The annual Readmagine conference included this year the third iteration of the Accessibility Camp in Madrid, organized by The LIA Foundation. The Camp gathered accessible publishing experts from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, U.K., Greece, Sweden and Finland, giving delegates the chance to talk about the future of accessibility throughout the book supply chain.
As the European Accessibility Act will be upon us in just two years, the book industry needs to take many steps forward to accelerate on several fronts. Collaboration at national and international level therefore represents one of the key ways to build an accessible publishing ecosystem.
The exchange of knowledge, insights, and best practice regarding accessible digital publishing led to a highly interative event where the primary objectives were to foster stronger relationships among attendees and to collectively reflect on the areas that require further attention and improvement.
LIA Assistive Technology expert Antonino Cotroneo‘s expertise was instrumental in demonstrating the concept of an accessible reading experience, which set the tone for the start of the Camp. He showed that it is possible today to choose from commercial catalogs of ebooks, even if the display of accessibility metadata is not available yet in mainstream channels.
After a keynote speech delivered by Cristina Mussinelli, Fondazione LIA Secretary General, about what’s going to happen in the accessibility world, the event featured two round tables:
- European publishers and the roadmap towards accessibility
- Towards an accessible digital publishing ecosystem
and three working groups:
- How to kick-start your accessibility roadmap
- How to assure the quality of your production and distribution flows
- What’s the cost of accessibility?
giving participants the opportunity to discuss these specific topics.
The following are the main insights derived from the numerous conversations that took place during the day.
With the growing relevance of accessibility in publishing strategies, there remains significant work to be done in terms of raising awareness, particularly in countries that are still lagging behind. For every area of the company to contribute effectively, including: editorial and technical departments, authors, customer care, communication team and vendors, it is essential the management is fully supportive and actively involved.
As the number of accessible publications in Europe increases daily, accessibility needs to become more mainstream and not only addressed by just a niche group of organizations. For example, Italy can already count on +30,000 Born accessible ebooks for which LIA has provided title by title quality control. Also, the provision of accessibility metadata done by LIA provides consistent accessibility information to the whole supply chain: from publishers to the books in print catalogue to retailers and users. Silo-mentality doesn’t pay off, an accessible publishing ecosystem does.
A Paradigm Shift
New forms of collaboration within the publishing supply chain have been key to bringing accessibility to the next level eg. the Accessibility Taskforce led by the Börsenverein. In these new scenarios, the shift begins in the mindset of the stakeholders now aware of accessibility needs and requirements. Stakeholders include employees in the publishing supply chain, specialist organisations and print impaired end users. In recent times many players embraced accessibility but often with scattered efforts or by duplicating initiatives.
Standards Are There
What about the tools? The EPUB format (alongside ONIX and Schema.org for metadata) is in line with the requirements of the European Accessibility Act. What about the tool to produce it? Adobe InDesign, the world’s most widely used authoring software, does not currently fully support the native production of accessible contents in EPUB, the best format for accessibility requirements and so some post-production works still needs to be done and other tools are not easy to integrate in the traditional production workflows.
Many publishers do not have structured workflows for creating born accessible digital publications: this does not only affect the accessibility of publishing products, but the process of producing ebooks themselves; implementing workflows for accessibility will bring benefits to ebook production overall, making the work smoother and of higher quality.
Image description is one of the most impactful challenges for producing accessible digital publications and a job that requires specific skills, time and additional costs. Involving authors, through awareness-raising initiatives, training and by starting to add this task into contracts, proved to be a good solution to publishers already working in this area, as presented by Stacy Scott, Head of Accessibility at Taylor & Francis.
The Back List and Possible Solutions For Remediation
Many publishers may want to make their catalog of digital publications created in the past decade available in an accessible format; this activity is challenging, so LIA with EDRLab and KB is working on a European project (ABE Lab) to analyze the best tools to simplify this transition from older, non-accessible formats to EPUB 3, fully in line with accessibility guidelines.
Display of Accessibility Metadata
This was one of the most discussed topics of the day. The EAA requires that users are informed about the accessibility features of an ebook before purchasing or borrowing. Therefore, all online stores will have to start displaying accessibility metadata to highlight the work done by publishers (think the 30k+ certified by LIA, with accessibility metadata). Libraries can play their part too. How should this metadata be shown to end users? Within the W3C, LIA is developing – as co-editor – guidelines on how to present accessibility metadata to end-users. A new version of the document we’ll be published by the end of the 2023.
The Cost of Accessibility
This discussion focused on two main topics:
- the costs related with the backlist remediation
- how to apply the concept of the disproportionated burden foreseen in Annex VI of the EEA to the publishing industry
Both issues have been generating intense debates and discussions in publishers’ associations as well as in publishing houses. We explored various angles, considering the implications and consequences that would arise from different approaches together with potential solutions. This set the stage but further exploration is required.
What’s Going to Happen in the Accessibility World?
Books with complex layout, STEM, Artificial Intelligence, educational platforms, just to name few next areas to delve into. Looking forward to the next Accessibility Camp!
This article was kindly submitted by Elisa Molinari, The LIA Foundation.