Trends and Opportunities in Digital Accessibility in 2021

January 28th, 2021

 In 2020 many organisations faced the challenges of assuring digital accessibility for staff with disabilities working from home and new customers who are ageing, while they were also speeding up their digital transformation to cope with everyone moving to digital. Leaving no-one behind in #thenewnormal was the biggest challenge and business opportunity of 2020. So, as we start 2021, this webinar from Hassell Inclusion will be looking at what the big accessibility solutions are that are coming out of 2020, and what they think the biggest accessibility trends will be in 2021.

Date

January 28th, 2021

Venue

Webinar Online

Learn More

Registration details and further information are available at the Hassell Inclusion event page

A Quick Guide to Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors

ALLIA logo

With the rise in advancing technologies, making our self-published books accessible to everyone is becoming easier and easier. This post from the Alliance of Independent Author’s AskALLi team, dives into accessibility issues for indie authors and how you can make your books more accessible. With thanks to ALLi Partner member Jens Troeger from Bookalope for his contributions to this post.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: What’s it all About?

What is an accessible ebook exactly? That’s the question I’ve never stopped asking. Over the years, I’ve helped numerous authors and publishers transform their book manuscripts into well-designed print books and accessible ebooks. They usually have a good idea of how the printed book should look, but haven’t thought much about its digital equivalent. And while many authors and publishers assume that a digital book is much the same as its printed counterpart, it is in fact an entirely different design incarnation.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: The Difference Between Print and Digital

The best way to get you thinking about print books and digital books is by looking at them as two different presentations of the same content. Let’s refresh what we know about book content so far; it’s its text, images, and tables. The main narrative text is usually structured into chapters and sections. It may contain other elements like footnotes, endnotes, quotations, poems, and so forth. Traditionally, we express the text’s structure and elements visually; by changing the text size, fonts, and using white spaces. This visual expression is then printed onto paper — once printed, the book’s design doesn’t change anymore.

When I talk with authors about the digital incarnation of their books, I often ask them, “How would your book look on a small phone? Or on that big thirty-inch computer screen? What if I change the font and make it tiny or really large?” I’m trying to get authors to understand that the digital book obeys different visual design rules and so needs to be reconsidered entirely — the book has to be redesigned for the digital medium, as a digital product. It has to interact and compete with the wider range of print and digital books available; and this all starts with how you approach the designs of your book. Richard Hendel, a well-known book designer and author himself, summarized this duality of the book in the essay The conundrum of the Ebook, published in his book Aspects of Contemporary Book Design. It’s worth a read, if you’re curious about this topic! I think that if we can grasp this duality, we can begin to understand what designing accessible ebooks is all about.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: Why Bother?

Like all serious authors and publishers, you care about your books and your readers. You’d like more people to buy your books and appreciate your work; that’s your objective. But I think that in addition to expanding the market reach of your books, you still want to be inclusive and respectful by making your books accessible to all readers, whether they live with an impairment or not. Overall, prioritising accessibility is crucial for your image as an author, and for your branding as a publisher.

In technical terms, then, we’d like to build accessible ebooks. Last year, Booknet Canada published a lengthy blog titled Accessible Ebook Publishing in Canada: The Business Case which details the many aspects of accessible ebooks and their relevance for business, illustrated with some interesting numbers that all emphasize the importance of accessible ebooks. In short, there’s no avoiding the necessity of building accessible ebooks in our current climate, and that’s why I think we need to up our design game.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: Working with Rich Content

So, what can you do as an author to make sure that your book — print or digital — looks great for everyone, including impaired readers?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at how some people use assistive technologies to read digital content, websites, and ebooks. For example, your web-browser and most modern reading apps and devices have a “text to speech” feature which allows a book to be read out loud. You can try it out for yourself, and listen to a synthesized voice read back to you the content of a web page or an ebook. Chances are that what you hear is confusing; a stream of words stringed together in a seemingly random order — perhaps even without intonations, pauses, or changes in speech. This content is not accessible, and you’d have a similar experience with an electronic Braille reader presenting such content to a visually impaired or blind reader.

This is why it’s important to structure your book’s content; you don’t want the message to be lost in the medium. I’ve mentioned above that text structure is independent of presenting that structure visually — because with read-aloud or with a Braille reader there is no visual presentation of the book’s structure. And while ebooks have a well-defined way of implementing structured text, as an author you want to have an intimate understanding of your book’s structural elements: you need to know which paragraphs are chapter or section headings, which ones are narrative text, and which ones are poems or quotations. This shows you’re committed to creating the best version possible of your book, where all the different parts work together.

The same holds true for inline formatting. Traditional book design uses italics to emphasize text or for a phrase in another language, or to denote a book or article title, whereas bold text is occasionally used to visualize a strong emphasis. Notice how we differentiate between visual presentation (e.g. “italic” or “bold”) and its intended meaning (e.g. “emphasized”) — it is the meaning that you, as the author, want to be clear about, and that your book designer and ebook implementer must express in some visual way or another.

And then we come to images and illustrations; that’s where accessibility and ebooks get interesting. In print, we use images to support a narrative visually or perhaps to illustrate data correlations as graphs. For accessible ebooks, text is always preferred over an image, but often we can’t do that. To make images accessible, think about explaining and describing the image meaningfully in the context of the narrative. If you were to replace the image with a text box, what would a visually impaired or blind reader (or listener) of your book get in place of the image? This is called an “alternative text” for your images, and such alternative text needs to be meaningful and attached to every image and illustration in your book. Remember, it all comes back providing information to make your content accessible, and then presenting that content for different media.

When we work with images, we must also consider their color and contrast. There are different kinds of color blindness, which means that some readers won’t be able to see your pictures the way you do. One solution would be to change the picture itself — e.g. working with black-and-white or avoiding certain colors. In any case, we must constantly ensure to supply a meaningful alternative text for our images. In addition, it is good practice to avoid inlining images into the text flow. Large drop caps, foreign language letters, or mathematical formulas must be made part of the content as text to ensure that they are accessible and meaningful to the reader.

Dyslexia is another important aspect to keep in mind. It is a reading disorder that can manifest in different ways, and you can get a sense of how a dyslexic reader may perceive text on this website. Modern ereader apps now ship with typefaces that are especially designed for dyslexic readers; their letters are purposefully irregular in order to break the symmetrical and monotonous design of common text faces.

While less common, tables also need to be considered carefully when we rethink our content for an accessible ebook. We often spend a lot of time formatting a table for a printed page; yet, for an ebook, we’d need to reconsider whether a table would work at all! Here, too, it helps to imagine how a table would look like on a phone display; both in portrait and landscape mode. Maybe for an ebook a table isn’t a good choice at all, and we’d want to explore alternative ways to present the content, such as a bullet list or as plain text. Whatever we choose, the goal is to consistently strive towards an intelligent and inclusive book design which will resonate with all types of readers independently of the type of reading medium.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: Piecing it Together

By now you’ve probably noticed that authoring content which works well for both print and accessible ebooks requires some more work than most people realise. But I believe it’s worth the effort, and not only for the sake of your readers. It challenges you, the author, to understand your text and its intended structural presentation from the inside out; with no page left unturned.

Now that we’ve edited our manuscript, understood the intended structure of our content, and come up with helpful alternative text for all images, one question remains… How exactly do we create a functional, valid, and accessible ebook? Well, in the same way we go about creating a well-designed print book; we find a good designer, or we find a good tool that does the work efficiently and reliably for us.

Bookalope is a tool that publishing houses, book designers, and self-publishing authors alike use to create fully accessible ebooks with just a few clicks. Being a software veteran by trade, I’ve built the Bookalope toolset over years of working with digital and print books. My mission is to make the process as easy and comfortable as possible for myself and other professional users. I want to put the creativity back into the book design; minimising effort but maximising quality. So, here is a brief introduction to creating accessible, beautiful books using these tools.

After uploading your manuscript, the Bookalope AI gets to work; it analyses the visual styling of the text to extract the intended structure — exactly what we’ll need for making the ebook accessible. Sometimes, the original visual styling is a little ambiguous, or it’s something Bookalope hasn’t encountered yet. But we can still review and adjust the extracted rich content. And that’s almost all there is to do, before you can download your accessible ebook.

While Bookalope takes care of almost everything for you, you may still be curious about some ebook technicalities, and might want to ensure that your ebook is indeed valid and accessible. Here’s what you’d need to do next…

The easiest way is to open the ebook yourself on your phone, tablet, or laptop and see how it looks; then, have it read back to you. On your laptop, resize the window of your reading app or browser, change the font size, and invert the color theme. Make sure that the table of contents is linked into the book, and that the glossary and index are linked throughout. Traditionally, both reference the page numbers of the printed book, so make sure that those print page numbers are also built into your ebook.

If you’d like to get even more technical, you can have the ebook checked by EPUBCheck to make sure it’s implemented properly, and by the Ace tool to check if the built-in accessibility information (if any) is valid. If you’d like to take your tests to the next level, check out Flightdeck!

Bookalope does all of that for you, though, so you don’t need to worry. If you’re having your ebook built by a vendor, you should always ask them to provide you with these validation results.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: Summary

At first, this all may seem like a daunting process. Granted, it takes some additional effort to prepare and enrich your book’s content, but building an accessible ebook is its own reward. And, with the right tools, it’s not that difficult to do.

In the end, you’ll have a good chance of increasing your book’s market reach. Your readers will be thankful for your efforts, and will be able to enjoy your writing no matter how they consume your book. To me, that’s the answer to what makes an ebook accessible and inclusive; designing a one-of-a-kind book product that touches the hears and minds of all readers. And isn’t that why you wrote your book in the first place?


Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: 4 Quick Tips

Vellum – Large Print

Large print books are books that are formatted and printed with much larger typeface than usual. Vellum is a formatting software designed to make formatting your books easier, quicker and more intuitive. And it really does do just that. One of the benefits of Vellum though, is that it has presets that can help you turn your book into a large print edition in just the click of a button.

When you create a large print edition, make sure you increase your trim size and font size. It also helps to create some kind of stamp, sticker or indicator that goes on the front of the cover to promote the fact its large print. Once your large print book is loaded, you’ll need to connect it to the sales page of your other book editions and don’t forget that because it’s a new format, you will need a separate ISBN

Closed Captions

According to Wikipedia,

“Closed captioning and subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a television, video screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information.”

You might not realize, but there is actually a difference between the two. Subtitles assume that the viewer can hear the audio. Whereas closed captioning assumes the viewer cannot. So as well as providing dialogue information, it will convey information like background noises, phones ringing and other auditory clues.

YouTube provides the opportunity for close captions on all your videos. Go to the creator studio, click edit video and then subtitles/CC to edit. You also have the option to upload your own subtitle files.

Rev.com is often cited as one of the best closed captioning softwares on the market. If you use transcription software then you can use that to load up your captions.

Audio Books

Are your books in audio yet? The audiobook market is booming.

And the audiobook market is still comparably young compared to print and digital. But for those who are either visually impaired and therefore listen to audio, or those that prefer audio anyway, you’re missing an entire market and section of your potential audience. If you don’t want to record and narrate your own audiobooks, consider searching for a narrator through places like Findaway Voices.

Digital Devices

Technology has advanced considerably in the last few years, and reading has become infinitely more accessible since the advent of the Kindle and other digital reading devices. These devices have the ability to produce high contrast reading displays, different colored backgrounds, font changes like using OpenDyslexic—a purpose created font—for those people with dyslexia that prefer it. If your books are only in print, then it’s time to turn them into digital ebooks.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: A Final Word

If you’d like to read or download guidelines on creating accessible books, Dave Gunn has written a guide that was published by the Accessible Books Consortium, in conjunction with the International Authors Forum. To download click here.

 

About Jens Troeger: Jens is a software veteran with an MS and PhD in computer science, who’s been building software for over thirty years. He is also a passionate typophile and book lover. Jens started Bookalope several years ago out of his personal need for efficient and intelligent tools that help him design print books and digital books. What started out as a pet project has now grown into a powerful yet easy to use commercial product. When Jens isn’t glued to his laptop, he often travels to remote places to dive and photograph underwater. You can find Jens Troeger on Twitter.

 

CSUN 2021

March 6th to 14th, 2021

The 36th CSUN Assistive Technology Conference will be held in March next year and it promises to be as exceptional as ever. Join the large crowd of delegates online to explore new technologies designed to assist people with disabilities.​ A few of the sessions which are publishing related will be delivered by DAISY staff and friends.

Date

March 6-14,2021

Venue

Online

Learn More

For further information and registration details visit the CSUN Conference website  and follow #CSUNATC21 on twitter for all the latest news

Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference, 2021

January 25th to February 4th, 2021

ATIA is the premier organization for manufacturers, sellers and providers of assistive technology (AT)—products, equipment and systems that enhance learning, working and daily living for persons with disabilities. The organization’s annual conference promises to be a stellar line up of speakers and workshops with over 350 session planned!

Date

January 25-February 4, 2021

Venue

Online

Learn More

The ATIA event pages have all the information you need to register and take part in this exciting event

Do More With WordToEPUB (W)

Do more with WordToEPUB opening slideIn our series of free weekly webinars December 9th saw a session focused on WordToEPUB.  Following on from earlier webinars, this event gave us a quick refresh, a summary of currently supported EPUB features and then delved into what is new and what we can expect in the future from this ground-breaking software.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar

Speakers

  • Kirsi Yianne, Celia, guest host
  • Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium
  • Joseph Polizzotto, UC Berkeley

Session Overview

Richard Orme reminded us of the benefits of WordToEPUB with a quick refresh at the beginning of the webinar. WordToEPUB is free to download and use.  If you can start with an accessible structured word document you will end up with a beautiful EPUB that can be used on any platform or reading app.

Supported EPUB Features

WordToEPUB currently supports many EPUB features and these include”

  • Navigation
  • Semantics
  • Accessibility: images and alt text, navigating tables, inline language markup, MathML, low vision friendly fonts

What’s New in Version 1.05

Version 1.05 released this month includes the following new features:

New Default Style Sheets

Available out of the box for new installations of WordToEPUB, new default style sheets improve the visual presentation of the EPUB. Including features such as justification options, superscript reference numbers, improved paragraph spacing and better leading the new style sheet option needs to be manually selected for versions of WordToEPUB before 1.05

Faster More Reliable Language Detection

If the user makes sure that the correct languages have been selected within their Word document then WordToEPUB is able to use the improved algorithms to detect language changes, improving the reading experience for readers using Read Aloud or screen readers.

New Options for Page Numbers

Print page tags and custom indicators are now supported, enabling quick and easy navigation to specific locations within the document based on their print page equivalent.

Optional Metadata Summary Page

Ensuring accurate metadata is embedded within EPUB files is recommended good practice, and WordToEPUB now offers the ability to generate a metadata summary page at the end of the EPUB  document to expose this useful information, including a summary of accessibility.

Edit with Sigil

WordToEPUB now offers the workflow option to automatically open the converted EPUB in the Sigil EPUB editor to make any adjustments to the document.

New Quality Assurance Wizard

Another workflow addition allows for the use of a QA wizard after conversion. This wizard is comprised of 4 steps:

  1. Validate the file with EPUBCheck
  2. Launch Ace by DAISY for automated accessibility testing
  3. Check the experience in a reading app – Thorium is a suggested option
  4. Manually check the file for anything further

New Option to Generate Clean HTML Version

This option has been added to the preferences dialog (“select other output formats”) and is often used when shorter articles or book segments need converting as they can be opened directly within a web browser. The underlying semantic level is excellent although it doesn’t have as many stylistic functions as an EPUB.

What’s Coming Soon

To finish the session Richard mentioned a few items which we can expect to appear in the not too distant future:

  • Improved style sheets with embedded font options
  • Expandable content in <details>
  • Support for Math Type expressions

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

The Art and Science of Describing Images Part Two (W)

Art and Science of Describing Images Part Two opening slideIn our series of free weekly webinars December 2nd saw a session focused on image description: part two in the series entitled, The Art and Science of Describing Images. This webinar focused on more complex images than Part One, with speakers Huw Alexander and Valerie Morrison digging deeper into how we approach alt text and long description.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar

Speakers

  • Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium—host and chair
  • Valerie Morrison—Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation at Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Huw Alexander—textBOX Digital

Session Overview

Huw Alexander opened this session giving us a brief resume of what the webinar will cover. The world has become driven by content especially in the digital space and, now more than ever, that content needs to be as accessible as possible. Over the last 10 years we have seen educational materials shift to a much more visual form of conveying information and society has followed suit. We need to be able to deliver this information so that it is accessible to everyone.

Valerie Morrison and Huw then took us through a series of complex image types, giving us an overview of how they tackle describing them and sharing with us their top tips for success. Valerie admitted that she still finds many types of images daunting, even with her years of experience but if you have the right approach you can break it down and keep it simple for the reader. Below are some of the main points for each image type which can be found in greater detail in the slide deck, together with some excellent examples.

Maps and Choropleths

Maps

  • Always begin with a general overview giving a description of what the map is about
  • If there’s an inset table this might be a good  place to start
  • Only describe items which are contextually important to the map
  • Lists are useful in describing maps
  • Don’t worry about colors (unless it’s a choropleth) or symbols which often don’t carry significance

Choropleths

These type of maps display quantitive values for distinct spatial regions using color. Consequently, they require a slightly different approach:

  • Reference the title, the structure, the text key which may point to colors to measure the data, the scale and the trend analysis
  • A political choropleth may also need dates, emphasis and context, places of interest, edge boundaries and a  scale ratio

Timelines

  • Create one general overview sentence
  • Describe the range of the timeline
  • List some of the details

Bar Charts

  • Begin with the title and what the x and y axis denote
  • Describe how the chart has been arranged and why. Sometimes bar charts are arranged to create a visual impact and this might require highlighting
  • Describe each bar in regular, predictable ways

Supply and Demand Curves

  • Begin again with the title and an x and y overview, remembering that this is just a graph!
  • Describe the slopes and where they intersect
  • Keep it simple. It’s easy to get lost in the “word salad” with this type of image

Complex Infographics

  • Overview sentence should contain information on the basic parts of the infographic, the timeline and the illustrations it contains
  • Work from the general to the specific, filling in the details as needed
  • Make sure your description references: the title, the structure of the graphic, the information contained within each section, descriptions of the relevant images only, numbered list elements
  • Do not describe decorative images

Tables

  • Sometimes the tables are arranged specifically for sighted readers and you should sort the information out into more of a table to help readers process the amount of data.
  • Complex STEM Infographics are very hard to parse and it’s much easier if you can convert them into tables with specific columns. An example of how making images available in multiple modalities can help reach more learners eg. a dyslexic reader would benefit from this specific approach.
  • Consider adding structural alt text to your tables. This gives the reader an head start in understanding how the table is organized and allows them to create a mental map before they process the information that it contains.

Before taking questions, Huw ended the session by reminding us:

You are trying to recreate the image and it’s impact for the reader. To do this you need to unravel the complexity it may involve and create a level playing field for all users.

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

Do More with WordToEPUB – Free DAISY Webinar

December 9th, 2020

The next session in the DAISY free webinar series on accessible publishing and reading, back by popular demand, we return to WordToEPUB.

Point, shoot, and you can start making accessible EPUBs with Word and WordToEPUB, but you can do a lot more than the simple click-through mode. This session will demonstrate the latest version of the tool, introduce you to the newest features, and give a taste of what is coming soon.

Date

December 9th, 2020 at 16.00 UTC

Venue

Online via Zoom

Learn More

To register for this webinar and find out more information please visit the registration page.