REDMOND, Washington, and ZURICH, Switzerland, November 13 /PRNewswire/ --

- Collaborative development project aims to transform millions of Open XML documents into the world's most widely used accessible format for people with print disabilities.

Today Microsoft Corp and the Digital Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY) Consortium announced a joint standards-based development project that will make it possible for computer users who are blind or print-disabled to make better use of assistive technology in their daily lives. A reference model for other Open XML solution providers, this open technical collaboration project on SourceForge.net will yield a free, downloadable plug-in for Microsoft Office Word that can translate Open XML-based documents into DAISY XML, the foundation of the globally accepted DAISY Standard for reading and publishing navigable multimedia content.

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In recent decades, individuals with print disabilities have increasingly accessed information using a wide variety of assistive technologies such as screen readers, large print, refreshable Braille and text-to-speech synthesizers. However, because these individuals cannot visually navigate complex page layouts, they often struggle to keep up with the demands of today's information-rich society.

The structure within DAISY publications makes it possible to navigate quickly by heading or page number and to use indexes and references, all with correctly ordered, synchronised audio and text. In addition to clear benefits for the print-disabled community, the Open XML to DAISY XML translator also offers the potential for further innovation in the information-intensive markets of publishing, training and education.

"As CEO of the internationally recognised voice of blind and low-vision people around the world and as a reader of DAISY books, I believe this project represents a breakthrough for me both personally and professionally," said Penny Hartin, CEO, World Blind Union. "The ability to make highly functional, accessible content available on desktops everywhere in the world is critical, and this Open XML to DAISY XML translator for Microsoft Office Word is a remarkable move toward that goal."

"In our information age, access to information is a fundamental human right," said George Kerscher, secretary general of the DAISY Consortium. "This is why leading organisations of and for the blind throughout the world are committed to the advancement of the DAISY Standard. The ability to create DAISY content from millions of Open XML-based documents using this translator for Microsoft Office Word will offer substantial and immediate benefits to publishers, governments, corporations, educators and, most important, to everyone who loves to read."

"We are keenly tracking these developments for the benefit of our members and students around the world," said Charlene Gaynor, CEO of the Association of Educational Publishers. "Not only will the Open XML to DAISY XML translator support an outstanding critical need for individuals with print disabilities, but it will also help us fulfil our commitment to improve the learning experience for those students served neither by text-only nor audio-only books today."

"The Open XML to DAISY XML translator for Microsoft Office Word will begin the translation of Open XML-based content into an enriched multimedia format accessible to users around the world, regardless of the degree of their visual impairments," said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division. "This accessible technology is something that our customers have asked for, and we are pleased to be able to work collaboratively with the DAISY Consortium to realise this goal."

Open XML adoption continues to expand across the software industry for use on various platforms that include Linux, Windows, Mac OS and the Palm OS. Solution providers interested in creating their own Open XML to DAISY XML translators may find the project on SourceForge at http://sourceforge.net/projects/openxml-daisy. The resulting "Save As DAISY" plug-in will be available as a free download for Microsoft Office Word (Word XP, Word 2003 and Word 2007) customers in early 2008.

Perspectives from members of the print-disabled community about this news are available at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2007/nov07/11-13daisy.mspx. More information about Microsoft's accessibility solutions is available at http://www.microsoft.com/enable. More information about the Ecma Office Open XML open standard document format specification is available at http://www.openxmldeveloper.org and http://www.openxmlcommunity.org.

About the DAISY Consortium

DAISY denotes the Digital Accessible Information SYstem. The DAISY Consortium was formed in May 1996 by talking book libraries to lead the worldwide transition from analog to Digital Talking Books. Now nearly 70 non-profit organizations make up the Consortium, and actively promote the DAISY Standard for Digital Talking Books. The DAISY Standard has revolutionized the reading experience for people unable to read print due to a visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability. The Consortium's vision is "that all published information be available to people with print disabilities, at the same time and at no greater cost, in an accessible, feature-rich, navigable format."

More information about the DAISY Consortium and the DAISY Standard is available at http://www.daisy.org/.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.

About Microsoft EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)

Microsoft has operated in EMEA since 1982. In the region Microsoft employs more than 13,000 people in 60 subsidiaries, delivering products and services in 138 countries and territories.

This material is for informational purposes only. Microsoft Corp disclaims all warranties and conditions with regard to use of the material for other purposes. Microsoft Corp shall not, at any time, be liable for any special, direct, indirect or consequential damages, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other action arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of the material. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting any kind of warranty.

Web site: http://www.microsoft.com http://www.daisy.org http://www.openxmlcommunity.org

Peter Devery of Microsoft PR, +44-1189-094678, peterde@microsoft.com; or George Kerscher, +1-406-549-4687, cell, +1-406-544-2466, kerscher@montana.com, or Lynn Leith, +1-905-304-9398, lynn.leith@gmail.com, both of DAISY Consortium ; NOTE TO EDITORS: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft in EMEA, please visit http://www.microsoft.com/emea or the EMEA Press Centre at http://www.microsoft.com/emea/presscentre. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at the time of publication, but may since have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact the appropriate contacts listed at http://www.microsoft.com/emea/presscentre/contactus.mspx. If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft Corp, please visit the Microsoft web page at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass on Microsoft's corporate information pages. ; Photo: NewsCom: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20000822/MSFTLOGO , AP Archive: http://photoarchive.ap.org , PRN Photo Desk, photodesk@prnewswire.com