[Athen] Microsoft and Daisy Plug-ins

Crabb, Nolan Crabb.15 at osu.edu
Wed Nov 14 07:31:41 PST 2007

I think the point Pratik made on this list today about crafting
well-structured word files is an excellent one. I'm a little concerned
by the attitude of almost-dismissal regarding the Microsoft plug-in.
Some of us, particularly those of us who rely on screen readers,
remember well the horrors of the '90s when getting Microsoft to pay any
attention at all to accessibility issues was, for a time, nearly
impossible. It's all well and good to draft clever one-liners on this
list about garbage files and crap files. But somewhere nestled amongst
those clever one-liners can perhaps be a couple of lines of celebratory
text. Granted, this plug-in will not be the end-all and be-all,
rendering all other DAISY creating processes obsolete. But this is one
old access tech dinosaur who remembers the nightmares of Internet
Explorer 4.0, which was far worse than 3.5 in terms of access, and who
can't help but extend a heart-felt congratulations to the DAISY
Consortium folks and frankly to Microsoft, for that matter, for even
getting started on this project.

The Microsoft Word 2007 plug-in for PDF creation isn't perfect either,
but if the Word file was well constructed and the creator paid careful
attention to using styles and so forth, it's not terrible. It comes
pretty close to creating an accessible PDF file--not perfect, but pretty

For that matter, the Duxbury folks have long advocated the use of styles
in Word as one way to create even better more accurate braille
formatting and translations. Those who fail to do that can create
legendarily awful braille! I know! I've seen it! :-) Yet, we don't
dismiss Duxbury out of hand for at least trying to integrate its product
with Word's file structure.

Today, after many years and iterations of software, a student who needs
something brailled and who has the hardware and software necessary to do
it can create highly usable braille for him or herself. Not always, of
course. We all know of thousands of instances where tables, charts, and
graphs are problematic for all but the most expert among us. But those
of us who remember hand-transcribed braille with all its oddities and
length of production time will be among that small cadre of folks who
can recognize that we've made huge strides in terms of quality braille
production. This little seemingly not-too-significant plug-in may be
the beginning of what will someday become a highly automated DAISY
creation process. After all, if someone who neither reads braille nor
knows much about it can, by following closely the styles and other
elements of a well-structured Word file, create beautifully formatted
material in many circumstances, , surely the day will come when the
DAISY process experiences similar benchmarks of success. We do well, it
seems to me, to celebrate what progress now is and hope for additional
progress tomorrow. Perhaps the reminder that none of us will be
replaced any time soon by highly automated software will allow us to
celebrate the positive things this plug-in and all the behind-the-scenes
efforts it represents on all sides means. The fact that Microsoft is
even willing to educate itself somewhat concerning DAISY is, to those of
us who remember darker times, nothing short of a pre-holiday miracle.

Best Wishes,


Nolan Crabb
Director of Assistive Technology
The Ohio State University
2054 Drake Center, 1849 Cannon Dr., Columbus, OH 43210

Ph. (614) 735-8688
E-mail: crabb.15 at osu.edu

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