From 2000 to 2005 I had participated in an effort by the American Foundation for the Blind to enable e-government services by telephony enabling Daisy XML talking book documents. This particular project was originally started by me in the Republic of Macedonia. A pilot project was deployed by the U.S. Social Security administration. I believe this particular presentation on the project was delivered in Trinidad as part of the FLOSS/Caribbean conference.
Project Mission: GNU Alexandria is Free Software for enabling access by the visually
impaired to both existing and future electronic content and services by using the public
telephone network and voice enabled browsing. Our initial focus is in enabling
accessibility for egovernment services to better help governments provide universal
electronic accessibility for all citizens on an equal basis.
GNU Alexandria is part of the GNU Project: GNU Alexandria will be a free software
package to deploy and use with existing GNU/Linux (or xBSD) servers running GNU
Principle Sponsors: The GNU Project, FS Macedonia, Open Source Development Lab,
The American Foundation for the Blind.
American Foundation for the Blind
"The GNU Project"
Open Source Development Lab
Why Free Software?
Software development is science.
Shared innovation is better innovation.
Public accountability and auditing of public sector software.
Public access to and ownership of public sector software.
Development of local industry and talent.
To achieve wide and cost effective deployment of universal accessibility.
Consistent with government procurement goals of enabling open bidding and multiple
vendors rather than lockin to single vendor solutions.
Making e-gov content
Use of XML document and publishing standards on egovernment sites so that machine
based browsing systems as well as humans may interact directly with content.
Providing source documents in or enabling transformation of XML content into
accessible dialects and formats, such as “DAISY”.
Adhering to published and accepted international standards such as available through
W3C, and avoiding the use of proprietary extensions, protocols, or document formats
which may be license encumbered.
egovernment services don't need “sexing up” with shockwave, flash, or other
proprietary or nontransformable content, but must be used to provide effective access
to content on an equal basis to all citizens.
So what is DAISY?
Originally developed as a proprietary industry specification for digital talking books in
Sweden, it has become a free and open standard in recent years to enable wide use.
Daisy “3” has evolved into a new XML dialect for publishing electronic (digital) talking
books and other structured multimedia content.
Use of standardized structures and XML tags to represent navigatable elements of
booklike documents, such as chapters, sections, indexes, etc.
Use of multiple document files including media content (such as speech content),
optional markup for original text source document with timing control, and XML
navigational control for structured content.
DAISY supported by separate worldwide consortium (see www.daisy.org), by the
national library service for the blind/U.S. Library of congress, and many other
DAISY “3” reference implementation first demonstrated on free software!
Goals of GNU Alexandria
Daisy book reader to provide access to and navigation of electronically publishable
audio books and documents that follow the daisy xml standard (see
Voice rendering existing web content to parse and render existing common and W3C
standard's compliant web site content (.html, .xhtml) in voice. To enable voice and
touch tone navigation for such existing sites.
Browsing voice enabled web sites providing telephone access and navigation to
standard markup formats, such as W3C approved VXML.
Providing voice access for connected users with a browser and a simple Java applet,
it will be possible to access IP delivered voice representations for sites currently
Public Telephone Network (GNU Bayonne)
* access to automated or specialized egovernment services should not be for a
privileged minority with computer access.
* wide deployment of phone services even in underdeveloped nations
* ready availability for use by the visually impaired community
IP voice content delivery (GNU Bayonne with IP voice, proposed)
* Client web browser companion applet to receive IP voice; both platform neutral and
requires no modified browser software to be written.
* Allows server to deliver voice rendered content on demand for those that may need it.
* Allows server and those responsible for creating service to control voice and offer or
substitute alternate voice enabled content for the user.
What is GNU Bayonne?
"Telephony Application Services" platform for the Public Telephone Network Voice
Mail, Automated Governmental Services, Customer Relationship Management (CRM),
custom interactive voice response applications.
Standard service creation environment thru scripting.
Easy system administration; "Web Server" like concepts.
Abstract hardware interface for analog (PSTN), digital (ISDN, SS7, etc), and IP (SIP,
H323) based telephone networks; write applications once, use anywhere.
"High Availability" telephony application services platform.
Integration with Web Services thru XML scripting and XMLRPC.
Telephony enabling enterprise free software applications; GNU Enterprise and phpGro
Who uses GNU Bayonne
State Governments and egov initiaves; State of Maine division of motor vehicles.
Companies looking to conduct "vcommerce" to compliment ecommerce.
The Free Software Foundation.
Smaller interexchange carriers for prepaid calling services.
Customer service phone lines.
Cre dit card clearing over the phone.
Telephone Enabled Web
GNU Bayonne + GNU
●x/html voice parser
Telephone User &
Home or Work:
●touch tone and voice
Voice Enabled Web Services
GNU Bayonne + GNU
●x/html voice parser
rtp: & sip:
●touch tone and
* companion to
* provides voice for current
Project Status & Events
October 2002 Project founding in Skopje with FS Macedonia
March 2003 Initial public discussions during "openweekend" (Prague)
May 2003 AFB demonstrates first GNU Bayonne Daisy reader deployed to enable
voice access to U.S. Government Medicare program documents for the blind.
January 2004, Initial acceptance of GNU Alexandria related proposal for complete
content authoring and delivery system for egovernment document services for the
blind through NSF funded grant under sponsorship of AFB and DevIS.
?? FS Macedonia Soros matching grant, maybe soon?
Other FS Accessibility
Gnome Accessibility Project (http://developer.gnome.org/projects/gap)
How you can help?
Not all jobs we need help with are purely coding:
Recording of additional voice libraries; recording of new voice vocabularies for different
languages. We currently need German language voices!
Help with making www.gnu.org/software/alexandria fully accessible to all users.
Help with testing and documentation.
Further input and guidance from the visually impaired community.