Inclusive Publishing Seasonal Survey 2020 Reveals Promising Trends

The words "What Does progress look like?"Our annual survey, looking at accessibility within the publishing industry, has, this year, revealed a very promising trend towards awareness building and born accessible content creation. We seem to be at a tipping point and our hope is that accessibility becomes the norm within the digital publishing world and that ebook building blocks are finally equipped to serve all readers.

We received responses from a good mix of geographical locations including: USA, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Argentina, Mexico, Denmark and India. We were also pleased to receive responses from a wide range of publishing content types which has enabled us to get a more realistic and helpful view of the state of play.

Confidence Levels are Up!

Bearing in mind that those who filled out the survey probably discovered it because of an active interest in accessible publishing, the results in the category are as expected with 56% of replies claiming to feel “very” confident in their awareness of their product’s accessibility. 32% are “somewhat” confident and only 9% professed to feeling “not so” or “not at all” confident. The majority of replies from those in this last category came from publishers who publish text and graphics i.e. richer content which can bring additional accessibility challenges. Confidence levels are also boosted by the availability and awareness of tools to test titles for accessibility, but more on that shortly.

Embracing the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Specification

68% of replies said that they adhere to the EPUB  Accessibility 1.0 Specification. Most of the organizations adhering to the specification felt very confident in their awareness of the accessibility of their products so it is good to see the specification gives reassurance and confidence in this way. Some people did offer the remark that they “weren’t sure” so there is certainly scope to improve the awareness and understanding of the specification.

Methods of Testing for Accessibility

Ace by DAISY, the free EPUB accessibility checking tool has clearly had a remarkable effect on publisher’s ability to test and check the accessibility of their content, with both the desktop app and command line versions scoring well in the survey. Those who have integrated the command line tool into their in-house workflows hail from quite a variety of publisher types. The bigger houses are certainly incorporating Ace into their workflows but it is very encouraging to see that some of the smaller publishing concerns are also managing to make this change. Publishers from the USA  and UK are top of the leader board here.

There is much confidence in Ace but no single solution is appropriate for all accessibility testing, and the survey results reflected that with a range of testing taking place. 44% of respondents indicated that they had access to accessibility experts either in-house or contracted, and 41% said they were outsourcing accessibility to 3rd party as part of production. 

A smaller number of people are currently using SMART, the DAISY tool to assist with manually checking titles and resolving issues after testing with Ace. Full access to SMART is available with our Inclusive Publishing Partner program, but anyone can use SMART for free to test 2 titles per month.

A few respondents indicated that they use a pool of testers with print disabilities to learn directly from end users, which is something we would encourage for periodic testing. This approach to testing provides an important perspective on how assistive technology interacts with reading systems and your publications.

What Proportion of Content is Tested?

The method of testing is very important but currently not all publications are being tested as we hear that this remains impractical for some publishers, depending on their workflows and content type. We were therefore very pleased to see almost half of respondents said that they test all of their content, and some of those produce a wide variety of publications including text with rich content.

Even if content will not currently pass accessibility testing or you are not able to immediately act on the results, running your publications through Ace can provide useful data to build a case for adopting accessibility as well as information about issues which need to be addressed.

Barriers and Challenges

Significant progress continues to be made throughout the industry in the adoption of inclusive publishing practices, yet many barriers remain which prevent widespread adoption. By far the biggest barrier reported was the cost and time required to implement accessibility related practices, which was identified by both small and larger publishers.

Interpreting and keeping current with the standards, guidelines and legislation was another topic highlighted by a few respondents, with mention of being “knee deep” in documentation and struggles with simply working out which standards apply to book publishers.

Alt Text and image descriptions in general were highlighted again this year but to a lesser extent than we saw last year. The amount of work involved in producing good quality alt text appears to be an issue that some organizations are actively seeking a cost effective workflow solution for.

Other challenges included handing of complex content including math, chemistry and scientific materials, raising awareness that ebooks do not have to resemble the print edition and keeping current with user needs, including the need for greater understanding of assistive technology.


Many thanks once again to everyone who participated in the survey—your time and honesty has enabled us to put together this snapshot of how we are progressing as an industry. We are extremely positive about tackling some of the issues raised and hope to report back with interesting feedback soon. We will be back with another survey towards the end of the year to continue to track our progress as an industry.

Procurement: Checking External Products are Accessible

February 27th, 2020

This FREE webinar will provide a brief update on the latest news and advice about the implementation of Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations within universities, HE (higher education) institutions and other public sector organisations in the UK. AbilityNet’s Abi James will share top tips for accessibility checks to make when working with suppliers, and advice for how suppliers can provide accessible solutions for their clients.

Who is this webinar for?:

  • Public sector organisations
  • Higher and further education institutions
  • Local government and the health sector
  • Website owners, digital leaders, IT and procurement specialists
  • Suppliers applying for tenders in the public sector
  • Web agencies interested in improving accessibility


February 27, 2020


Online—this event is a webinar

Learn More

Event information on the AbilityNet website provides more program information and registration details

Finalists Announced for the 2020 ABC International Excellence Awards

The short-list for the 2020 ABC International Excellence Awards for Accessible Publishing has been published today and the winners will be announced at the awards ceremony  on March 10, 2020 at the London Book Fair. There are two awards presented in this category and the finalists are:

Publishers Award

  • Argentina—Ediciones Godot
  • Canada—House of Anansi Press
  • USA—Macmillan Learning

Initiative Award

  • Italy—Fondazione LIA
  • Lithuania—EIFL, Electronic Information for Libraries
  • United Arab Emirates—Kalimat Foundation for Children Empowermen

Many congratulations to all the finalists who have worked so hard to deliver accessible content to their readers. Full details of these awards can be found at the Bookseller website and we look forward to announcing the winners here in March.

Hugo Setzer Urges Publishers to Embrace Accessible Publishing at the NNELS 2020 Summit

The following presentation was delivered by Inclusive Publishing’s Sarah Hilderley on behalf of Hugo Setzer, President of the International Publishers Association, at the NNELS Accessibility Summit 2020. Hugo was not able to attend in person and we were delighted to present his important message.


Many thanks to the National Network for Equitable Library Service, for your kind invitation to participate at this second Accessible Publishing Summit to present the views of the International Publishers Association on accessible publishing. This is something IPA fully supports and that is also close to my heart.

We are all here because we know something about accessibility within the book industry. We are also here because we are eager to learn more about it; from different perspectives and different experiences. But really, the main reason why we are here is because we believe in accessible publishing. As a publisher and as President of the International Publishers Association, I have committed myself to the cause. At the IPA, the world’s largest federation of publishers’ associations, we are fully convinced that a disability should not be an impediment for anybody around the world to have access to books. This is why we endorse the Marrakesh Treaty as a legal framework to make a responsible transition toward accessibility. This international treaty is an example of proper copyright legislation because of its precision: it allows specific exceptions to make content accessible to more people, without disincentivizing the creation of new content. Furthermore, at IPA we believe that we can strive for full accessibility by working together with the industry’s key stakeholders. This is what motivates me to participate in events such as this one; and, for this same reason, IPA works closely with the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to provide the operative support and resources for a prompt transition to accessibility. I have the privilege of participating on ABC’s Board of Advisors and have been in at least a dozen countries exhorting publishers to commit to accessible publishing by signing the ABC Charter.

With legal and operational frameworks in place and many key institutions working in favour of accessibility, we need to move on from the groundwork and tackle the actual challenge: increasing the number of accessible works for visually impaired people. According to the ABC and the World Blind Union, 256 million people in the world can only access about 10% of published works. That is the whole population of Canada, 7 times! In five years’ time, I hope we will be able to say that we have, at least, doubled that percentage. Now, I believe we can achieve this. We must seize two big opportunities derived from the changes that we have witnessed in recent years and will continue to observe in this new decade.

The first big opportunity has to do with the digital era we all know we are living in. I will not try to explain everything that is going on. It is so fast- paced, I do not think anybody can really explain what a digital world is. Instead, I will limit myself to some facts related to the publishing industry. According to the annual report Global 50: The world ranking of publishing industry, digital markets are soaring for publishers. “For trade publishers, ebooks and more recently audiobooks, account for a combined share of revenue well in the two digits in the big corporate consumer book publishers”. For instance, digital and digital enabled services comprised 62% of Pearson Plc’s annual revenue in 2019. 2 Pearson is the world’s largest publishing group. And it is a similar story for all other sectors of the industry and for publishing houses of smaller sizes. An increasing demand in the digital market of books is relevant for accessible publishing because the tools to publish in accessible formats are digital. EPUB, Daisy and Protected Digital Talking Books (PDTB) have already allowed publishers to create products accessible for VIPs.

But there is still room to grow. I know myself, as an STM publisher specializing in medical books in my day job outside the IPA, that it is not always easy and that certain titles are more suitable for accessible formats than others, but we move on and work on ways to make it possible. I know that the technologies already in place will develop further to make the big leap to full accessibility easier for publishers. So, in a nutshell, digital technologies to create accessible formats are the first big opportunity.

The second big opportunity has to do with the moral importance which is inherent to accessibility. YS Chi, past President of IPA, stated the following back in 2014: “We really believe that publishing in accessible formats is not optional and not just a moral decision. It is a good business decision overall.” I would like to add to that accessible publishing will become a good business opportunity because it is a moral decision. According to an article from McKinsey and Company, “consumers expect brands to take a stand” because their consumption is determined by ethical principles. Any industry has to understand that it has to adapt to the demands of its consumers, and inclusivity will be a big part of adapting to future generations. The book industry has to be inclusive, diverse and accessible. So, those who did not believe in accessibility on principle, now have a utilitarian argument to take the moral high ground. Meanwhile, for us believers of accessible publishing, I could say, we are on the right track.

Thank you very much.

Aspirational Thinking: Creating ASPIRE

The ASPIRE (Accessible Statements Promoting Improved Reading Experience) project was launched in 2018 as a crowdsourced project to evaluate the quality of accessibility statements in the publishing industry. ASPIRE has since developed into a fully responsive service and in this article, we trace the story of the ASPIRE from its small beginnings to becoming an industry standard driving increased transparency across the industry.

The Origins of ASPIRE


ASPIRE started life as a crowdsourced project supported by librarians, publishers, and ebook vendors. The aim was to create a unique resource that provided a health check on the state of accessibility information in the publishing ecosystem. The ASPIRE working group designed a framework of testing criteria and then crowdsourced the evaluation process across participating UK libraries.

A diagram illustrated a 5 by 3 matrix containing the 15 ASPIRE criteria.

The ASPIRE criteria

The results from the initial ASPIRE project offered an eye-opening insight into the state of accessibility within the publishing community and we shall explore those results in due course.


The driving force behind the creation of ASPIRE was the impending legal changes in the UK. In September 2018, the UK adopted the EU Directive on Public Sector Web Accessibility into UK law under the guise of the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. This new legislation applied to all publicly funded organisations in the UK, including further and higher education institutions. It introduced two key elements as legal obligations:

  • Meeting the “accessibility requirement.”
  • Requiring accessibility statements.

The web accessibility legislation states that (Part 3.9.1.a):

A website of a public sector body will be presumed to be in conformity with the accessibility requirement to the extent that it meets harmonised standards.

Under the regulations, organisations that comply with WCAG 2.1 AA will fulfil their accessibility requirements. This legal change impacts all areas of the digital estate within a university or college. The Government Digital Services (GDS) states that if you pay for or subscribe to content you are “funding” it and therefore you are responsible for it meeting accessibility standards, as well as being responsible for providing an accessibility statement.

The GDS model accessibility statement outlines the key elements relevant to both the supplier and the university/college:

  1. an explanation of those parts of the content that are not accessible and the reasons why.
  2. a description of any accessible alternatives.
  3. contact information.
  4. Links to a complaints/escalation process.

Each of the first three elements is addressed by the ASPIRE review. The fourth is unique to each education provider. As a result, suppliers providing the kind of user focused guidance that would give them a high ASPIRE score are also creating the core of an accessibility statement that a university or college requires to meet their own obligations under the new legislation. By providing up-to-date accessibility statements suppliers are helping librarians and also providing an accurate reflection of their products and services, to their own benefit and to the benefit of their customers.

The ASPIRE Results: Information Silence

The overarching theme of the initial ASPIRE results was missing information within the accessibility statements. On average publishers were missing 87% of the information required and platforms were missing 78%. This missing information is critical to making informed procurement decisions  and the effective use of the digital content, and it clearly illustrated that content providers were failing to tell the whole story of their content.

A tiny mouse sits within a large block of cheese. The holes in the cheese represent the missing information with publishing accessibility statements.

The Holes in the Statements

The three key findings from the ASPIRE data were as follows:

  • Most suppliers provide far less accessibility information than a university or college requires in order to support their learners efficiently.
  • Most suppliers are missing a significant marketing opportunity because their digital products almost invariably have accessibility benefits (compared to hard copy print) that could – and should—be marketed.
  • Even when a supplier has an accessible product and useful accessibility information, the information is often hard to find or is spread across unrelated parts of the website, creating a significant variability in end user experience.

The ASPIRE project highlighted the lack of information made available by content providers, but it should be noted that it does not necessarily reflect the work and resources that are being invested in accessibility. A common response from content providers was that the survey helped them understand that they were not telling the story of the work they had dedicated to implementing inclusive publishing practices. An accessibility statement helps to promote this work and this marketing opportunity is often being overlooked. As Vanessa Boddington of VitalSource stated

The audit helped us refine the information we present to the public. Whilst we had focused on making our content as technically accessible as possible…how would users know how we can help unless we tell them?

In the face of the data, content providers were coming to understand that their message was not being heard.

Renewing ASPIRE

A key takeaway from the initial ASPIRE project was that there was demand for an ongoing service to meet the needs of publishers, platforms and users. An annual crowdsourced approach is unwieldy and ultimately unsustainable. To be truly effective ASPIRE needed to be transformed into a robust, scalable, sustainable and responsive service, to meet the publishing industry’s increased focus on accessibility.

The old logo for the ASPIRE project, left of image, is replaced by the new ASPIRE service logo, a green square with a white arrow tilted at 45 degrees and resembling a letter A.

The Development of ASPIRE

The new re-calibrated service, launched in August 2019 under the wing of textBOX, is responsive to the needs of content providers and provides a complete ASPIREreview within 5 business days. With this shift in focus to a fully-fledged accreditation service, ASPIRE can truly reflect the work of content providers and provide a window on their content for librarians and content purchasers. To further encourage accessible practices, we are also donating 10% of all profits from the new ASPIRE service to the UK Literacy Association Donkey Library scheme.

An icon of a green book sits beside an icon of a grey donkey. The donkey appears to be reading from the book.

UK Literacy Association Donkey Library

The ASPIRE Process

The ASPIRE service involves the following 4 stages:


The accessibility statement is reviewed in-depth by the ASPIRE team.


The accessibility statement is scored against each ASPIRE criteria.


The accessibility statement is accredited, and the approved review is ranked on the public ASPIRElist.


In addition to each ASPIREscore being announced to the market via Twitter, LinkedIn and library listservs, the publisher or platform is also able to submit an ASPIREstory detailing the importance of accessibility within their workflow. This marketing opportunity is a free service.

The Benefits of ASPIRE

The ASPIRE service fosters positive engagement within the publishing community across a range of perspectives:

The Librarian Perspective

ASPIRE helps librarians make informed procurement decisions and frees them from the unnecessary burden of writing accessibility statements as required by law.

The User Perspective

By creating informative accessibility statements, publishers and platforms are engaging with their customer base and highlighting their valuable content and innovative and useful features.

The Provider Perspective

Publishers and platforms invest heavily in accessibility. A thoughtful and comprehensive accessibility statement is an opportunity to tell their story, attract every customer and drive sales.

The Road Ahead

The new ASPIRE service has received a positive response since its launch in September 2019. Kogan Page posted the highest publisher score of 93% and became the first ASPIREverified Gold publisher. In recent months, ProQuest (78%), Cambridge Core (91%), and VitalSource (97%) have all achieved Gold status on the ASPIRElist for platforms. These scores are remarkable when contrasted with the average scores across the industry (14% for publishers and 24% for platforms, see Figures 5 and 6 below) and illustrate the commitment of these companies to accessible content and their users. The ASPIRE mission is to help every publisher and vendor reach a similar level.

An area graph of the publisher ASPIRE scores.

Publisher ASPIREscores by %


An area graph of the platform ASPIRE scores.

Platform ASPIREscores by %

Final Thoughts

An accessibility statement tells the story of a publisher’s content or a vendor’s platform. A book would never be published without a cover or a blurb to provide insight to the customer. By overlooking their accessibility statement, companies are failing to advertise their work and tell their story. The ASPIRE service helps guide publishers and platforms and amplifies their message. We help the publishing industry tell their story and open doors for their customers.

An icon of a green door represents enabling access to content and information for users.

Opening Doors, Enabling Access

Learn more about ASPIRE and make your statement today.

This article was kindly submitted by Huw Alexander, textBOX digital (an Inclusive Publishing Partner) and Alistair McNaught, Alistair McNaught Consultancy, the team giving ASPIRE a long term home.

Journey to Accessibility: A Case Study from Sydney University Press

Sydney University Press logoSydney University Press is a not-for-profit, scholarly publisher of research-based books in several areas across the humanities and social sciences including animal studies, archaeology, Australian literary criticism, Indigenous music, as well as Australian classics. Providing access to as wide an audience as possible to our books is at the core of our mission, and we actually published some of our books in large-print format before ebooks arrived on the scene and we started producing EPUB files.

From the beginning, we were really keen on producing ebooks in-house and we reviewed various platforms and XML workflows. Our search for the best solution took place before the option of exporting an EPUB file from InDesign was available. Eventually, we adopted an XHTML-based digital publishing platform from Infogrid Pacific, which allows us to produce files for print and digital delivery from a single source file. We also aspired to follow best practice in ebook production. Some of the best-practice methods were driven by technology: we had to carefully format and style our manuscripts before uploading them into the platform, which resulted in well-structured content. Also, early on we incorporated the inclusion of alt text into our publishing workflow. At first it was added to each image file at the very end of the production process just before the EPUB file went through quality assurance testing.

As we were creating alt text ourselves, it was causing delays in the ebook release. We reviewed our editorial workflows and decided to, first of all, ask our authors to provide alt text (they are best placed to do it) and, second, embed it in the files earlier in the publishing process, so that all we have to do is to test the EPUB at the end.

We have included the need to provide alternative image descriptions in our author guidelines. In fact, we went a step further recently and now our

authors are contractually obliged to provide alt text as part of the manuscript delivery

and we provide detailed guidelines and examples to facilitate that process.

We thought that we were doing great, but we were, in fact, skipping an important stage—testing the accessibility of our books. We didn’t know how to do it. In 2018 we became involved in the Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative (AIPI). The aim of this initiative, established in 2016, has been to identify key challenges to the implementation of accessibility standards, share best practice and innovative solutions to ensure the publishing sector meets the needs of Australians who are blind or vision impaired, and comply with the Marrakesh Treaty. Our involvement turned out to be a game changer. Sonali Marathe from the Royal Institute for Blind and Deaf Children tested a couple of our EPUB files and provided us with invaluable feedback. Our EPUB files were technically good, but we were missing a crucial step—adding accessibility metadata! This was easily rectified. We also learned that our EPUB 3 files conformed to the level A success criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 specifications. And that we could do better.

This is when our collaborators from Infogrid Pacific stepped in. They incorporated the ARIA attributes into the XHTML workflow and our EPUB 3 files are now WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant, which is really exciting. We have also embedded accessibility testing into our workflow, which has been much easier with the recent release of the Ace by DAISY app. In January 2020, Sydney University Press became a signatory of the Accessible Books Consortium’s Charter for Accessible Publishing. We are committed to further improving the accessibility of our books (our PDF files need work, for example) and fine-tuning our publishing workflows so that the implementation of accessibility standards is efficient and effective.

We will also continue to support the work of AIPI and share our accessibility experiences with others. Lucy Greco, Web Accessibility Evangelist from UC Berkeley, was cited in a 2018 article in Learned Publishing as saying,

Accessibility does not happen in a vacuum.

Working together makes things happen.

This article was kindly submitted by Dr Agata Mrva-Montoya, Degree Director for the Master of Publishing program at The University of Sydney.