Category: Standards / Guidelines

Standards and guidelines include established rules, best practices, and practical experience to ensure uniform implementation.

NISO and DAISY Consortium Publish Authoring and Interchange Framework Standard

Guest Author: Annette Reilly [The following news was received from Annette Reilly, STC Fellow and Standards Council Chair, Society for Technical Communication.] The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) and the DAISY Consortium announce the publication of the new American National Standard Authoring and Interchange Framework (ANSI/NISO Z39.98-2012). The standard defines how to represent digital information using XML to produce documents suitable for transformation into different universally accessible formats. The standard is a revision, extension, and enhancement of Specifications for the Digital Talking Book (DTB), commonly referred to as the DAISY standard (ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2005(R2012)). The DAISY Consortium is the Maintenance Agency for both standards. "The A&I Framework is a modular, extensible architecture to permit the creation of any number of content representation models, each custom-tailored for a particular kind of information resource," states Markus Gylling, Chief Technology Officer at the DAISY Consortium and Technical Chair of the DAISY Revision Working Group. "It also provides support for new output formats, which can be added and implemented as the need arises. The standard does not impose limitations on what distribution formats can be created from it; e-text, Braille, large print, and EPUB are among formats that can be produced in conformance with the standard." "Organizations in the DAISY community and in the mainstream of publishing have been looking for an XML framework that is powerful and flexible," states George Kerscher, Secretary General for the DAISY Consortium and Administrative Chair of the DAISY Revision Working Group. "The Authoring and Interchange Framework not only meets this need, it expands the possibility of what can be produced for the existing community of users of DAISY books and also enlarges the potential audience of both developers and users of resources that conform to this standard. New applications using this standard could include electronic magazines as well as digital books, text to speech rendering for e-readers, and multimedia publications." "Although the new A&I Framework standard is intended to replace the Digital Talking Book standard," explains Todd Carpenter, NISO Executive Director, "feedback during trial use of the standard indicated that content providers and device manufacturers would need a transition period of several years due to the significance of the changes in the standard. To meet this need, the existing DTB standard (ANSI/NISO Z39.86) was reaffirmed for another five years and the A&I Framework was assigned a new standard number (ANSI/NISO Z39.98)." The A&I Framework standard will be of interest to any organization using an XML authoring workflow, developers and publishers of universally accessible digital publications, and agencies interested in creating profiles for new document types to integrate into distribution formats, such as EPUB. Both the A&I Framework standard and the Digital Talking Book standard are available for free download from the NISO website and the DAISY website. Guest Author: Annette Reilly

Defining a Body of Knowledge

Guest author: Hillary Hart STC Director at Large E-mail: email hidden; JavaScript is required URL: http://www.caee.utexas.edu/prof/hart/

STC has meant a lot to my professional growth over the past 20+ years as a teacher and practitioner of technical communication, and I want to help STC expand its educational mission for all technical communicators.

It is time our profession had a defined body of knowledge…Why?

  1. Technical communication cannot be a profession without a defined body of knowledge (BOK).
  2. We cannot define our value, to business and to society, without a BOK. The data I and others have collected show that communicators seem to be spending about the same amount of time on communication processes as they are on creating end-user documents or products. If we want to maximize our value to the business functions of corporations and agencies, we need a body of knowledge that will make that value clear to employers.

The BOK task force that I co-chair with Mark Hanigan is working hard to develop a Knowledge Portal that will make accessible, in one easy-to-navigate web-based portal, the body of technical-communication knowledge that has evolved over time.

The Knowledge Portal will fill these critical needs:

  • New practitioners need to see their professional development pathways spelled out, along with concomitant educational/training opportunities.
  • Veteran practitioners need a means for assessing their progress and determining what additional training they may need.
  • Academic and training professionals need a source of assessment criteria for their programs.
  • Executives, who may never have heard of technical communication, need a place to find out what it is that technical communicators can do for their company.

For me, the most amazing aspect of the BOK project has been seeing how productively STC members collaborate over time and distance. The BOK "map" of domains and skills received hundreds of helpful suggestions last June at the Summit in Philadelphia. And last September, when the proposed site map for this portal was posted on the STC website, over 150 STC members from all over the globe provided comments. Now we are populating the map nodes with content and will showcase our progress at the upcoming Summit in Atlanta, where we hope to gain more contributors. Such collective knowledge making is powerful indeed - imagine all 13,000 STC members worldwide contributing their piece of the knowledge puzzle.

With job layoffs, cutbacks in institutional budgets, and disappearance of companies, the one constant that cannot be reduced is your knowledge - knowledge of how to do many things in addition to writing clear documentation.

  • Knowledge of what it takes to create, manage distribute, and archive information in specific media for specific users.
  • Knowledge of the processes that enhance business development because they enhance internal as well as external communication.
  • Knowledge of the social, cultural, and even health impacts of the technologies being marketed under the name of progress.
  • Knowledge of how to help people use technologies safely and wisely.

Your knowledge is your power, in any economic climate. Stay tuned for BOK updates.

Guest author: Hillary Hart

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities goes into force today

Today, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) entered into force. When you realize that an estimated 650 million people worldwide are affected by this groundbreaking treaty, this is very big news.

According to the news release about CRPD from the UN News Centre today, the rights of persons with disabilities were not really covered or protected by existing human rights treaties. As a result, the Convention was born.

The purpose of CRPD

The purpose of the present Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.

Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

from Article 1 - Purpose of the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Timeline of the CRPD

13 December 2006 – the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

30 March 2007 – the Convention and Optional Protocol opened for signature at UN Headquarters in New York. States or regional integration organizations may now sign the Convention and Optional Protocol at any time at UN Headquarters in New York. Signature creates an obligation, in the period between signature and ratification or consent to be bound, to refrain in good faith from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty.

3 April 2008 - The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities received its 20th ratification on 3 April 2008, triggering the entry into force of the Convention and its Optional Protocol 30 days later.

The guiding principles, which underlie the Convention and each one of its specific articles, are

  1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one' own choices, and independence of persons
  2. Non-discrimination
  3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
  4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
  5. Equality of opportunity
  6. Accessibility
  7. Equality between men and women
  8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities

This is not just a document.

The G3ict and the ITU-T hosted a forum about the convention on April 21, 2008. The goal of this forum was to collect information about activities in member states and international standards that can be the basis for implementation of the convention.

AccessAbility SIG member, Whitney Quesenbery, chaired a panel at the G3ICT/ITU Forum. Her panel (on human interfaces) addressed (in part) the role of ICT in supporting article (e) of the preamble of the convention:

(e) Recognizing that disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Results of this forum are expected in the near future. It will be exciting to follow the reactions and actions in the wake of the Convention going into force.

For more information about the convention, the complete text of the convention, G3ict, and ITU-T, visit these links:

TEITAC got the job done!

TEITAC proudly presented its report to the United States Access Board on April 3rd concerning revision recommendations regarding the standards for section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the guidelines for section 255 of the US Telecommunications Act.

What is TEITAC?

The Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC is definitely easier to use!) is

a federal advisory committee providing recommendations for updates of accessibility standards issued under section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and guidelines under section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.

TEITAC was formed by the Access Board in 2006. TEITAC issued its report to the Board in April 2008.

What is the United States Access Board?

According to the Access Board mission statement, it is

an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. Created in 1973 to ensure access to federally funded facilities, the Board is now a leading source of information on accessible design. The Board develops and maintains design criteria for the built environment, transit vehicles, telecommunications equipment, and for electronic and information technology. It also provides technical assistance and training on these requirements and on accessible design and continues to enforce accessibility standards that cover federally funded facilities.
Note that on the newsletter page you can subscribe to the Access Board newsletters to stay in touch with the various activities of the board.

Thanks to Accessibility SIG member - and TEITAC committee member, Whitney Quesenbery, who brought this newsworthy item to our attention. Another Accessibility SIG member, Mike Paciello, of the Paciello Group, was the co-chair of TEITAC.

The work of this committee was a huge effort and can affect all of us. Look at the membership list of TEITAC and you will realize that although the Acts may pertain to the United States, there was world-wide participation in the committee evaluating the guidelines. Just as the United States law known as "Sarbanes-Oxley" started out in the United States but soon began to affect companies around the globe, the guidelines and standards developing from the Telecommunications Act and the Rehabilitation Act will also have wide-reaching effects. Working in committees writing or reviewing standards and guidelines is an excellent work opportunity, volunteer or otherwise, for all technical communicators. It is work that comes with a built-in feel-good factor, knowing that you are using your communication skills to contribute to something that can truly benefit all members of society.

P.S. With regard to the title, TEITAC completed their report. Next, the recommendations need to be implemented (hopefully without hassle) and then people need to familiarize themselves with the changes. There is still work to be done, but TEITAC did their share to take us to the next level.