The millions of users of Microsoft Word around the world know only too well how revolutionary its features, functionality and aesthetics are to crafting professional and vibrant documents both for business and pleasure. Word has become so much a part of the fabric of day to day life that we often take for granted its ease of use and high quality results. But we also take for granted the fact that we can clearly see the words and layout that make up the document and fully appreciate their visual meaning and impact.

Many potential users of Microsoft Word are visually impaired and simply cannot visualize the text before them on the screen. This can be frustrating enough when the document has been created for purely leisure reasons but if it is part of a work process within a business or professional project then the disadvantages to that visually impaired individual could have serious repercussions both personally and for the business.

The DAISY consortium was formed in 1996 to promote digital accessible information system standards and one of its chief projects has been to convert analogue talking books into their digital equivalents. A major by-product of this overall strategy has been the development of the 'Save as DAISY' add-in to Microsoft software to enable the creation of audio versions of files stored as Word documents.

And yet the 'Save as DAISY' add-in does not only provide the user with an audio version of the document but also allows them to navigate through the document at the same time as listening to the information. There are many levels of visual impairment and for many users the text will still be visible but blurry and difficult to focus on or follow. This is why 'Save as DAISY' synchronises both audio and visual components to give the user the best experience of the document possible.

For example, at the same time as the audio narrates what is printed in the document the appropriate text can be highlighted so that the user is aware of where in the document they currently are.

Installing the 'Save as DAISY' add-in is a simple process. There are various versions available for download on the DAISY consortium website (depending on whether you require 32 bit or 64 bit) and once downloaded the software also includes an instruction manual and a highly useful getting started tutorial. In addition to the add-in itself you will also need to download a playback reader. This is free and again there are various options on the DAISY website. When you wish to convert a particular file to DAISY narration just click on the 'Save as DAISY' group in the Accessibility bar and then select 'Full DAISY (from single docx).' After this click on 'Narrator-DtBooktoDaisy' and then 'Translate.'

The work of the DAISY consortium is vital in opening up the advantages and benefits of the Microsoft suite to those users with disabilities and learning difficulties and the 'Save as DAISY' add-in for Microsoft Word is only the beginning of the good work that they hope to do.