For most readers, engaging with images – including charts, diagrams, and even mathematical formulas – is just another element of reading. For people with disabilities, however, visual content often presents a barrier to learning. While digital reading tools make it possible to read printed text through text-to-speech (TTS) or braille, the visual information is largely unavailable or difficult to understand. Through a research and development initiative called the DIAGRAM Center, Benetech has spent the past five years building the technology and collaborative community that is addressing these challenges for students.
Benetech is excited to announce that the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs has extended its support of the DIAGRAM Center with a significantly expanded charter. Through DIAGRAM Center +, Benetech will build upon the groundwork laid by DIAGRAM’s work over the past five years on image and math accessibility. In addition to addressing the needs of students with print disabilities such as blindness and dyslexia, DIAGRAM Center + broadens its scope to include students with autism spectrum disorders, hearing impairments, intellectual disabilities, and other disabilities, as well as students with any disabilities who are also English language learners.
“We are delighted that Benetech and the DIAGRAM Center community members and partners will be able to extend our impact to reach so many more students with diverse needs,” said Anh Bui, Vice President of Benetech Labs and Director of DIAGRAM Center +.
DIAGRAM Center + launched on September 1, 2015 with Benetech’s partner on the award, the U.S. Fund for DAISY, and will extend through August 2020. Projects are planned to cover a wide range of research and development with many partners, including prototyping an accessible image repository that includes multimedia content, piloting of a program to customize and deliver educational 3D models, development of a tool to help identify assistive technologies that read MathML, and much more. DIAGRAM + will also continue leading the Born Accessible movement, providing tools and resources for publishers to make their educational content accessible upon publication.
A notable new product of DIAGRAM + will be the publication of the DIAGRAM Report, a horizon report that will cover key promising new and existing technologies for multi-modal access to and creation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) materials.
In addition, DIAGRAM + will partner with the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH in Boston to enhance PEEP and the Big Wide World, a National Science Foundation-funded, STEM-focused educational program for early learners that includes resources for children, parents and educators. Together, NCAM and DIAGRAM + will investigate adding accessibility metadata (enhanced search) and accommodations to this popular online digital education resource and study how these improve engagement and learning for children with disabilities.
Stay tuned for DIAGRAM Center + updates about exciting new developments made possible by the new award in areas including 3D printing, STEM videos, and accessible math.
About the U.S. Fund for DAISY
The US Fund for DAISY was established in 2005 to provide financial support and administer U.S.-based projects and grants for the DAISY Consortium. DAISY denotes the Digital Accessible Information System and was formed in May 1996 by talking book libraries to lead the worldwide transition from analog to Digital Talking Books. The Consortium’s vision is to ensure that all published information is available to people with print disabilities, at the same time and at no greater cost, in an accessible, feature-rich, navigable format.