EPUBCheck Development Update

EPUBCheck plays a significant role within the ebook production process, checking EPUB files against the specification to ensure they validate. As the EPUB specification has evolved over time it is important that the tools we use to create and validate EPUB files are kept up to date. Many retailers require EPUB files to have been validated by EPUBCheck. However, in its current state, EPUBCheck cannot properly validate many EPUBs that meet the most up to date standards.

To address this the Publishing Business Group at W3C put out a request for proposals to update EPUBCheck, and following a competitive selection process the DAISY Consortium has been selected to perform the update to:

  • Bring EPUBCheck in sync with the dynamically evolving core web specs of HTML, CSS, and SVG and also with the current version of EPUB 3
  • Fully support the EPUB Accessibility Guidelines, making sure that your products are usable for everyone
  • Add new features, such as HTML validation (in coordination with the W3C validation services) and a better check of media overlays
  • Offer better service to the publishing industry with a faster response to bug reports and feature request.

This work is being funded through donations from organizations which use the EPUBCheck tool, and while there are different sponsorship levels, any amount of donation is welcome to help support this effort to update and overhaul EPUBCheck. Full details are available at the Publishing@W3C fundraising page.

We look forward to bringing you updates as this exciting work evolves.

Inspiring Words from Industry Leaders: Interview with Cristina Mussinelli, The LIA Foundation

Head shot of Cristina Mussinelli, subject of this interview pieceInclusive Publishing has embarked on a series of interviews with industry leaders and their approach to accessibility. Cristina Mussinelli has championed inclusive publishing throughout much of her career and the work of the LIA Foundation has radically changed the way that mainstream accessibility is approached by publishers in Italy and abroad.

Producing accessible files means producing well-structured, high-quality publications that any reader can enjoy.

Please share with us the major achievements of the LIA Foundation to date

Firstly, we are very proud of the LIA catalogue which now hosts over 20.000 born accessible e-books produced by 73 Italian publishing imprints using mainstream production process and which are  also distributed in the most important online retail outlets. Our hope is to add more and more publishers to this continually growing list so that we can, in the near future, offer print impaired people a complete catalogue of all new ebooks published in the Italian trade market.

In November 2017 we reached a great milestone. After many years of fruitful collaboration, Fondazione LIA – Libri Italiani Accessibili and the Italian Blind and Partially Sighted Union decided to strengthen their partnership with UICI becoming an institutional participant and electing the UICI president as the Fondazione LIA president. This collaboration confirms that if the publishing world and the organizations representing people with visual impairments work closely together, actions, projects and outcomes can be incredibly fruitful and effective.

Last, but not least, we are witnessing a growing interest towards accessibility from content producers, software houses and many others who are involved in the book supply chain. We will be working with them to make sure that accessibility is central in everyone’s publishing strategy.

Can you sum up the Foundation’s attitude towards inclusive publishing in one sentence.

I would like my catalogue to be everybody’s catalogue.  I’d like to be able to choose just like everybody. I don’t want to be limited to specially made books but to be free to read like anybody else.

Mario Barbuto, President of the Italian Blind Union and now also of Fondazione LIA.

How has the work of the LIA Foundation affected the accessibility of mainstream publishing in Italy?

LIA has created an innovative service increasing the availability of mainstream accessible fiction and nonfiction titles in digital format (e-books) for blind and visually impaired readers.

To reach this target, LIA put in place true cultural change in the way accessibility is approached by Italian publishers. Accessibility is now considered integral to publishing production processes and is no longer thought of as an add-on feature. The LIA project has resulted in the production of accessible mainstream files with appropriate metadata attached being much higher on the agenda for publishers. 

LIA has been a true revolution for more than 362,000 blind and 1,5 million visually impaired Italians who proved to be strong readers according to a 2011 survey carried out by LIA prior to the implementation of its mainstream accessibility model. Reading an average of 9 books every year,  visually impaired readers consume three times more titles than the average domestic reader.

Do you have a top tip for publishers who are new to accessibility?

Just to not be afraid and to start the journey towards accessibility. Changing workflows and production habits, even slightly, can produce astonishing results. It is also worth mentioning that accessibility means quality. Producing accessible files means producing well-structured, high-quality publications that any reader can enjoy. The real question is: why a publisher shouldn’t produce accessible files? Why would they not take advantage of the potential on offer from accessible content?

The LIA Foundation is focusing heavily on training at the moment – how will this complement the work that the project has already completed?

As the first LIA project completed it was clear that our team had developed a particular and very specialised know-how about accessible digital publishing, assistive technologies and everything in between. As many companies and institutions publish corporate documents, we decided to address their need to provide this content to blind and partially sighted users. The publishing world has been and will always be our core focus but we think that every content provider should embrace accessibility.

The goal of LIA is to promote access for visually impaired readers to editorial products from traditional publishers as well as content providers in general, thus allowing them to choose how, when and, above all, what to read.

Nowadays we offer tailor made training and consultancy services to publishing houses, public and private companies, in Italy and abroad, who are interested in producing accessible content. We provide assesments on current publications, we offer training courses based on their actual workflows and production tools and we provide guidance and help-desk responses in the follow-up phase.  For instance – we will soon start an ad hoc training program for the Banca d’Italia, the central bank of the Republic of Italy and we are also organizing an in-house training course for Italian publishers specializing in medical publications so that they can create “born accessible” publications and set up an accessible reading platform.

What do you think will be the biggest game changer for inclusive publishing in the next few years?
The Marrakesh Treaty and the European Accessibility Act will foster the adoption of inclusive publishing strategies for sure. The move from EPUB 2 to EPUB 3 will also be pivotal. Why not move now?

What is on the events calendar for the LIA Foundation over the next year?

Next year is going to be a fun one. We are planning a calendar of events for all the members of the book supply chain, starting from the reader. Through a project funded by Fondazione Cariplo, we’ll organize training courses for blind and visually impaired readers about accessibile digital publishing.

We are also organizing an Accessibility Camp, in Milan, in the spring for publishers, developers and print impaired readers where to share best practice and define common strategies and projects to implement.

overhead shot of a reading in the dark event with readers on stage and a large audience able to listen and watch via a screen.

© Gianni Peresson

Throughout the year we are planning to organize some highly engaging Reading in the Dark events as well,  through which Fondazione LIA make participants aware of issues such as accessibility and the socio-cultural inclusion  of people with visual impairments. During a reading in the dark the author reads a passage from the book and the blind reader continues reading with the e-book in the LIA Foundation catalog through different modes: magnifying the characters, using the Braille display or the text to speech functionality of tablets and smartphones. Antonio Manzini, author of Orfani Bianchi had this to say about Reading in the Dark:

I’ve been to the Lia Foundation Reading in the Dark. There were two boys reading. Their voices resounded in that huge room and gave life to the characters, the dialogues, the descriptions. We were able to see trenches, Africa, we saw the music and jealousy and a single Romanian carer in a ruthless Rome. They read as Gods, and they did it with the soul and with the hands, because those two boys did not see. And they gave us a breathtaking view.

Details of all of these events will be available via Inclusive Publishing.

The Importance of Text Accessibility: What We May Have Forgotten

head shot of jonathan hassell, ceo of hassell inclusionThis article was kindly submitted by Jonathan Hassell, CEO of Hassell Inclusion

If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language can do.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast & Slow (winner of the Nobel Prize)

Back in 2001, when I first started working in accessibility at the BBC, one of the key things we thought about was the aim to make text as simple as possible. Using Plain Language. Writing designed to ensure the reader understands as quickly, easily and completely as possible. In the Accessibility Guidelines at the time, WCAG 1.0, this was a single-A requirement, recognising it as one of the most important aspects of accessibility.  Accessibility experts and readers agreed that how we used words was massively important.

The challenge then was how we could make sure that our online educational content and content written for audiences with their own slang was available in simpler language. How do you do Shakespeare in Plain Language? How do you do Black Urban Culture in Plain language? And would either of those make sense for the many people who need online text to be altered to fit their accessibility needs.

How we forgot about the importance of text accessibility

Fast forwards to 2009, when WCAG 2.0 replaced 1.0, and a curious thing happened. The importance of making web sites understandable through Plain Language dropped from level A to level AAA. For those of you who aren’t in the know, A is what everyone feels like they have to do, AAA is what everyone forgets.

The authors of WCAG 2.0 did this because they could not find a way to objectively test whether a page uses the clearest and simplest language. However, in making the change, the Guidelines effectively said that making sure people could understand the words was less important than making sure screen readers could pronounce those words correctly. Which, when you think about it, doesn’t make much sense. There were some voices of concern, but they were quickly forgotten.

Fast forwards again to July 2018, in London, where I’d been invited to speak on accessibility at the Copy Forum of one of our clients. I had the chance to see what WCAG’s decision had done to the relationship between content authors and accessibility experts. Due to that decision in WCAG 2.0, you don’t often hear people talking about the accessibility of text content. The huge communities of content marketers and copywriters, of people who craft words rather than images or code, have been completely forgotten by the accessibility world.

Remembering the importance of text accessibility

At the Copy Forum, they’d invited me to tell them what they could learn from accessibility. I was there to tell them that there was a lot that accessibility could re-learn from them. I said this because, if you look at WCAG 2.0, you’d be forgiven for thinking that words don’t matter. That’s a real problem, as a large part digital content is text. And lots of groups of people with impairments really benefit from text accessibility:

  • People who are blind, want text to be as short as possible and structured well
  • People whose first language is not the native language (including sign language users), want text to use the simplest language
  • People with learning difficulties, want text to be as simple as possible
  • People with ADHD, want text to be as brief as possible, in bulleted lists

The good news is that WCAG may now be revisiting its 2009 decision, as the accessibility of text is likely to be addressed by its new Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force. You can take part in the Task Force if this is a topic that means a lot to you.

What is important about the accessibility of words?

There are a few basic rules that are worth remembering:

  • Simplify – replace complex words with simpler ones
  • Summarize – cut out the ‘unnecessary’ content
  • Show topics – pull out topics in the text with links to additional information
  • Show definitions – include definitions for difficult words
  • AAC symbols – add symbols to help people who use them for literacy support

With great advances in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence it is possible to get a computer to make a passage of text shorter or simpler. But managing to do this and not lose inherent meaning is very difficult indeed. Generating automatic summaries of text can be very unreliable particularly with the sorts of text people really need to be simpler, such as financial terms and conditions. This will, undoubtedly, improve with time and there are various tools available now that are making terrific headway with this, such as IBM’s Content Clarifier. In the meantime, using tools like the Hemingway app to advise you on which aspects of your documents you could make simpler can help you improve their accessibility.

So why should we care?

In a nutshell, the benefits of simple text can be huge. W3C’s main case study for the benefits of accessibility is for Legal & General. Often we forget this study comes from 2005, when the Guidelines used were WCAG 1.0, with its emphasis on Plain Language. Fortune Cookie’s site and information redesign strategy for Legal & General certainly addressed the needs of “3.2m Britons (who) have difficulty using inaccessible websites”. But it also focused on customers of whom “6m have dyslexia; 1 in 3 is aged 50+; 3m speak English as a second language; 1.5m lack basic language skills; and 5.2m adults have sub-GCSE level English”. The results were these: “Conversion rates on every online product improved substantially, ranging between 26% and an incredible 200%”.

If you turn complex language into Plain Language, you can sell a lot more products because people can now understand them. Which is exactly what Daniel Kahneman was saying, all those years ago. Simpler means more credible, as well as more accessible. There’s a prize to be won here.

Hassell Inclusion is an inclusion and accessibility consultancy founded and directed by accessibility expert Professor Jonathan Hassell. Jonathan has over 16 years experience in identifying new directions and challenges in digital accessibility, finding best practice process and technology solutions to these challenges, authoring international standards and presenting best practices to conference audiences across the world. 

The DAISY Consortium is Announced as a DBW Award Finalist

The Digital Book World Awards Committee has announced that The DAISY Consortium is a finalist in their category, Innovation in Accessibility at the conference awards this year. DAISY is delighted to be listed alongside such an esteemed set of organizations. The full list of awards finalists can be accessed via the Digital Book World web site. Winners will be announced at the conference during the first week of October.

The DAISY Consortium will also be presenting the session Building Accessibility Into Publishing Workflows: From The Ground Up featuring the free open source accessibility checking tool Ace by DAISY. For more details on the conference see our Digital Book World events page . Inclusive Publishing readers have been offered a 25% discount on their conference passes with the code DAISYDBW2018

Accessible Publishing Made Easy!

October 10th, 2018

Learn how to create a better experience for all your readers.

As the Frankfurt Book Fair celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this presentation by Typefi CEO, Chandi Perera, will help you take the first steps towards contributing to a more inclusive society where content is accessible to all! For almost a decade, Typefi has helped organisations around the world produce accessible print and digital publications with minimal additional cost and effort. This presentation will show how straightforward it is to get started with minimal cost and effort.

Date

October 10, 2018

Venue

Frankfurt Book Fair Academic and Business Information Stage

Learn More

Information on how to participate in this event is available at the Typefi website