Accessibility in a Multimedia World

Betsy Beaumon (Benetech), Adam Witwer (O'Reilly Media, Inc.), George Kerscher (Daisy Consortium), Larry Goldberg (National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH (NCAM)), Katie Cunningham (Cox Media Group)
Make Astor Ballroom

Just as the challenge of making text accessible digitally can now be met through an effective implementation of EPUB 3, the new world of enhanced eBooks and apps are posing a fresh challenge to making “books” fully accessible for readers with print disabilities. Enhancements such as more extensive use of images and graphics, multimedia and interactivity make it difficult or impossible for these individuals to access the growing array of digital products for education and beyond.

This panel will discuss initiatives currently underway to make images accessible and the opportunities and challenges of accessible multimedia, including the advantages accessibility brings to a general audience, such as searchability. In addition to making publishers aware of the foundational challenges and best approaches around creating accessible images, discussion will cover Benetech’s DIAGRAM Center, a five-year R&D initiative to create tools, processes, and standards for publishers to build accessibility into their workflow. DIAGRAM was launched in mid-2010 in partnership with WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Materials and the U.S. Fund for DAISY. Such developments as creating image descriptions, tactile graphics (from Scalable Vector Graphics) and the ability to read and solve mathematical equations will be covered.

Included in the presentation will be a demonstration of the new software tool, “Poet,” a web-based tool that allows image descriptions to be created by an author, or later via a crowd-sourced approach, then read by specialized and commercial hardware and software. An O’Reilly author will do a demonstration of how Poet is used to add image descriptions to a book. Tobi, the software tool to author DAISY multimedia will also be covered.

Photo of Betsy Beaumon

Betsy Beaumon


Betsy Beaumon has served for more than twenty years as a technology executive and entrepreneur. She is a former Senior Director for BEA Systems, Inc. and managed international e-business initiatives for Cisco Systems, Inc. In 1995, she founded Social Online Service, the first web-based information and referral service for social service organizations. As Executive Director of the company, Betsy was an early supporter of Web accessibility standards.

Betsy was also one of the founders of TradeBeam Inc., a provider of global trade management software services. She began her career in engineering, then moved into product management for GTE and Lam Research Corporation.

Betsy brings an extensive background managing high growth organizations to her leadership of the Benetech Literacy Program. Her past experience in operations, marketing, product management, services, training and strategic partnerships supports the ongoing expansion of Benetech’s Bookshare and Route 66 Literacy projects.

Betsy earned a BSEE from Northwestern University. Active in volunteer work, Betsy has taught English classes to adult students in Tanzania.

Photo of Adam Witwer

Adam Witwer

O'Reilly Media, Inc.

Adam Witwer oversees the Publishing Services division at O’Reilly Media. He manages print, ebook/digital development, video production, and manufacturing.

Adam managed the O’Reilly production department’s transition to an XML-based workflow. In the process, he became an expert in the challenges of publishing to multiple sources and formats from a single source. He now focuses on ebook development at O’Reilly and thinking about the next generation of books.

Photo of George Kerscher

George Kerscher

Daisy Consortium

George Kerscher Ph.D. – “In the Information Age, access to information is a fundamental human right.”

George Kerscher began his IT innovations in 1987 and coined the term “print disabled.” George is dedicated to developing technologies that make information not only accessible, but also fully functional in the hands of persons who are blind or who have a print disability. He believes properly designed information systems can make all information accessible to all people and is working to push evolving technologies in this direction.

As Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium and President of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), Kerscher is a recognized international leader in document access. In addition, Kerscher is the Senior Officer of Accessible Technology at Learning Ally in the USA. He chairs the DAISY/NISO Standards committee, the EPUB Maintenance working group and the W3C’s Steering Council for the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). George also serves on the USA National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) Board.

Photo of Larry Goldberg

Larry Goldberg

National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH (NCAM)

Larry Goldberg is the founder and director of the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family
National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at Boston’s public broadcaster
WGBH. For more than a decade he directed WGBH’s Media Access Group and
its Caption Center and Descriptive Video Service and now focuses on research
and development, public policy initiatives and strategic partnerships for global
impact. He is a leader in the international effort to assure that the design and
implementation of new technologies meet the needs of people with disabilities
and other populations who lack access. He led development of the specifications
for digital television closed captioning in the U.S. and was awarded a patent in
1996 for “Rear Window™,” the first closed-captioning system for movie theaters
and theme parks. He has developed dozens of innovative R&D projects for full
inclusion in such fields as online education and digital publishing, mobile devices
and mobile media, in-flight entertainment, home media networks, Web-based
media, theatrical motion pictures, museums and theme parks, and many others.

Larry regularly briefs Congressional and regulatory agencies on barriers and
opportunities in new and emerging media. He consults and writes about the
needs of people with disabilities for many publications and national advisory
boards and served on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC)
Technological Advisory Council, its Consumer Advisory Committee and currently
co-chairs its Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Larry worked closely with Cong. Ed Markey (D-MA) and House and Senate
staffers of the technology and telecommunications subcommittees, in a bipartisan
effort to draft, negotiate and pass the “21st Century Communications
and Video Accessibility Act,” which was signed into law by Pres. Obama in
October of 2010. Under that law, which expands access to new and emerging
digital media under regulations being written by the FCC, the Video Programming
Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC) was established at the FCC and
Larry was named co-chair by Chairman Julius Genachowsky. The first act of the
VPAAC was to issue recommendations for extending closed captioning to
Internet-based media, which Larry and his working group delivered to the FCC
ahead of deadline and which became the basis for the Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking and the subsequent rules, due in early January 2012.

Larry is regularly consulted by the White House Domestic Policy staff on matters
pertaining to access to technology for persons with disabilities and helped
establish a standing committee within the CIO Council of the United States
government on accessible technology. At the beginning of the Obama
Administration, Larry met with the new CTO of the U.S. (Aneesh Chopra) and the
new CIO (Vivek Kundra) to brief them on issues of concern regarding inclusive
technology policies and practices.

Larry also was involved in crafting and now proliferating the media and
communications provisions of the United Nations Convention on Persons with
Disabilities, adopted in December of 2006 and which has since been signed by
153 countries. Larry has consulted with governments and NGOs in Japan, Israel,
Brazil, Mexico, India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Argentina and Russia.
He was a member of the U.S. Access Board’s Electronic and Information
Technology Access Advisory Committee (EITAAC) that established rules for
federal compliance with Section 508 and its subsequent “Refresh Committee”
which updated those rules. Larry works with technology companies such as
Apple, Disney, Microsoft, Verizon, Panasonic, AT&T, Yahoo!, HP, Adobe, and
others on solutions to meet the needs of consumers with disabilities. His
undergraduate degree focused on Cinema Studies and Broadcast Journalism at
University of Southern California.

Katie Cunningham

Cox Media Group

Katie Cunningham is a Python and Django developer for Cox Media Group
by day, and is currently writing a book on 508 compliance and
accessibility by night.

While she had always had an interest in programming, it didn’t turn
into a career until she started to work at NASA. There, she slowly
transitioned from gathering requirements to developing full time,
advocating the use of more open source in the government sector.

It was at NASA that she gained an interest in 508 compliance. At
first, she was only interested in getting her applications through QA
faster. Over time, however, she gained a passion for a web that was
easy for everyone to use. Now in the private sector, she is
championing compliance even for websites that don’t require it by law.

She currently lives just outside of Washington, DC with her fiancé and
two children.

  • Publishers Weekly
  • Ingram Content Group
  • codeMantra
  • Impelsys Inc.
  • SPi Global
  • Baker & Taylor
  • Blackboard
  • Bowker
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Innodata
  • Jouve North America
  • MarkLogic
  • Newgen KnowledgeWorks
  • Océ North America
  • Temis
  • Aptara
  • Atex
  • LibreDigital
  • Media Services Group
  • MarkLogic
  • Smashwords, Inc.

For information on exhibition and sponsorship opportunities at the conference, contact Sharon Cordesse at

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