The European Accessibility Act has galvanized many European countries and The DAISY Consortium has been pleased to take part in many interesting and collaborative conversations with partners, members and interested parties.
Each country has their own story and their own unique set of experiences in approach to the EAA and we are attempting to capture some of these in our new series of case-studies. The more we can share and learn from each other, the better prepared we hope everyone will be.
This case study looks at the work undertaken in Lithuania where we spoke with Inga Davidoniene from The Lithuanian Library for the Blind (LLB). Founded in 1966, LLB’s purpose is to “meet the informational and cultural needs of people who are not able to read regular printed text”. LLB is the largest producer of content in accessible formats (braille, audio, DAISY) in the country. With this in mind, LLB has 4 major focus areas:
- To produce publications in traditional accessible formats and to experiment with new formats and ways to meet users’ needs and to meet the requirements of European legislation
- To foster cooperation with publishing organisations in Lithuania
- To increase awareness on inclusive publishing
- To bridge the gap between publishers and readers with specific needs
Preparation for the European Accessibility Act neatly falls into all four of these work areas!
The digital publishing market in Lithuania is fairly small, with 200 publishers producing approximately 500 ebooks per year, either in EPUB or PDF. Up to this point, consideration of the accessibility features available in both formats has not been high on publishers’ priority lists and there is a noticeable lack of awareness in the market. Accessibility is a new topic for publishers here and LLB has been actively trying to show the industry that accessible books are good for business, demonstrating how they can connect with a new audience. More than half a million people in Lithuania are not able to read printed books. It’s very important for publishers identify this audience and for people with special needs to receive the books in the format they need. LLB acts as bridge between these two groups. This approach is working very well and at a recent mainstream event it was noted:
Our Future is Accessibility
This was a major milestone for Inga and her team.
Industry and International Collaboration to Increase Awareness
Implementation of the EAA in Lithuania is the responsibility of The Ministry of Social Security and Labour and a draft of the new domestic accessibility legislation is expected soon. The ministry set up a working group aiming to transpose the EEA into national law and it includes representatives from other ministries together with delegates from public and private institutions. LLB is a member of this working group and participates in all activities and discussions about accessibility.
As yet, there are no firm implementation plans for the EAA but the forum is working towards this goal and are at the early stages. Ministry funding is expected to be made available this year in order to develop this formal approach.
In addition to this, in 2021 LLB invited publishers, disability organizations and delegates from the ministries of Culture, Education, Science and Sport and Social Security and Labour to talk about accessible text-books. By bringing together so many stakeholders it was possible to concentrate on how the EAA will affect the publishing industry in Lithuania, particularly considering that from 2024 all Lithuanian schools will be obliged to admit all students with individual needs.
LLB also promotes international collaboration and knowledge exchange in this field. In 2003, Lithuania joined the Federation of European Publishers and a close collaboration with FEP has allowed further European connections to develop. Working together with the LIA Foundation in Italy, for example, has enabled the Lithuanian market to build on their need for guidance and training with the LIA guidance being translated at the end of 2021.
Raising Awareness via Events
Raising awareness via industry events has been a key part of the EAA implementation strategy in Lithuania and LLB works closely with the Lithuanian Publishers Association to set these up. In 2020 the online seminar “What do you need to know about the European Accessibility Act” included representatives from FEP and LIA and this event kick-started future gatherings in Lithuania.
The Lithuanian Publishers Forum, held in 2021 discussed the topic “Books For All” and, as a result, publishers are now inviting Inga and her colleagues to speak at industry and in-house events which has been crucial for awareness building and EAA preparation.
During Book Week 2022, Inga chaired a panel discussion entitled “What do those who read differently read?” A discussion with readers about various book formats explored the need for accessible content and received much attention during this high profile week.
The Personal Touch
Publishers are beginning to take notice and to understand the importance of accessible content. Inga remarked that individual discussions with publishers are the most effective way to convey the accessibility message and to introduce colleagues to their virtual library service “ELVIS” which carries the possibility of attracting new audiences. ELVIS is one of the most important products created by LLB, allowing people with reading disabilities to look for and access their desired accessible publications at home. This service is adapted to the needs of visually impaired users – the system has a simple user interface, the possibility to change the print size, colours of the text and screen background. Currently 14,400 accessible book titles are available on ELVIS. Books are available in different formats including: audio, DAISY, accessible PDF and digital braille. Users can read/listen to books by streaming them online or downloading to their devices. Until recently, only publications created by LLB were available on ELVIS but, since 2022, the virtual library also makes available ebooks and audio books acquired from publishers.
Top Tips for Other Publishers on Their Accessibility Journey
- Be stubborn and stick with it! This process is slow and it’s important to take small steps to achieve your goal.
- Understand how international colleagues are progressing and learn from them.
Our thanks to Inga for her collaboration on this case-study. If you are interested in the work being done by LLB in this area or would be interested in taking part in a similar case-study please contact us for further information. The other case-studies in this series are available on our EAA Resources page.
- The Lithuanian Library for the Blind
- Lithuanian Publishers Association
- What do you need to know about the European Accessibility Act – Seminar for Publishers
- What do those who read differently read? – 2022 panel discussion includes a recording of the event: