by George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium

"In the Information Age, access to information is a fundamental human right." from George Kerscher's presentation to the United Nations, Bangkok 2002

Copyright © DAISY Consortium, December 2003

I believe that by now you have heard about DAISY. The context may have been in:

The fact is that DAISY is all of these and much, much more. This brief document will explain the basics of the DAISY Concept.

DAISY is: A Better Way To Read

The Digital Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY) is an approach to reading that is recognized worldwide as an ideal approach to making high performance information technology available to persons with disabilities. Documents that conform to the DAISY standard offer a rich reading experience that may include synchronized audio and structured text along with images. DAISY is a multimedia standard that enables content creators to use technology to its greatest advantage. Yes, it supports traditional presentation of images and text, but it goes beyond this flat approach to include human narration, powerful navigation, and the potential for adding video and animation.

Print-based publishing has had 500 years to evolve. You will not see any significant changes to that format, because it is fully mature. The DAISY approach to reading incorporates all the strengths of traditional publishing and adds powerful navigation and multimedia components. All DAISY publications contain a "navigation center" that allows the reader to quickly go to any place in the document. Never before has multimedia allowed random access into the flow of the presentation. The reader can navigate by a hierarchy of headings, by pages, or by other significant constructs. Forward and reverse are supported, and sophisticated speed up is provided in playback.

DAISY is: For All People and Languages

The DAISY standard was originally developed to benefit people who are unable to read print due to a disability, but the design requirements are intended to serve all readers including the mainstream population. All known character sets are supported through the implementation of International Standards Organization (ISO) character encodings.

Developers within the DAISY Consortium agreed that local national language support was an absolute requirement. As a result of these design decisions, the playback systems and the production tools can all be customized for any language. For example to localize a hardware player, approximately 125 prompts, plus numbers 0 to 99, need to be recorded in the local language. They are installed in the player and the player then works for that language. But, don't worry, most languages are already supported in the players available throughout the world. The production tools have been designed in the same way. A national Language Toolkit is provided as a component of the production tools. Just translate the menu and messages file, and the production tools will then operate in the local language.

DAISY is: An Open Non-Proprietary International Standard

The DAISY Consortium set out to use existing standards wherever possible. We have a close relationship with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards setting body for the Internet. As a result, the DAISY standards are applications of XHTML, XML, and Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL), which is what provides DAISY's multimedia support. We did need to create specifications for the navigation center, and we created an XML tag set to represent constructs found in most books.

Open, non-proprietary standards that have a proven track record for accessibility are what the DAISY Consortium has recommended as a foundation that WSIS should build on. The DAISY standard meets this requirement and it is also extensible. We invite collaboration and participation in the ongoing developments of the standard. There are no royalties associated with the implementation of the DAISY standards. There are compression techniques that may be used that have royalty implications, but the DAISY standards are completely open non-proprietary and have no royalty associated with the implementation.

DAISY is: Known for Conforming Interoperable Hardware and Software Reading Systems

There are three pieces that make up interoperable systems:

  1. There must be production tools that assist in the creation of conforming content;
  2. There must be conforming multimedia documents ;
  3. There must be reading systems that play the multimedia books.

Great care has been taken to ensure that the three conditions above exist. We have created open source validation tools that check DAISY multimedia documents. the open source validation tools can quickly point out errors in books that production tools have created. The hardware and software reading systems have different features and functions, but we constantly demonstrate how any DAISY book can be played on any of the DAISY players. Because the DAISY standards are open and non-proprietary, and because validation tools and sample content are available, player manufacturers can deliver completely interoperable reading systems.

DAISY is: A Consortium of Non-Profit and For-Profit Organizations

The DAISY consortium was founded in 1996 and consists of a growing membership of organizations around the world committed to developing equitable access to information for people who have a print disability. It consists of:


Our vision is 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.


The DAISY Consortium's mission is to develop the International Standard and implementation strategies for the production, exchange, and use of Digital Talking Books in both developed and developing countries, with special attention to integration with mainstream technology, to ensure access to information for people with print disabilities.


We have identified five major goals which will guide the work of the DAISY Consortium over the next few years. These are:

DAISY is: Ready for Your Country to Endorse

As stated earlier, the DAISY Consortium advocates open non-proprietary standards that have proven track records of accessibility for the world's information systems. The DAISY standards meet this requirement. National libraries serving persons with disabilities are encouraged to implement the DAISY standards and to join the Consortium. We expect that there will be a variety of solutions in providing information technology in the world, and the DAISY standards stand ready to be included as a primary format.

It is clear from the many organizations that make up the DAISY Consortium that it is an ideal system for persons with print disabilities. It is also excellent for the mainstream population. We believe that publishers should cooperate with DAISY Consortium Member organizations to help make their publications accessible. We also hope that formally published information will be accessible to every person in our society; extending the DAISY standards to meet all the mainstream needs is an important direction to explore. This is why we say that, "DAISY is for all!"

Visit us at www.daisy.org