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POSITION PAPER: DRM For Persons Who are Blind AND/OR Print Disabled

By George Kerscher, Senior Officer, Accessible Information Recording For the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D)
Project Manager to the DAISY Consortium
Hiroshi Kawamura, Director Japanese Society for the Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD)


The Digital Audio-based Information System (DAISY) Consortium represents non-profit organizations around the world that provide information to persons who are blind and/or print disabled. The DAISY Consortium is developing the next generation of information technology for this target population. In addition, the DAISY Consortium champions the requirements of the end user who is blind and/or print disabled. This position paper will describe issues surrounding the secure delivery of Digital Talking Books (DTB) and the use of mainstream information that is protected through DRM systems by persons with disabilities.


In the information age, nobody disagrees that it is a human right to access information. DRM systems must respect this human right for persons who are blind and print disabled.
REQUIREMENT: This requires that DRM systems must allow the information to be accessible to persons who are blind and/or print disabled. Assuming the person who is blind and/or print disabled has paid or meets the use requirements of the distributor, no DRM barrier should prevent them from accessing the information.


"Screen readers" is a class of software persons who are blind use to access computers. The screen reader takes information delivered to the screen and redirects it to synthetic speech and refreshable braille output. Today, many reading systems that support DRM prevent this type of access to the information, because it is viewed as an attack on the data. For example, screen grabbers use many of the same mechanisms as access technology.

REQUIREMENT: Some mechanism must be developed to allow the presentation of the information to users with disabilities.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Two approaches seem possible. The Presentation software could directly deliver the information in alternative formats for persons with disabilities; or a trust relationship can be established with adaptive access technology providers.


Many times system developers think about "viewing" the information. The "presentation" of the information is a more correct term. The presentation of information to persons who have adequate sight in most cases will be visual, but for persons who are blind and/or print disabled, the presentation must be through hearing and touch. Textual information can be converted to synthetic speech or to refreshable braille.

REQUIREMENT: Presentation of the information must support different output modalities. Also, control of the presentation must support accessibility requirements, such as alternatives to a mouse.


SMIL is the foundation for DAISY compliant DTB. Most organizations in the DAISY Consortium at the very least use a textual navigation system to accompany the digitized audio recordings. Audio compression, such as MP3, is used, and some organizations provide synchronized full text and full audio. The books vary in size, but it is not uncommon to have books that are in the 30 to 50 hour range. Even heavily compressed, the books are often over 500 MB. CD-ROM distribution is currently required for books of this size, but as soon as the bandwidth is available, the organizations will want to use the Web for distribution. The organizations producing and distributing DTB must ensure that the original author and publisher's intellectual property does not leak into mainstream distribution channels and for this reason, DRM solutions will be employed.