During my visit to Chittagong, Bangladesh, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Vashkar Bhattacharya, a visually disabled youngman, at Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) head office. He is coordinating the ‘Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) 4 All’ project. Under this project, they are developing ‘Digital Talking Books’(DTBs), which are multimedia representation of print publications for people with multiple disabilities, specially the print disabled people, such as visually disabled, people with low or decreasing vision, old people, illiterates and minorities/tribals with no script based language. It enables such people to access knowledge and information. He received the training of producing such books through the DAISY consortium, which is a network of 14 countries. It was formed in May, 1996 by talking book libraries to lead the worldwide transition from analog to DTB. Non Profit Organizations, such as YPSA are the associate members of this consortium.
There are primarily six kinds of DAISY DTBs, such as:
1. Full audio with Title element only: This is a DTB without navigable structure. Only the title of the DTB is available as text - the actual content is presented as linear audio only. Direct access to points within the DTB is not possible.
2. Full audio with Navigation Center (NCC or NCX) only: This is a DTB with structure. The structure is two-dimensional, providing both sequential and hierarchical navigation. In many cases, the structure in this type of Daisy DTB resembles the table of contents of its print source. Some of these productions provide page navigation.
3. Full audio with Navigation Center and partial text: This is a DTB with structure as described above, as well as some additional text. The additional text components may occur where keyword searching and direct access to the text would be beneficial, e.g., index, glossary, etc. The audio and existing text components are synchronized.
4. Full audio and full text: This is a DTB with structure and complete text and audio. The audio and full text are synchronized. This type of production may be used to generate Braille.
5. Full text and some audio: This is a DTB with structure, complete text, and limited audio. This type of DTB could be used for a dictionary where only pronunciations are provided in audio form. As in the previous categories, the audio and text are linked.
6. Text and no audio: This is a DTB containing a Navigation Center and marked up/structured electronic text only. No audio is present. This file may be used for the production of Braille.
The DTBs produced according to the DAISY standard are independent of distribution medium, that is, the digital master file can be archived and may also be distributed on currently available media such as CDs or DVDs. More importantly, as technology advances and digital media distribution methods evolve, these same books can be distributed via the newly developed media or system.
There are several software playback tools, such as Adaptive Multi-Media Information System (AMIS), Book Wizard Reader; and hardware playback tools like EzDAISY Digital Talking Book Player, Scholar Digital Talking Book Player, etc. that can be used to play these books. The subjects covered by the DTBs produced under YPSA’s Daisy4All project are: HIV-AIDS, reproductive health, current affairs magazines and novels. So far, they have developed 10 books, out of which eight are in Bengali language and two of them are in English.
YPSA is also training young people to produce such books. Since at YPSA, visually disabled people, like Mr. Vashkar Bhattacharya, are involved in the production of such DTBs, so they are more effective. According to him, “Only the visually disabled person can understand the problems of other such people; and develop, improve and customize the DTBs accordingly.” Presently, this initiative is localized, but YPSA is working towards wider dissemination of DTBs to enable a number of print disabled people to access relevant knowledge and information.