IPEd National Conference 2019: Beyond the Page

May 8th to 10th, 2019

The Institute of Professional Editors is holding its national conference on May 8-10, 2019 where there is a significant focus on accessibility this year. Together with the APA the IPEd will launch a new resource guide to accessible publishing—a direct result of the AIPI Initiative in Australia. In addition there are 3 presentations on accessibility on Thursday May 9.

Date

May 8-10, 2019

Venue

Melbourne, Australia

Learn More

For registration and program details see the IPEd event website

Rachel Comerford—The Trailblazer Behind Macmillan Learning’s Accessibility Efforts

sketch of rachel comerfordRachel Comerford, Senior Director of Content Standards and Accessibility at Macmillan Learning and co-chair of the W3C EPUB Community Group, has been instrumental in the company’s huge success with accessible publishing. Macmillan Learning are the first company to gain accreditation via the Benetech Global Certified Accessible program. This is no easy feat and Macmillan have worked closely with Benetech and other accessibility organizations to ensure that their products are indeed “Born Accessible”.

Image credit: Iris Febres

Rachel has given us this insight into what drives her passion for accessibility:

When I was eleven years old, my technology teacher told me that “girls don’t build bridges.” That same year, my toothpick bridge design broke the school record for carrying the most weight. Inclusivity is one of my core guiding principles; it drives both how I work and how I think about my work. No student should get the message that they can’t pursue their field of interest, not because of gender, disability, or any other label.

It’s with this kind of inclusiveness in mind that, Macmillan Learning’s ebooks have achieved Global Certified Accessible status from Benetech. This is a milestone on a long road, one that started when we realized that the PDF format we’d long used was a barrier to accessibility. We moved to EPUB 3, which was designed from the start for accessibility, with adaptable text and structured navigation that made it easier for all users. And, since EPUB is an open and evolving standard, Macmillan is now participating in its future development.

Moving to accessible EPUB 3 required significant changes in our workflows and how we develop content. But Macmillan Learning has a dedicated and enthusiastic production and design team who met this challenge head on. We looked at every element of our ebooks with the help of our content and standards teams, and documented the best accessible practices in an internal implementation guide. We worked closely with our composition partner on training to these standards, and subsequently went through several rounds of feedback with Benetech, who reviewed both the standards and the ebooks that resulted from those standards.

I’m proud to be at Macmillan Learning, where my passion for accessibility is not just encouraged, but acted on. We are not finished! We will continue to make it easier for students of all abilities to pursue their dreams.

In order to gain acreditation Macmillan have been through a thorough and rigorous process:

To become Global Certified Accessible, Benetech evaluated Macmillan Learning’s workflow for creating accessible books, as well as many samples of content across the disciplines they publish in, and certified conformance to the accessible EPUB creation guidelines, which are based on WCAG 2.0 AA+ standards put in place by the international standards organizations and the publishing community. Using a collaborative process, Benetech evaluated and provided feedback on more than a hundred accessibility features. The certification applies to all books created using Macmillan Learning’s updated process, which includes all ebooks with a 2019 copyright.

Read the full press release from Macmillan Learning here and join us in offering Rachel and her team our heartfelt congratulations.

RedShelf eReader Gains National Recognition for Accessibility Advancements

RedShelf, an EdTech company working to make education more affordable and effective through digital content delivery, has been recognized by EPUBTEST.org as the first exclusively browser-based eReader to receive a 100% score in the non-visual reading category, reflecting RedShelf’s ongoing commitment to accessibility.” 

Read the rest of the Red Shelf press release here. Our congratulations to all involved.

AccessU 2019

May 14th to 17th, 2019

Four days and seven tracks of hands-on digital accessibility training by leading experts, as well as valuable networking opportunities,  and technology demos are on offer at this annual event organized by Knowbility. Whether you’re a designer, developer, project manager, administrator, or responsible for online content or development, this conference will provide you with practical skills you can immediately use.

Date

May 14-17, 2019

Venue

Austin, Texas

Learn More

Find out more about the full program and how you can register at the conference website here.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019

May 16th, 2019

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is designed  to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion for people with different disabilities. Last year we reported on some terrific events held at publishing organizations and we hope to see similar this year. See our Publisher’s Toolkit of ideas to get you started.

Check out the webinar being run by RedShelf on “Born Accessible: Ensuring you’re Adopting Accessible Course Materials“.

Date

May 16, 2019

Venue

International

Learn More

For information on this year’s event please visit the GAAD website

Book Summit 19

June 18th, 2019

This event is Presented by the Book and Periodical Council, the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Literary Press Group of Canada in association with the Toronto International Festival of Authors.

Book Summit 19 encourages reflection and prediction but above all challenges us to publish with intention.

Of particular interest to our readers is the session entitled: Accessible ebook Publishing: The Business Case with speakers Laura Brady (House of Anansi) and Daniela Levy-Pinto (NNELS) exploring the importance of developing and promoting ebooks that can be accessed and enjoyed by all audiences.

Date

June 18, 2019

Venue

Toronto, Canada

Learn More

For details on how to register (early bird pricing is available until May 2nd) visit the booksummit 19 website.

Avneesh Singh For W3C Advisory Board

Avneesh Singh, Chief Operating Officer (Strategy and Operations) at the DAISY Consortium, is standing for election to the W3C Advisory Board which “provides ongoing guidance on issues of strategy, management, legal matters, process, and conflict resolution” within the W3C.

Avneesh will bring a unique perspective to the AB:

  • I will bring my knowledge of strategy, governance and experience of managing the DAISY Consortium to the development of structure and the governance model of W3C.

  • Equally important is work towards diversity and inclusion. I am committed to work to ensuring that our worldwide consortium creates worldwide standards with worldwide participation that includes appropriate representation of people from developing countries and people with disabilities.

  • Another important priority is the reinforcement of accessibility and the work towards ensuring that accessibility is embedded in all standards from their inception stage to final Recommendations.

We wish him every success with the nomination and election process. Voting takes place throughout May with results being announced on June 4, 2019. For more details you can access Avneesh’s submission blog piece here. Avneesh welcomes any contact regarding this nomination.

EDRLab Announces Program for DPUB

EDRLab  has announced it’s program for June’s European Digital Publishing Summit with a heavy focus on accessibility. DAISY colleagues, Avneesh Singh and Romain Deltour will both be presenting at the 2 day conference alongside an impressive line up of international speakers. There will be a number of sessions concentrating on accessibility and demonstrations of the Ace by DAISY software and the SMART tool will be taking center stage.

See our events page for details on how to register and find out more

Rethinking Content for Inclusive Higher Education Part Two

A photo of a bookshelf running the full length of a narrow, lighted hallway. The focused foreground advances into a blurred background.In March, textBOX examined the challenges in delivering accessible web content for print-disabled college students in Part 1 of Rethinking Content. This second article focuses on practical solutions for universities and publishers that impact the future of inclusive higher education.

At the March 2019 CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Macmillan presented accessibility milestones and initiatives. Jonathan Thurston, Head of Global Product Accessibility at Pearson, announced their commitment to publish born-accessible digital content, as well as strategic partnerships forged with Kurzweil, VitalSource and T-Base Communications. Lisa Nicks, Director of Accessibility at McGraw-Hill, described the challenges of transforming publishing from a print to digital workflow and announced several new company directions, including EPUB 3 certification through Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible program, EPUB 3 accessibility metadata and new quality assurance policies and procedures. Macmillan’s Rachel Comerford, Senior Director of Content Standards and Accessibility, announced their commitment to delivering born-accessible digital content and meeting Macmillan’s timelines for accessible product releases.

Major academic publishers are overcoming significant barriers to accessible publishing and have changed their organizational culture and approach. The publishing industry has reached a tipping point with delivering inclusive higher education. Accessibility is no longer considered a niche area and is now a central factor in usability and intuitive design. We are at a critical juncture for tackling more specific issues while providing proactive solutions that will have a wide-ranging impact on the higher education community. Universities and publishers now need to seize the potential of this moment and move forward together with a renewed, unified direction and purpose.

Major Obstacles to Inclusive Higher Education

While universities and publishers are making progress with delivering accessible content, major obstacles are creating a vicious cycle and consuming valuable time, money and resources. The graphic below illustrates the challenges faced:

A table comparing the major obstacles for Universities and Publishers. Universities. Passive accessibility policies and procedures. Allocation of staff resources and technical expertise. Remediation without publisher accountability. Publishers. Inadequate communication and transparency. Delayed response to university requests. Vendor quality and consistency issues.

Solutions for Universities

Implement Proactive Accessibility Policies and Procedures

Proactive accessibility policies and procedures can save time for universities in the long run and have the power to influence widespread adoption of industry standards, such as EPUB 3 and WCAG 2.1. Adoption of inaccessible content creates a continual strain on university resources and risks of legal exposure. Now is the time for universities to raise procurement standards and expectations to keep pace with increasing publisher accessibility practices. The AEM Center’s Quality Indicators provide a comprehensive guide for creating proactive accessibility policies with links to useful resources.

The recommendations and examples on the checklist below save valuable Disability Service Office (DSO) resources while furthering the availability of accessible content for the entire higher education community:

  • Ensure university accessibility statement requires vendors to meet WCAG 2.1 AA. Example: CSU Vendor Accessibility Requirements.
  • Allow sufficient time for alternative format development. Contact publishers as soon as DSO or faculty identify the adoption of non-compliant products.
  • Establish procedures for evaluating content collaboratively with publishers. Example: CSU ATI Procurement Process.
  • Include requirements in new and existing publisher contracts for content accessibility and remediation as well as delivery timelines.
  • Create faculty guidelines and incentives to adopt accessible content. Example: TBR Procurement Considerations.
  • Designate DSO staff to build effective publisher partnerships. Conduct regular publisher meetings, establish requirements and expectations, create an action plan and timeline and track progress.

Allocation of Staff Resources and Technical Expertise

Taking time for a transition stage is necessary while the long-term benefits of a proactive approach take effect. Therefore, universities must plan ahead to resolve content remediation issues collaboratively with publishers.

First and foremost, universities must prioritize the use of industry standards, EPUB 3 and Accessibility 1.0, over PDF to continue positive momentum. While PDF remediation may seem like a quick fix it does not contribute to increasing the availability of mainstream accessible content in the long term. Prioritizing EPUB 3 will require changes to existing procedures. For example, universities can create an action plan that involves requesting accessible EPUB content and Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPAT) from publishers and the provision of appropriate training to staff and students on how to use EPUB files.

It is also imperative for the DSO to have at least one employee who has experience with EPUB files and industry accessibility standards. For eTextbooks, AccessText and Benetech’s Bookshare offer a wide range of EPUB content that DSOs can take advantage of using. Additionally, Ace by DAISY is a helpful free and open source tool for automatically checking the accessibility of EPUB files.

Accountable Remediation

If universities are forced to continue to remediate EPUB 3 content, publishers should be held responsible. Universities must require resolution in a timely manner. If the publisher does not respond, online retailers may be able to assist the university by contacting the publisher to remediate the problem. If universities allow time to request EPUB 3 files early in the adoption process, this will contribute to increasing accessible content availability on the market. A remediated PDF file must be a last resort and temporary solution for the university. Publishers should be responsible for providing accessible content for every non-compliant product adoption. The DSO should notify the instructor and the adoption should be identified as at risk if the university is not able to acquire an accessible EPUB 3 file in a timely manner.

Universities must also hold publishers accountable for quality assurance (QA). EPUB files must be tested by publishers and print-disabled users on multiple platforms with assistive technologies to ensure all functions and accessibility features are working consistently. If there are issues encountered in the QA process, the university should be notified and the publisher should work to resolve the issue. Publishers, platforms and assistive technologies should not work in isolation. They all play a critical role in delivering an accessible learning experience for the user.  

Solutions for Publishers

Publishers have made major improvements in recent years. Many have established a central accessibility task force responsible for listening to university partners, secured executive sponsorship, promoted accessibility across the organization and budgeted for improvements for WCAG non-compliant digital products. Publisher commitments to born-accessible content have raised the bar in an ever-competitive marketplace. For publishers who have not tackled these issues yet, now is the time to move forward to remain relevant.

While publishers have prioritized accessibility and made improvements to digital content and technologies, they now must tackle communication and transparency as well as improve responsiveness to university requests and vendor management.    

Enhanced Communication and Transparency

Publishers need to be more transparent with providing accessibility specifications for digital products and platforms to eliminate the need for university evaluation and consumption of DSO time. Populating digital product accessibility metadata in ONIX (codelist 196), on retail websites and/or within EPUB files is an industry standard requirement that improves the discoverability and sales of digital products while reducing the number of DSO requests for alternative formats.

Publisher sales representatives must be aware of accessibility requirements so they can inform and answer questions and avoid misleading prospective adopters. Representatives are on the front lines selling digital products to universities and must be instructed to notify the publisher accessibility team of problems. Educating sales representatives demonstrates support for university policies, procedures and resources. It is not acceptable to expect the university to shift resources to handle emergency remediation when this should have been handled at the front end by publishers.

Accessibility statements on publisher websites require improvement. The ASPIRE Project evaluated publisher websites for accessibility information, including accessibility contact details, enquiry response times, file navigability and image descriptions. The results revealed that publishers scored an average of 3.3 out of a total of 35 (ASPIRE). Publishers must implement the ASPIRE guide for updating website product information (available here).

Publishers can improve communication with universities by listening more actively. For example, publishers can host a session with universities to collect accessibility feedback. They can also participate in specialist conferences like Accessing Higher Ground and CSUN. Maintaining a constructive, collaborative dialogue between publishers and universities is the key to successful partnership and change.

Timely Response to Remediation

A born-accessible approach is a giant leap forward for inclusive higher education, however, there must be a solution for fixing existing inaccessible content and platforms. Universities are continually battling deadlines and are forced to triage internally when publishers do not provide usable content.

Publishers must establish both reactive and proactive approaches to university requests. If publishers take a reactive approach, they must also develop a solution to quickly respond to requests and meet university deadlines. Publishers must be prepared to receive rush requests from universities that may only have a few days before the start of class. Collaboration with partners in the education sector is key here. Everyone needs to help each other to be successful in these time-critical situations.

On the other hand, a proactive approach is more desirable because it reduces the amount of content remediation and helps them remain competitive with other publishers. This approach involves creating a prioritized list of published content and then budgeting to remediate selections on an annual basis. Regardless of approach, updating existing content will save time and money when the next edition is published.

To improve responsiveness, publishers should assign a primary contact person for university requests. This person must have a direct line of communication with the publisher’s internal department or an external vendor responsible for resolving accessibility issues. The contact person must be diligent about submitting requests and informing the university of expected delivery dates. This will build trust, ensure satisfaction and reduce the amount of time it takes to deliver an accessible file to the student.

Vendor and In-House Quality and Consistency Issues

As Bill Kasdorf states, vendor management is a critical aspect in publishing accessible content at scale: “many people don’t realize that most publishers don’t actually do the hands-on production work for their books and journals – their vendors do that. But what is a lot of work for the publishers is, frankly, training their vendors. We owe a big debt of gratitude to all the publishers–Hachette Livre in trade and the Big Five higher education publishers (Cengage, Macmillan Learning, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Wiley) particularly come to mind – who have spent years working closely with their vendors to get accessibility right. Now all the other publishers who use those vendors will have an easier path to making their publications born accessible.”

Vendors have a responsibility to maintain the publisher’s brand and reputation and aim to deliver consistent, high-quality digital products that meet accessibility requirements. To address university complaints about the quality of digital products, publishers should implement regular quality assurance checks to evaluate whether vendors are meeting expectations. Publishers must push back on vendors to resolve concerns and, when necessary, add accessibility requirements to vendor contracts.

Publishers should also require vendors to be responsible for remediation and to adhere to delivery timelines that meet university expectations. Addressing issues with vendors proactively will save time for publishers and universities.

Conclusion

We cannot let current challenges prevent us from making the changes we all want to see in the future. We can overcome obstacles together through communication, collaboration and action. Universities must be more consistent and proactive to prevent unnecessary strain on time and resources. Publishers must be more transparent and responsive to maintain their relevance. Solving these problems will make a difference for both disabled and non-disabled readers while establishing a new standard for inclusive higher education.

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

Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019: A Publisher’s Toolkit

Logo for Global Accessibility Awareness DayGAAD takes place on May 16 this year and we’d like to encourage all our readers to take part so that we can build awareness in our industry and play our part to increase the availability of your digital content to people with print disabilities. If you have an accessibility advocate then this is their chance to co-ordinate activities. If not, then perhaps you can encourage your own team or teams that you work closely with to participate.

In 2018 there were some exciting in-house events to do just this and we have put together some ideas to help you organize something in your own company this year. It might be an event surrounding awareness building and advocacy or it might be a more technical dive into what makes an accessible ebook. Whatever you choose, please send us the details so that we can tell others about your good work and build on this for future events.

We have lots of ideas to get you started:

Awareness Building

  • Put together a blog piece in advance of your event. This will help to raise awareness amongst your colleagues about what you plan to do on May 16th. We have resources and tools that you can include in your post to spark interest and encourage questions! A good place to start is our Introduction to Inclusive Publishing.
  • Check out your website: do you have an accessibility statement about your digital content? If not then perhaps you can set about writing something on GAAD.
  • Hold a social event—we can email you some flyers on accessibility to help you educate your colleagues. It’s time to celebrate!

User Experience

GAAD is a great chance to find out for yourself what it’s like to be a print disabled reader. You can put together all manner of sessions to focus on this but here are a few ideas:

  • Go mouseless for an hour—unplug your mouse and only use your keyboard (tab/shift tab, arrow keys, enter and spacebar) to navigate and interact with content.
  • Experience reading using assistive technology – try 10 minutes with a screen reader for example
  • You may wish to set up a UX booth in a communal area within your organization. This can be a physical booth or just an area where your colleagues can experience accessibility features such as Voice Over. See last year’s report from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who did just this.
  • Try your hand at writing image descriptions—collect a few images from the content that you publish together with some contextual information. See how your colleagues fare in writing alt text! For guidance on this see the variety of resources that we have on Rich and Complex Content.

Accessible EPUB

  • GAAD for Geeks! If you can it would be very helpful if your technical ebook developers can run a demonstration of what makes an EPUB accessible. The benefits of using EPUB 3 are significant for accessibility and a short presentation about this would greatly increase understanding of the technical advantages of building a11y in from the very start of the content creation process. See our top tips page for some guidance on this.
  • Ask the Expert! EPUB for non-technical teams. Try running something similar for your non-technical teams. They may not need to know the technical details but will appreciate and understand information on how your content production teams are handling accessibility for mainstream product. Our EPUB resources pages for publishers will be able to give you some pointers on this.

 

Whatever you decide to do in your own organization we applaud you! This is a terrific opportunity to create a focus amongst your team and encourage support for Inclusive Publishing. We would very much like to hear from you about your events so that we can let others know what you’ve been up to! Contact us here.