Favourite Stories 2007-2010

The first issue of the DAISY Planet was published in August 2007, and with the exception of one month, there has been a "story" with each issue. All of them do indeed tell a story, all of them are wonderful. These are people who have improved access to information for a great many. For others their lives have been improved by accessible information, technological developments and DAISY. In some cases they are both, "champions" of information access and users of DAISY.

I want to share my three favourite DAISY stories published between 2007 and the close of 2010 with you. They were published years ago and deserve to be read and reread (as do all of the others). If you haven't yet read these three, I hope you will find time to do so as we move into another new year. I must confess that it has been incredibly difficult to pick just three.

I'd like to say 'thank you' to each and every person who has taken time to write and share their story with us.

Michael Hingson (July 2008)

Michael speaking at the podiumMichael Hingson's story is so utterly remarkable that each time I read it (and I've read it quite a number of times over the years) it gives me 'goose bumps'. Twice he has dodged death; the first time was in 1979 when the plane he'd originally had a ticket for but did not take, crashed, with no one surviving. However it is the second time he evaded death that I find so astounding. In September 2001 Michael Hingson was on the 78th floor of Tower One with his guide dog Roselle in harness – he is a 9-11 survivor. He recalls what happened immediately after the building was struck and began to tip. There was fire and smoke above them, millions of pieces of burning paper falling outside the window:

"But I had a piece of information that David didn't have. He wasn't looking for it, he wasn't seeing it. And that was that I had a dog who wasn't indicating in any way shape or form that she felt in danger. If she felt nervous she'd have been trying to pull me out of that building, but Roselle wasn't indicating any of that. I knew her. I knew that she would tell me if she sensed anything. So I knew that at least just then that it was safe to try to evacuate in a normal way."

Part 1 of Michael's story was published in July 2008, with Part 2 following in August. (I have to confess that even now as I reread his story I have become overwhelmed with emotion.)

Jim Fruchterman (January 2010)

Jim Fruchterman speaking in 2007 at the Santa Clara University, Center for Science, Technology and Society In his story Jim takes us through the journey from his university days when he first began to think in terms of the socially beneficial application of technology, to his days as a rocket scientist (yes, a rocket scientist) and entrepreneur, and then to his deliberate decision to leave the Silicon Valley mind-set and establish a non-profit company. From there, well, it is all really history – Jim Fruchterman was on his way to forming Benetech and Bookshare.

Part 1 of Jim's story was published in January 2010, followed by Part 2 in February. It is in Part 2 that he recalls the beginnings of Bookshare. He closes with "The vision I had in the mid 1980's of starting a movement to see that good technology doesn't get put on the shelf by the forces of 'business as usual' remains with me, even after all these years. And, there's so much more to be done!" Jim Fruchterman has played a major role in bringing information access to the next level, with more than 200,000 titles now in the Bookshare collection.

Please note that some of the data (figures) are no longer current as Jim's story was published almost 4 years ago, and Bookshare has continued to grow in leaps and bounds since then.

Lars Sönnebo (March 2010)

Lars Sönnebo, Jan Lindholm and Kjell Hansson – the 3 DAISY Musketeers When Lars wrote his story in 2010 it was already 17 years since he had that lightning bolt of an idea: DAISY. Yes, it was Lars Sönnebo who came up with the idea of a system that would make audio books as navigable as print books, for people like him, people who were unable to read print:

"I asked myself 'what can a thing like this be described as, what is it anyway?'. It did not take me long to write down 'Digital Audio Based Information System'."

Although the acronym "DAISY" has remained unchanged, one of the words represented in the acronym has: "Audio" was replaced with "Accessible" some years ago when the DAISY Consortium realized that there could be more to DAISY than audio that could be navigated; a DAISY book could also contain the complete text of the publication and be read in the persons preferred format, including braille.

Part 1 of Lars' story was published in March 2010, followed by Part 2, Three DAISY Musketeers in April. I find Lars story particularly important in the history of DAISY publications and the DAISY Consortium. In 1995 I saw Lars and Kjell Hansson demonstrating a prototype DAISY book and player (developed by PLEXTOR) at a meeting in Toronto Canada. I had already been working in the accessible information field for 16 years and knew as soon as I saw that incredible demonstration that this was the answer, that DAISY would change access to information around the world – and it has.