Skip to Content

AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Accessible Textbooks: A Glossary of Commonly Used Terms

Authorized Entity

Public Law 104-197: Under the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, H.R. 3754, Congress approved a measure, introduced by Senator John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) on July 29, 1996, that provides for an exemption affecting the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) program. On September 16, 1996, the bill was signed into law by President Clinton. The amendment defines and limits "authorized entity" to "a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities."

Qualifications of an authorized entity are further being defined for the purpose of accessing files at the NIMAC beginning December 2006. For this purpose, authorized entities will remain with the definition above and have rigorous steps for qualifying to access NIMAS source files in the NIMAC.

Digital Audio-Based Information System Consortium (DAISY Consortium)

The DAISY Consortium is establishing the International Standard for the production, exchange, and use of the next generation of "Digital Talking Books." The DAISY Consortium is made up of organizations throughout the world who serve persons who are blind or print disabled. Blindness organizations which are active members in the DAISY Consortium and will begin producing Digital Talking Books in DAISY format include Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), American Printing House for the Blind (APH), Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), and the U.K. Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), to name just a few. The object of the DAISY Consortium is to improve the access to all kinds of information for blind and visually impaired people. DAISY Digital Talking Books are expected on the market in 2000.

Digital Talking Book (DTB)

A Digital Talking Book is envisioned to be, in its fullest implementation, a group of digitally encoded files containing an audio portion recorded in human speech; the full text of the work in electronic form, marked with the tags of a descriptive markup language; and a linking file that synchronizes the text and audio portions. The need to digitize audio collections around the world is clear. Currently, each country has its own system and format for serving its clients. To read talking books on cassettes is similar to the ancient way of reading scrolls. There is a lot of winding and rewinding. In a digital talking book, the reader has random access to the sections via the talking table of contents. The digitization of books intended for persons with disabilities provides opportunities to increase the quality and availability of information to print disabled persons.

Document Type Definition (DTD)

This is a formal definition of a discrete set of XML tags usually targeted at a particular type of application. For example, the Document Type Definition for the Digital Talking Book would define tags for things one finds in a book, e.g., chapter, paragraph, footnote, jacket, etc.

Extensible Markup Language (XML)

XML is the universal format for structured documents and data on the Web. It is a set of rules, guidelines, conventions for designing text formats for data, in a way that produces files that are easy to generate and read (by a computer), that are unambiguous, and that avoid common pitfalls, such as lack of extensibility, lack of support for internationalization/localization, and platform-dependency. Like HTML, XML makes use of tags (words bracketed by "<" and ">") and attributes (of the form name="value"), but while HTML specifies what each tag and attribute means (and often how the text between them will look in a browser), XML uses the tags only to delimit pieces of data, and leaves the interpretation of the data completely to the application that reads it. In other words, if you see <p> in an XML file, don't assume it is a paragraph. Depending on the context, it may be a price, a parameter, a person.

HyperText Markup Language (HTML)

HTML is the lingua franca for publishing hypertext on the World Wide Web. It is a non-proprietary format based upon SGML, and can be created and processed by a wide range of tools from simple plain text editors. HTML uses tags such as "<h1>" and "</h1>" to structure text into headings, paragraphs, lists, hypertext links, etc.

National Information Standards Organization (NISO)

A committee of the United States based National Information Standards Organization (NISO), in conjunction with the internationally known DAISY Consortium, is working on a specification for Digital Talking Books. This will serve as the next generation of information technology for persons who are blind and print disabled. At the heart of this specification is an XML DTD that incorporates the elements of structure needed to provide access to information. The specification goes on to define how the textual information can be synchronized with digitally recorded human speech through Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL), a recommendation of the W3C. The specification identifies six classes of books that have varying amounts of text mixed with audio. Most significantly, one class of book contains only text, with no recorded human speech. Access to the information would be through synthetic speech, refreshable braille or dynamically generated large print.

National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC)

The NIMAC is a national file repository of NIMAS source files. In IDEA 2004, American Printing House for the Blind (APH) was designated to serve as the Access Center. The Secretary of Education will establish and support the Access Center at APH one year after enactment of IDEA 2004. NIMAS source files from publishers will be placed in the NIMAC beginning in December 2006.

National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)

NIMAS refers to a collection of consistent and valid XML-based source files created by K-12 curriculum publishers. From these well-structured source files, accessible, student-ready alternate-format versions of textbooks and core materials (i.e., braille, e-Text, Digital Talking Book, etc.) can subsequently be created and distributed to qualified students with disabilities. NIMAS is not a student-ready version.

IDEA 2004, P.L. 108-446, establishes NIMAS as a national standard and requires states and local districts to adopt NIMAS for providing textbooks and instructional materials to students who are blind or print-disabled.

The timeline for states or local districts to enter into a contract with publishers for the use and delivery of NIMAS files to the National Instructional Materials Access Center will be two years after the date of enactment of IDEA 2004 (or December 2006).

Open Electronic-Book Forum (OEBF)

The purpose of the Open eBook Forum (OEBF) is to create and maintain standards and promote the successful adoption of electronic books. The OEBF is an association of hardware and software companies, publishers and users of electronic books and related organizations whose goals are to establish common specifications for electronic book systems, applications and products that will benefit creators of content, makers of reading systems and, most importantly, consumers. The OEBF is helping to catalyze the adoption of electronic books; to encourage the broad acceptance of these specifications on a worldwide basis among members of the Forum, related industries and the public; and to increase awareness and acceptance of the emerging electronic publishing industry. The OEBF is composed of member organizations (each of which may have one or more representatives) and a Board of Directors. The members determine the policies and activities of the organization.

Optical Character Reader (OCR)

Optical character readers are devices that can optically analyze a printed text, recognize the letters or other characters, and store this information as a computer text file. OCRs are usually limited to recognizing the styles and sizes of type for which they are programmed.

Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL)

The Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) is written as an XML application and is currently a W3C recommendation. Simply put, it enables authors to specify what should be presented; therefore, enabling them to control the precise time that a sentence is spoken and make it coincide with the display of an image appearing on the screen. The SMIL language has been designed for ease of access for authoring simple presentations with a text editor. The key to success for HTML was that attractive hypertext content could be created without requiring a sophisticated authoring tool. The SMIL language achieves the same goal for synchronized hypermedia.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The W3C is an international industry consortium founded in 1994. Its mission is to promote the evolution and ensure the interoperability of the World Wide Web. Working with the global community, the Consortium produces specifications and reference software for free use around the world. The World Wide Web Consortium established the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in 1997. Changing the Web's underlying protocols, applications and, most importantly, the way content is developed can significantly improve access to the Web by people with disabilities. The WAI has working groups developing comprehensive and unified sets of accessibility guidelines for content accessibility, browser accessibility, and authoring tool accessibility.

services icon Directory of Services

featured icon Featured Items

book icon Featured Book

JVIB Special Issue on Critical Issues in Visual Impairment & BlindnessJVIB Special Issue on Critical Issues in Visual Impairment & Blindness

JVIB Special Issue on Critical Issues in Visual Impairment & Blindness

Join Our Mission

Help us expand our resources for people with vision loss.