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Microsoft tool to translate documents for blind

Microsoft and the DAISY digital talking books consortium are to work together on a tool for the blind and otherwise print-disabled that translates Microsoft Word documents into a digital audio standard...

Microsoft and the DAISY digital talking books consortium are to work together on a tool for the blind and otherwise print-disabled that translates Microsoft Word documents into a digital audio standard.

The two organisations said the collaboration was aimed at producing a free, downloadable plug-in that would translate documents based on Open XML - the default file-saving format in Microsoft Office 2007 - into DAISY XML.

The DAISY XML file can then be processed to produce digital audio and other formats.

The plug-in is expected to be available in early 2008.

The not-for-profit DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) consortium, based in Zurich, Switzerland, was formed in 1996 by talking-book libraries to help the transition from analogue to digital talking books, and has adopted open standards based on Internet file formats.

Its members include the U.S. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Spanish National Organisation of the Blind and the Korean Braille Library.

Microsoft is campaigning to have its Open XML document format approved as an international standard, which would help it gain wider adoption by public-sector organisations.

It failed to capture the necessary majority in a September vote by members of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), partly due to concerns the format is not truly open but rather a ploy to lock in users.

An ISO group will meet again in February to try to agree a consensus, giving Microsoft time to lobby for more votes.
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