Newsline, July 2018

Letter from the Executive Director

It seems in these hot summer months, developing the motivation to carry on regarding anything can be a herculean effort. This past week, when temperatures hovered around 100°F (35°C) and humidity levels pushed above 85%, doing anything beyond sitting on a lounge chair under a fan was too much activity. Yet most pressed on, and fortunately for most of us in the library, publishing, and software communities that are NISO's core constituency, our work is mainly indoors and (hopefully for most of us) air-conditioned. However, that doesn't mean that our work is without its challenges, difficulties, or stressors-perhaps not as much physical as mental! 

Standards development can be a long slog, particularly on an international stage. It is through the commitment, dedication, and hard work, usually from volunteers, that eventually the fruits of that labor can be seen. This is also true of standards-related work of policy to advance adoption of principles that support access to content.

This month, it is seeming likely that the Marrakesh Treaty on accessibility will finally be ratified by the US government. The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559), which will allow the import and export of resources for print-disabled people around the world when non-accessible versions are otherwise unavailable, passed in the Senate by unanimous consent on June 29. The bill needed to be slightly tweaked, so was returned to the House for final approval. According to the ALA District Dispatch, "because the legislation makes modest amendments to Section 121 ("the Chafee Amendment"), the House Judiciary Committee must give their consent to the amended legislation before it goes to the president for his signature."  Hopefully, this won't be much of a hurdle and the treaty implementation bill will make its way toward law. If past is prologue, the bill will pass quickly through the House and will be headed to the President's desk for signature. While noting that nothing is finished until it is well and truly done, especially in this administration, all signs are looking quite positive for adoption of the treaty this year.

Although the most recent activity on accessibility has been political, there are significant elements of this that are technical. NISO has been involved in accessibility standards for many years. The first, proprietary DAISY standard for digital talking books originated in Sweden and was first published in 1994. Release of DAISY 3, the ANSI/NISO Z39.86 2002 Standard, was official in March 2002. This Standard was jointly developed by the DAISY Consortium, The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (part of the Library of Congress), and a variety of other organizations in North America, and published as a NISO standard. The standard was revised in 2012. At the same time, NISO led the development of the ANSI/NISO Z39.98-2012, Authoring and Interchange Framework for Adaptive XML Publishing Specification.  This standard was integrated into the EPUB standard to allow for the accessibility of e-books in this format.

It is important to remember that accessibility is not, nor should it be, a partisan issue. Senators from both parties voiced their vocal support for the treaty when it was reviewed in committee in the US Senate. The demand for greater access to the visually impaired does not know political affiliation. Because in reality, reading impairment is something many, many of us face; from those fully blind, to those with dyslexia, to those with dysgraphia, as well as those whose vision degrades with age.