Accessible Publishing and the Marrakesh Treaty—Are you Ready? Event Report from LBF

Logo for AAG Seminar at LBF

This year’s Accessibility Action Group seminar was held on Thursday 14th of March at the end of the London Book Fair. This didn’t deter delegates in the slightest and the seminar was a huge success—The Faculty was packed and no-one was going anywhere until they were up to speed with what is happening with accessible publishing in the U.K.

Emma House, Deputy Chief Executive of The Publishers Association kicked off proceedings with an update on the legal state of affairs in the UK specifically with regards to the Marrakesh Treaty for Visually Impaired Persons and the new European legislation that has been welcomed by FEP in the last two weeks. Publishers have an obligation to make their content available to people with print disabilities. Consequently,  it remains within their interest to make sure that their mainstream digital content is fit for this purpose. If workflows and supply chains are able to embrace this notion then the need for specialist formats will become obsolete and business practices will become more cost efficient and timely.  With the opportunity to increase the size of markets, the business case is clear although different for the huge variety of publishing businesses out there.

The seminar was designed to encourage publishers to build accessibility features and functions into their products from their very inception so that they are complying with the law and benefitting all readers with well built, well-structured EPUB files.

Three case studies were presented from Kogan-Page, Macmillan Educations and Penguin Random House showcasing a real cross-section of the publishing industry, highlighting the opportunities and challenges that still present themselves and ultimately leaving our audience encouraged in the knowledge that accessible publishing is achievable and well within their grasp.

Martin Klopstock and Arthur Thompson from Kogan-Page are truly committed to producing “born accessible” content that is suitable for all their readers, regardless of their disability.  The availability of relevant standards and documentation are a huge motivating factor for them and, together with the Ace by DAISY,  free EPUB accessibility checker they have found that validation is a straightforward component of their digital-first workflow at Kogan Page. They identified 4 areas of focus within their case study: structural semantics, accessibility metadata, image descriptions and tables with the latter 2 items still challenging them in-house. That said, Kogan Page are indeed producing born accessible digital content within their digital-first workflow and plan to look towards their legacy content in the future. For more information on their methods and lessons learnt you can access their full slide deck here.

Astrid DeRidder from Macmillan Education took the stage next and began by discussing the ASPIRE project which was the first large scale interactive ranking of publisher and platform accessibility data. Macmillan scored well and Astrid urged delegates to take the opportunity of this easy win and improve their own accessibility information that is available within their organisation. Important to Macmillan is their forthcoming Employee Disability Network which will greatly influence how accessibility is viewed within the company and the quality of the digital content being output.

Finally, Simon Mellins from Penguin Random House gave us the trade viewpoint, talking about accessibility on a large scale basis and highlighting the opportunities and challenges that EPUB presents for accessible publishing. With its natural aptitude for accessibility EPUB 3 is becoming more mainstream but, ironically, workflows in-house are fairly rigid and it is difficult to influence change on such a grand scale. The opportunity has been recognised, though, and whilst image descriptions remain the biggest challenge, there is much underway at PRH which we should watch out for in the future. Simon’s complete slide deck is available here.

Sarah Hilderley, editor of the Inclusive Publishing website and newsletter, a DAISY Consortium initiative, rounded this event off by giving a brief overview of the state of play with regards to accessibility internationally. She referred to their recent survey on content creation and validation and was pleased to report that 62% of those surveyed are adhering to the EPUB 1.0 accessibility specification and that 54% are using, or plan to use in the near future,  Ace by DAISY for their automated validation. This is very encouraging—publishers are taking accessibility seriously and the tools and standards available to them are providing them with confidence and reassurance that goals are being met.

“Accessible publishing is good publishing after all.”

This event report was prepared by Sarah Hilderley from Inclusive Publishing for the Publishers Association with whom it has been cross-posted.

Frankfurt Book Fair 2019

October 16th to 20th, 2019

Frankfurt Book Fair is one of the most important marketplaces worldwide for printed and digital content and a great social and cultural event. Publishing experts, writers, and supply chain contacts from the creative industries across the world come together and Frankfurt becomes a hub for the media and publishing industry. There is always an exciting focus on accessible publishing and we will keep our readers posted as these details become available.

Of particular interest this year:


October 16-20, 2019


Frankfurt, Germany

Learn More

Full details are available at the Frankfurt Book Fair website

TPAC 2019

September 16th to 20th, 2019

The W3C Technical Plenary and Advisory Committee Meetings (TPAC) brings together W3C technical groups, the Advisory Board, the TAG and the Advisory Committee for an exciting week of coordinated work, including sessions from the Publishing Working Groups

To be eligible to register and attend, you must be one of the following:

  • a participant in a W3C Working, Interest, Business or Community Group scheduled to meet at TPAC
  • a W3C Member Advisory Committee Representative
  • a participant on either the Advisory Board or the TAG
  • an employee of a W3C member organization
  • an invited Guest
  • a W3C Evangelist
  • W3C staff or W3C Office staff


September 16-20, 2019



Learn More

Details are available via the W3C TPAC website.

Digital Book World 2019

September 10th to 12th, 2019

The popular mainstream publishing and technology conference, Digital Book World, will feature presentations on accessible publishing content and we look forward to updating you on our DAISY sessions at this event. As usual, there is wide variety of subject matter covered at this 3 day conference with many aspects of digital publishing highlighted. A stellar line-up of speakers is already stacking up so don’t miss out!


September 10-12, 2019


Nashville, Tennessee

Learn More

For full program and registration details visit the Digital Book World website

Digital Publishing Summit Europe 2019

June 25th to 26th, 2019

The DPUB Summit Europe 2019 encourages participants to exchange thoughts and views on technical and business innovations in the publishing industry. Talks, panels, and lots of demos. At this 2 day event, EDRLab aims to strengthen a true spirit of cooperation between professionals via talks, panels and lots of demos. It aims to encourage massive adoption of open standards and software by the European publishing industry.  Avneesh Singh, DAISY CTO, and Romain Deltour, Ace by DAISY developer, will both be speaking at DPUB alongside an exciting line up of international speakers.


June 25-26, 2019


Paris, France

Learn More

Full details on how to register are available at the EDRLab website. Early bird pricing is available until April 30, 2019

Webinar: Creating Accessible Content

March 20th, 2019

Tzviya Siegman, Information Standard Lead at Wiley and member of the W3C Advisory Board is taking part in this NISO webinar entitled: Long Form Content: Ebooks, Print Volumes and the Concerns of Those who Use Both. Her presentation will offer an overview of accessibility, covering the basic definition of accessibility and the standards that define it, the business, social, and legal obligations around accessibility and the practices for getting started on an accessible workflow and resources, testing, and tooling for accessibility. Don’t miss this essential guide!


March 20, 2019


Online webinar

Learn More

Full details including how to register can be found at the NISO website.

New European Legislation Welcomed by FEP

Charlotte Eyre from The Bookseller has reported:

“The Federation of European Publishers (FEP) has welcomed a European act of parliament created to make products and services more accessible, saying ebooks will be covered by the provisions of the legislation. The European Accessibility Act, passed by the European Parliament today (13th March), was created to try and remove and prevent any barriers in the market for accessible products, making it easier for businesses to create accessible products for elderly consumers or those with disabilities.The FEP said European publishers ‘welcome’ the act and president Rudy Vanschoonbeek commented: “It is our responsibility as publishers, as ‘brokers’ of content, to make sure that the readers are as numerous and diverse as possible. To be able to offer access to the great books we publish, to everyone is a necessary objective.”

The full news piece from The Bookseller is available here.

Congratulations to the 2019 Winners of the ABC International Excellence Awards

The winners of the Accessible Books Consortium International Excellence Awards were announced last night at the London Book Fair 2019. Nominees were judged on the criteria of outstanding leadership or achievements in improving the accessibility of ebooks or other digital publications for persons who are print disabled.

Both worthy winners were at the ceremony to receive the awards from Monica Halil-Lövblad from the Accessible Books Consortium.

Monica Halil Lovblad from ABC with the winners from eKitabu






From Kenya, eKitabu won the Initiative award.

Monica Halil Lovblad from ABC with the winners from Editorial 5






Editorial 5 (ED5) from Brazil, won the Publisher Award.

Our congratulations to all nominees and winners.

Photograph Credit: LBF




Inspiring Words from Industry Leaders: Interview with Tzviya Siegman, Wiley

Head shot of Tzviya Siegman who is the subject of this interviewInclusive Publishing is continuing with its popular series of interviews with industry leaders and their approach to accessibility. Our first interview of 2019 is with Tzviya Siegman, Information Standards Lead at Wiley and a member of the World Wide Web Consortium Advisory Board. Tzviya is passionate about accessibility and has inspired many industry colleagues to embrace the accessibility opportunities offered by digital publishing.

I have learned so much about the way that tools, systems, browsers, and reading systems work from my work on accessibility….it will help you become a better developer.

Why is inclusive publishing important to you and/or your organization?

We serve a variety of customer from students to research to corporate consumers. It is widely established that students require and deserve accessible materials. Wiley believes that our customers are life-long learners. Life-long learners need access to all materials

Do you have a top tip for others new to accessibility?

Start with the tools at W3C’s WAI website ( Even after being involved in accessibility for years, I go back to these resources again and again. They start off simply and walk a beginner through the basics clearly.

What do you wish you knew about accessibility 10 years ago?

I wish I had a better understanding of “native” accessibility and the way that assistive technology works. Understanding the interactions of the Accessibility Tree and the DOM changed my approach to accessibility and design. There are a few articles and documents that can really help. Melanie Richards’ Semantics to Screen Reader ( explains this relationship really clearly.

·What do you think will be the biggest game changer for inclusive publishing in the next few years?

There are so many things in progress that it is hard to choose just one. There is a lot of work happening in the world of SVG that could have a huge impact on accessibility. SVG can be made accessibly, and as it is becoming a more widely used and accepted format. I have heard rumors about the Canadian government offering funding incentives to Canadian-owned publishers who publish accessibly. That would make a real difference.

For those still on the fence, why should they consider accessibility?

Accessible content and platform provides a better user experience for all users. Further, most users experience some form of disability at some point in their lives, whether it is situational (e.g. power loss requires navigating without sight), temporary (e.g. a broken arm requires hands-free navigation), or due to age (e.g. low-vision). Considering all users is usually good for business.

How have good inclusive publishing practices influenced the majority of your readers?

Writing image descriptions forces us to think about what an image truly conveys. If an image is too complicated to describe well, maybe it is also too complicated for a sighted reader to understand and it needs to go back to the author for improvement?

Can you sum up your attitude towards inclusive publishing in one sentence.

Inclusive publishing improves your content and makes it more available and useful to all users.

Do you have any final thoughts on accessibility or inclusive publishing practices you would like to share?

It might seem like a lot of work to make your content accessible, but I have learned so much about the way that tools, systems, browsers, and reading systems work from my work on accessibility. It is a lot of work, but it is also interesting work that will take you down a very interesting path and ultimately help your users. You will learn so much along the way, and it will help you become a better developer.

Rethinking Content for Inclusive Higher Education—A Two-Part Article from textBOX

A photograph of dozens of open books and atop one another. The right angles of the books' spines and edges contrastwith the folds and imprints of gently used pagesOver the last few months, textBOX has been on a listening tour, speaking with disability service offices and publishers to understand the challenges and opportunities they are facing with delivering accessible digital content. We were inspired to learn more about university and publisher accessible digital content perspectives from our discussions at the 2018 Accessing Higher Ground conference.

In this two-part article, we will take a closer look at university efforts to remedy accessibility issues with digital content and explore publisher progress in building accessibility into their workflows. The second article, due for publication in April, will focus on solutions to reduce time, resources and remediation costs at the same time as increasing equal access to accessible digital content.  

Visualizing the Gap: Educational Attainment Among Visually-Disabled Students

Visually-disabled college students depend on their disability service office (DSO) to provide training, support and accommodation as they pursue a degree in their chosen field. In 2016, the National Federation of the Blind collected statistics on educational attainment for individuals with a visual disability for the ages of 21 to 64 (NFB). The results, as shown in the graphic below, revealed that visually-disabled individuals are far below the US average. According to US Census data provided in 2017, 90% of all adults over the age of 25 have a high school diploma ( When you isolate the visually-disabled population using the NFB data, only 31.6% achieve a high school diploma. For bachelor’s degrees, the educational attainment statistics are 34% for all adults but visually-disabled individuals continue to fall behind the general population with only a 15.7% bachelor’s degree completion rate.

A chart that shows the educational attainment statistics for non-instuttionalized individualswith a visual disability. 847,000 or 22.3% have less that high school graduation. 1,201,600 or 31.5% have a high school diploma or GED. 1,151,500 or or 30.3% have some college or associated degree. 598,000 or 15.7% have a bachelor's degree.

How can universities and publishers work together to break down degree attainment barriers? It starts with ensuring that all students are set up to succeed on the first day of every course, irrespective of their ability. A current challenge to meeting this goal is that universities continue to receive content requiring modification before it can be used by visually-disabled students. This is happening because many publishers are still not producing content in the current EPUB 3 digital publishing standard format, which is universally recognized as providing the greatest opportunity for born accessible content. For those who are working with EPUB 3, many are not meeting the requirements of EPUB Accessibility 1.0 specification. Digital content is, therefore, often inaccessible and requires universities to intervene to fix the issues for their students. Additionally, while there has been progress in recent years with transitioning to a born-accessible publishing strategy for newly published digital content, there is still a vast amount of inaccessible legacy content used by university professors. Universities cannot depend on consistent delivery of accessible EPUBs and end up having to rely instead on an outmoded process of remediating PDFs.

If It’s Broken, Fix It—Content Remediation as a Barrier to Student Success

American universities have legal and ethical responsibilities under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide equal access and educational participation for all students. To meet ADA requirements, DSO staff are required to evaluate individual student needs and procure alternative course materials where necessary (e.g., audio files, eBooks, accessible PDFs or Word files). This process begins when the student enrolls in the course and submits a request to the DSO. Since publisher content delivered to online retail websites is often inaccessible, DSOs cannot direct visually-disabled students to purchase their course materials through these sites. Where this is the case, they must obtain alternative digital formats from publishers directly or through intermediary services such as the AccessText Network. Unfortunately, the DSO’s responsibility does not end there. Racing against the clock, they must complete thorough content analysis and remediation to deliver materials that are at least functionally accessible for the student by the first day of class—this is their responsibility to their students. Wherever materials originate, as mainstream content or specialist format, there are still areas that need attention. Common issues that need correcting include: structural and navigational errors, manual digital format conversion for Text-to-Speech technology and missing or poor-quality image descriptions (alt-text) for visuals, such as photographs, tables, figures and graphs.

Susan Kelmer, Alternative Format Production Program Manager at the University of Colorado, Boulder, finds that EPUB can be unpredicatble. “Students with print disabilities (who are not blind) count on features like page numbering, and the ability to access the entire book in small portions with their technology (like being able to access a single chapter at a time). While there are some standards in place for EPUBs, not all publishers have embraced these. And for a student using text-to-speech technology, as long as the EPUB can’t be read out loud and navigated effectively, that becomes a full stop. The EPUB must then be dissected and compared to a hard copy of the book in order to get all of the elements back into the document.” Kelmer’s point is key to the successful implementation of EPUB workflows. EPUB industry standards and best practices address structural and navigational issues and eliminate the need for universities to remediate content. Publishers must adhere to EPUB Accessibility 1.0 standards so that the whole supply chain can benefit from the additional features of EPUB. However, until they can do this Susan prefers the predictability of remediating PDFs because she can feel confident that the turnaround time will be 4 days or less. The CU Bolder DSO often has tight deadlines and does not have time to sort through time consuming issues.

One of the most time-consuming tasks for remediating digital content is the process of writing image descriptions. Philip Voorhees, an Accessibility Specialist who has worked at numerous universities throughout his career, feels “the quality of image descriptions has improved over the last five years as publishers struggle with the level of detail, subject matter and context of the image within the text.” While the quality of image description has improved, publishers must continue to prioritize high-quality image descriptions to reduce the amount of content remediation work for universities and to improve learning outcomes. Publishers must also consider establishing a backlist content remediation  process to help universities provide alternative formats for older titles that do not have image descriptions.    

Missing complex image descriptions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) textbooks have a tremendous impact on the DSO and students. Jamie Axelrod, Director of Disability Resources and ADA Coordinator/504 Compliance Officer at Northern Arizona University, described a delivery experience last semester with a graphics-heavy Biology textbook. The student enrolled late and Jamie’s team did not have enough time to create complex image descriptions. They enlisted the help of the publisher but ultimately, they were unable to meet the deadline. The student struggled to catch up after receiving the course materials at the end of the second week and decided to withdraw from the course. Publishers need to understand the detrimental impact that incomplete course materials can have on a print-disabled student.

The cumbersome process of delivering timely accessible content creates unnecessary dead ends for visually-disabled students pursuing higher education. Universities cannot solve this problem alone and need publishers help to create dynamic accessible content. Together, they can close the education gap and provide pathways to success.

Step by Step: The Shift Towards Delivering Accessible Content

Digital products enable publishers to reach an evolving population of students who are regular consumers of digital media while, at the same time, reducing the negative sales impact of the used print textbook market. Digital products can also be widely distributed to a larger customer base through popular online retailers like Amazon, VitalSource and RedShelf. Online retailers are quickly advancing the accessibility of their platforms in line with industry-standard recommendations. This rapid progress puts pressure on publishers to improve the accessibility of their content so that they are not out of step with the retailers they rely on to expand their businesses. Furthermore, due to the inconsistency of accessible content, online retailers recently began highlighting the level of accessibility within their product descriptions to respond to customer demands, improve sales and stand out in a competitive market. For example, VitalSource now includes accessibility specifications on product pages to provide customers the ability to discover and select accessible content that meets their needs.

Academic publishers are also competing with one another to develop proprietary platforms that offer immersive digital reading experiences to transform learning outcomes. These platforms are creating new possibilities for instructors to connect with students both in the classroom and online. If publishers do not uphold industry standards, visually-disabled students cannot participate or benefit equally from the transforming classroom experience.

Publishers have begun to respond to the importance of creating born-accessible content and they have made tremendous improvements over the last few years. Bill Kasdorf stated in his recap of a 2018 Accessing Higher Ground panel session with the Big 5 (Cengage, Macmillan Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson and Wiley), “… [the Big 5] are not just working hard on accessibility, they’re getting it done. All of them are producing new resources as accessible EPUBs that align with the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 specification” (Inclusive Publishing). The Big 5 have forged a path for others to follow to resolve accessibility issues and respond directly to customer needs. This is just the beginning and more work needs to be done to reduce content remediation and improve the student learning experience.

It is important to note that creating born-accessible digital products is not a simple or straightforward process. Many publishers have undergone a complete overhaul of digital production workflows and title management systems to address WCAG standards, simultaneously supporting multiple ebook formats and resolving proprietary platform accessibility issues. With expanding digital product offerings, new quality assurance and user experience testing procedures have been developed to ensure proper content functionality on platforms, browsers and devices. This is often a moving target with technological advancements that change industry standards and customer expectations. Since accessibility involves nearly every department within the publishing organization, internal committees and task forces have been established to prioritize accessibility projects and advocate for additional resources.

Image descriptions have been a challenging endeavor for publishers. Many have not been able to get their authors to write the descriptions and there are limited editorial staff resources for this specialized task. Delays and complications due to clearing third-party image permissions have relegated writing image descriptions to the end of the publishing process. This results in publishers having limited time to focus on the creation, review and editing of this critical content. Additionally, outsourced production vendors have also struggled to deliver quality and consistency, especially for complex images, creating costly remediation work down the line for publishers and universities.

Publishers are indeed focusing on advancing accessibility by making improvements to the most accessible industry-standard ebook format, EPUB 3. While industry standards and best practices may not address every need for print-disabled users, they do create a unified approach and direction that promotes change, accountability and progress while increasing equal access. To prioritize EPUB 3 implementation, many publishers have made a strategic decision not to provide accessible PDFs that would tie up valuable resources. The PDF format dates to 1993 and, despite its familiarity and ubiquity, missing image descriptions creates a poor reading experience for users. The low university demand for EPUB 3 in exchange for PDF makes it difficult for publishing organizations to build a business case and allocate resources for EPUB 3. This ultimately creates a vicious cycle for both publishers and universities and has inhibited the widespread adoption of born-accessible EPUB 3 content. While it is acknowledged that we must be in a transitional stage until publishers can deliver fully accessible content and platforms, visually-disabled students should not suffer from delays as a result. Publishers must prioritize accessibility and expedite solutions to eliminate the need for universities to provide PDF stop-gap measures.   

At the Crossroads: Shaping the Future of Accessible Content

If students struggle to gain access to information, publishers and universities are setting up barriers to achieving educational goals that have an impact on long-term employment prospects. According to the National Federation of the Blind, only 29.5% of non-institutionalized US individuals with a visual disability between the ages of 21 and 64 were in full-time employment in 2016 (NFB). This statistic is clearly unacceptable and can only be resolved by publishers and universities working together and committing to action plans for change.

In the next article, we will explore solutions to eliminate content remediation, help publishers build a business case that propels born-accessible publishing and establish a sustainable action plan for inclusive higher education. By working together, we can disable barriers and enable learning.


This article was kindly submitted by Caroline Desrosiers + Huw Alexander, Co-Founders of textBOX. To learn more about textBOX please visit the textBOX website or reach out at