. He is a Quality Manager under their ISO 9001 (2008) standard and has a focus on operations and process improvement.

Abstract

Vision Australia has embarked on an ambitious program of work to transition the Library’s Information services from analogue to digital technologies. Termed “i-access®”, some outcomes of the program include:

  • A fully automated process to receive and convert text-based files from publishers into DAISY, and then make these available on demand to clients via the internet, CD and other mediums.
  • Provide blind, vision impaired, and print disabled people with access to a broader range of content currently not available in alternative format
  • Utilising customised solutions and in-house developments, synthetic voice, and a range of versatile reading devices, clients can choose what, how and when content is provided to them
  • Open up new channels of information and increase the amount of published material to be made available via an online service that can deliver books, newspapers, magazines and other content

This workshop will discuss the practical implications of introducing a service like i-access®. It will provide an insight into the application architecture that makes the service possible, the lessons learned along the way and how Vision Australia intends to improve access to information for its clients in the future.

Slides

Slide 1

i-access®
How Vision Australia is Improving Access to Information

Karl Hughes & Andrew Furlong

Slide 2

Think Globally, Act Locally!

  • Biggest barrier is the lack of accessible information available
  • i-access® embraces innovation, information & independence
  • Global partnerships and local abilities have enabled solutions for Vision Australia to act locally in removing barriers to accessing information

Slide 3

Context – Who is Vision Australia?
“Vision Australia is a partnership between people who are blind, have low vision and are sighted…”

  • Largest provider of blindness, low vision and print disability services in Australia
  • 38,000+ clients of all VA services
  • 18,000+ library clients across Australia

Slide 4

Challenges – the External Environment

  • Our clients say the biggest barrier is the lack of accessible information
  • < 5% of the world’s published material & < 20% of the world’s websites are accessible
  • 300,00 blind and low vision Australians
  • Over 3 million people in Australia have a print disability
  • Continued population growth and ageing
  • Mass media changes – information gap widening

Slide 5

Characteristics – an i- access® Overview
Innovation, Information & Independence

  • Content Creation Processes – DAISY titles created or acquired & automated format conversion
  • Content Storage & Management – a high capacity central repository
  • Content Search, Selection & Delivery – choice of material, choice of delivery channel
  • Digital Reading Devices – software or hardware, training & support
  • A free service, including a DAISY reading device
  • Global and local partnerships and solutions to access digital information (e.g. Plextor, Dedicon, RNIB)

Slide 6

Characteristics – an i- access® Overview

  • The service has grown over 4 years
    • 150+ Daily newspapers & magazines online
    • 15,000 DAISY audio titles plus DAISY text, eBraille & Braille
  • Choice of Plextor desktop or Humanware handheld DAISY player
  • i-access® Burn on Demand: Automated CD production
    • 28,000+ Burn on Demand CDs per month
  • i-access® Online: online access to content
    • 4,000+ downloads per month
    • Newspapers, magazines, books, podcasts, music braille
  • i-access Production Manager is an automated production ‘engine’ – text in, DAISY out

Slide 7

Client Benefits
i-access® from the client perspective:

  1. The Library provides me with the latest relevant titles and information
  2. I can access news and current affairs when I need it
  3. Self-served content reduces waiting and increases choice
  4. A wide range of DAISY content is available; its navigation features mean an experience similar to a sighted reader
  5. I can choose how, when and where I receive content:
    • Online (from anywhere in the world)
    • On CD (streamlined delivery using custom mailer)
    • In Braille (an important literacy option)

Slide 8

Plextor PTX

  • Online DAISY player
  • CD and online capable
  • No PC required
  • Wireless of cable network
  • DAISY online protocol (coming soon)
    • User Searches library catalogue
    • Library assisted book selection
    • Streaming or Download
    • Store books in “My Library”
    • Integrated DRM
    • Ongoing development

Slide 9

Humanware Victor Reader Stream
Portable Handheld DAISY player

  • Very easy to use
  • DAISY, MP3 player
  • Voice recorder
  • 15 hours battery life
  • Connected via USB to PC
  • SD card
  • Headphones

Slide 10

Concept: i- access® Flowchart

Flow diagram showing possible inputs and outputs from the i-access server

The i-access® Web Services and Distribution Server (60TB) has two inputs:

  1. DAISY Library (DAISY Text and Audio)
  2. Vision Australia Production Manager (Automated). The Production Manager contains three steps: DAISY Convertor, DAISY 2.02 & DAISY 3, Synthetic Voice (if requested).

The Vision Australia Production Manager has three possible input steps:

  1. Narrator
  2. OCR
  3. Electronic file from Publishers and Clients via FTP

The i-access® Web Services and Distribution Server (60TB) has six onputs:

  1. Internet (to computers or players)
  2. BOD Pack and send (to DAISY CD, to computers or players)
  3. Email File to Client
  4. Telephone
  5. Web Radio
  6. Kiosk

End of diagram

Slide 11

Screen shots of the i-access Downloader software. A login box to input details of Member Number and Password, and a Downloader box showing the progress of downloaded files.

Slide 12

i-access® Web Interface

Screen shot of the i-access web page showing Items Awaiting Download.

Slide 13

The Future: Ongoing Development

  • i-access® DAISY access
    • Software and phone player options
  • i-access® Online
    • All library content to be available online – linked to catalogue
    • Adoption of DAISY Online Protocol
  • i-access® Production Manager
    • Online lodgment and conversion of personal and other materials by clients
    • Extend automated conversion, producing synthetic voice and Braille, ePub and DAISY 4 (when available)
  • i-access® Burn on Demand
    • Multi-title CDs, automated packing and dispatch

Slide 14

Thank You

Q & A

[end of slides]

Full paper: i-access®-How Vision Australia is improving access to information

Presented by Karl Hughes and Andrew Furlong

Karl Hughes (Dip Social Science; MBA Hons) is the National Production Manager at Vision Australia and is responsible for the production of accessible content. He is a Quality Manager under the ISO 9001/2008 standard and has a focus on operations and process improvement.

Andrew Furlong (CCNA; Dip Service Management; Adv Cert Electronics) has a technical background and specialises in audio He is responsible for Technical and Production development at Vision Australia – supporting existing production systems and client reading systems, as well as new process and system development.

Abstract

Clients of Vision Australia say that the biggest barrier to participation in life for people who are blind or have low vision is the lack of accessible information available. Vision Australia is contributing to removing this barrier by improving access to information through its i-access ® program. The program embraces innovation, information and independence for clients. Through global partnerships and local abilities, solutions have been designed that create the opportunity for Vision Australia to act locally in removing barriers to accessing information.

Introduction

i-access ® is a digital library service that contributes to increasing the quantity of accessible content available. It has been designed and implemented into the Vision Australia service delivery model to move from cassette to digital. To understand the i-access ® service model four areas will be briefly discussed – Context, Challenges, Characteristics and Concept. Context will outline who Vision Australia is; Challenges will highlight the major drivers in the external environment to which Vision Australia is responding; Characteristics will provide some background information on i-access ®; and Concept will describe how i-access ® works.

Context – Who is Vision Australia?

Vision Australia is the largest provider of blindness, low vision and print disability services in Australia. It is the result of six corporate mergers across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Our vision is that Vision Australia is a partnership between people who are blind, sighted or have low vision. We are united by our passion that people who are blind or have low vision will have access to and fully participate in every part of life they choose.

Essentially, when looking at Vision Australia’s Brand Architecture, the essence or DNA of Vision Australia is about enabling life change for people who are blind or have low vision.

Vision Australia consists of several major strategic business units but the focus of this paper will be the delivery of the i-access ® service through the Community Information Access (CIA) business unit. CIA core services deliver:

  • Timely, accurate and accessible information
  • A free library service that comprises current, high demand, high interest materials in a variety of accessible formats
  • Information in accessible formats, i.e. Audio Description, Braille, DAISY, eText, and Tactile Graphics
  • Radio network and broadcast services for the print disabled

It should be noted that CIA provides services to the print disabled community, not just those who are blind or have low vision. We define print disability as interpreted in the Australian Copyright Act 1968[1]:

  • A person without sight;
  • Or a person whose sight is severely impaired;
  • Or a person unable to hold or manipulate books or to focus or move his or her eyes (eg severe arthritis);
  • Or a person with a perceptual disability (dyslexia).

Currently there are 38,000 plus clients who receive Vision Australia services and the CIA library service has 18,000 plus clients across Australia.

Challenges – The External Environment

So what are the challenges in the external environment that are driving Vision Australia to create a solution like i-access ®?

Vision Australia clients say that the biggest barrier to life participation is the lack of accessible information. It is considered that less than 5% of published material, i.e. books, and less than 20% of websites are accessible to people who are blind or have low vision[2].

If we conduct an environmental scan of the Australian landscape statistics show that 300,000[3] people are blind or have low vision. By 2021 that number will have doubled to 600,000[4] as baby boomers reach retirement age. Currently there are over 3 million[5] people in Australia that are affected by a print disability or condition that inhibits their ability to read standard print and with the continued population growth and ageing there will be an increase in the incidence.

Mass media changes also mean that the information gap is widening. When we consider the increase of internet media, such as websites, blogs, podcasts and other forms of digital communication methods, we can perhaps start to comprehend the size of the gap. News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch stated last year that “The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive methods of distribution”.[6] And many people are taking advantage of these new distribution channels. But are they accessible?

With the challenges of lack of accessible information; increasing numbers of people who have a print disability; and changes in the mass media, a solution was needed to provide a new service delivery model.

Characteristics – i-access ® an Overview

Vision Australia wants to create a world of possibilities and open the way for for people who are print disabled to take an active part in every aspect of life they choose. Embracing possibility i-access ® creates innovation, information and independence in its design. It is a digital library information service that serves the entire range of Vision Australia clients. i-access ® consists of four main areas – Content Creation Processes; Content Storage and Management; Content Search, Selection and Delivery; and Digital Reading Devices.

1. Content Creation Processes – DAISY digital books created for distribution to and use by clients. DAISY titles will be acquired through sources such as the DAISY consortium, commercial purchases, selected conversion of the current analogue catalogue and through Vision Australia’s own production facilities. DAISY text, particularly to support newspaper content, will be provided through news publisher sources.

Personalised format conversion will be a support service for clients to submit documents in a wide range of formats so they can be converted into various accessible formats, such as DAISY text, DAISY audio or Braille, and returned to the client on the media of their choice.

Commercial format conversion will be an automated service that allows paying customers, such as corporate and government entities, to submit documents in a range of prescribed formats so they can be converted into various accessible formats, such as DAISY text, DAISY audio or Braille, and returned to the customer on the media of their choice.

2. Content Storage and Management – This online storage and data management capability is based on a high-capacity central repository to hold all Vision Australia digital content such as books, newspapers and magazines.

3. Content Search, Selection and Delivery – Members are to be able to search the content repository for the books, newspapers, magazines podcasts and music Braille of their choice. Once a selection is made, the content will be delivered to the member by mailed CD or online over the Internet.

4. Digital Reading Devices – Replacement of cassette playback devices with DAISY CD players and DAISY handheld online devices is nearly complete. Training and support for the new technologies is provided to clients through the library.

The i-access ® service is free to registered members of the Vision Australia Library Service. Registration also includes a DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) reading device for playback of content.

Global partnerships were formed with organisations such as Plextor (a Japanese manufacturer of the DAISY players), Dedicon (a Blindness and Low Vision organisation based in the Netherlands) and the Royal National Institute for the Blind in the UK. These collaborative arrangements provided solutions that can be employed locally and are scalable in providing accessible digital information.

The i-access ® service has grown over the last 4 years since its inception. There are now 150 plus daily newspapers and magazines online. There are also 15,000 DAISY audio titles plus DAISY text, eBraille & Braille.

For those people who cannot download content a component of i-access ® is the Burn on Demand system. Burn on Demand is an automated compact disc production system. Currently 28,000 plus CDs are produced every month using this system.

For those people who can download content i-access ® Online provides online access to content. Currently, 4,000 plus downloads take place per month by clients. Content includes newspapers, magazines, books, podcasts, and music Braille

Nearing completion is the i-access ® Production Manager which is an automated production engine. It provides the ability to input text into the system, have automated conversion take place, and provide DAISY as output for use by a client.

i-access® from the client perspective:

So how will the client benefit from i-access ®? Looking from the client’s perspective we can see how the factors of innovation, information and independence come into play. The following scenario highlights this:

As a member of the Vision Australia Library Service the library provides me with the latest relevant titles and information. I can access news and current affairs when I need it which keeps me connected to the community and up-to-date with the latest events in the world. The content I get is self-served which means my waiting time is reduced and increases the choices I can make in selecting content. Because a wide range of DAISY content is available my reading experience is greatly enhanced through its navigation features which means I can move through the content similar to a sighted reader. Best of all is the choices I now have. I can choose how, when and where I receive content – I am the self-determinant. I can choose Online (from anywhere in the world); on CD (streamlined delivery using a custom mailer); or in Braille (an important literacy option).

Concept – How Does i-access ® Work?

Reading Devices

Plextor PTX
Online DAISY player

  • CD and online capable
  • No PC required
  • Wireless of cable network
  • DAISY online protocol (coming soon)
    • User Searches library catalogue
    • Library assisted book selection
    • Streaming or Download
    • Store books in “My Library”
    • Integrated DRM
    • Ongoing development

Humanware Victor Reader Stream
Portable Handheld DAISY player

  • Very easy to use
  • DAISY, MP3 player
  • Voice recorder
  • 15 hours battery life
  • Connected via USB to PC
  • SD card
  • Headphones
i-access ® flow chart

Flow diagram showing possible inputs and outputs from the i-access server

The i-access® Web Services and Distribution Server (60TB) has two inputs:

  1. DAISY Library (DAISY Text and Audio)
  2. Vision Australia Production Manager (Automated). The Production Manager contains three steps: DAISY Convertor, DAISY 2.02 & DAISY 3, Synthetic Voice (if requested).

The Vision Australia Production Manager has three possible input steps:

  1. Narrator
  2. OCR
  3. Electronic file from Publishers and Clients via FTP

The i-access® Web Services and Distribution Server (60TB) has six onputs:

  1. Internet (to computers or players)
  2. BOD Pack and send (to DAISY CD, to computers or players)
  3. Email File to Client
  4. Telephone
  5. Web Radio
  6. Kiosk

End of diagram

The Future – Ongoing development

i-access® DAISY access

  • Software and phone player options

i-access® Online

  • All library content to be available online – linked to catalogue
  • Adoption of DAISY Online Protocol

i-access® Production Manager

  • Online lodgment and conversion of personal and other materials by clients
  • Extend automated conversion, producing synthetic voice and Braille, ePub and DAISY 4 (when available)

i-access® Burn on Demand

  • Multi-title CDs, automated packing and dispatch

[1] Australian Copyright Act 1968, Interpretation part 2. section 10, page 13

[2] Brazier, Helen, An introduction to IFLA Libraries for the Blind Section presented to Libraries for the print disabled conference Zagreb, Croatia February 2008

[3] ABS 2006 Census

[4] WHO Fact Sheet 282 2004

[5] This estimate combines blindness and low vision projections from Census population figures (as at 2006) and figures drawn from Market Equity (2002) Secondary Research to Determine the Size of the National Print Disabled Audience.

[6] News Corp to charge for all news websites, Business Spectator, published 7:40 AM, 6 Aug 2009



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