This article was written for Inclusive Publishing by Luc Maumet, a consultant in accessible reading for print impaired persons. He was in charge for 15 years of the main library for the blind in France. He focuses today on digital solutions and born accessible content for all print impaired persons. For EDRLab Luc explores the impact the EPUB ecosystem may have on dyslexic person’s access to reading.
October was Dyslexia awareness month and many events were organized to spread information on the subject and to promote solutions and good practices. The French Federation of Dyslexia Associations, FFDYS, chose October the 14th to welcome professionals, parents, publishers and dyslexic persons for it’s annual “Dyslexia Day”. Taking place in the renowned University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, the event attracted a large crowd of visitors.
The program was a mix of conference and technical presentation opening with a welcome video from the French Minister in charge of disabled persons, Sophie Cluzel, – a mark of the French government’s interest in and commitment to this issue .
I attended the event of behalf of EDRLab in order to gather more information on the impact of the EPUB ecosystem on reading accessibility for dyslexic people. EDRLab has begun to map the digital solutions already available in the market place including both reading apps and adapted ebooks.
EDRLab goals, by mapping the diversity of these existing solutions, are :
- to lead to a better understanding of the actors, and their work in this specific field, in relation with EPUB.
- to address their needs by a standardisation of EPUB enhancements for dyslexic people.
- to develop reading solutions supporting these enhancements.
- potentially, to help with the development of back-office tools for producing such enhanced content .
The FFDYS event was one of those days when you wish you could clone yourself in order to speak to more people and attend more workshops at the same time! Among the diversity of solutions presented, some were of particular interest from an inclusive publishing perspective :
L’arbradys, the recently created publishing house for dys children, is publishing a weekly newspaper. The text is specifically produced in-house with two different versions : one for children and one for teenagers. Two different accessibility settings are available : one for dyslexia, one for dyspraxia. These newspapers are available on paper and in EPUB. The most recent editions dealt with subjects such as “Wild life”, “Street art” or “The Olympic games in Paris 2024”.
Castlemore, a French children’s publisher, is producing some of its titles with specific settings for dyslexic kids which include features such as:
- Specific quality of paper
- Dyslexia font
- Larger font
- Shorter phrases
- Work on line breaks etc…
All Castlemore books are also available in EPUB without DRM, allowing many other possibilities for dyslexic kids. Bragelonne, Castlemore’s mother house, is an EDRLab member.
Readspeaker textaid “helps teachers and institutions face accessibility challenges with it’s read-aloud reading, writing, and studying tool, helping those with learning disabilities become confident, autonomous learners.” The reader has specific functions to ease access to text for dyslexic people including :
- Text to speech
- Line spacing
- Page masking tool to help focus the attention
- Reading ruler for reading line by line
Readspeaker Textaid can handle EPUB.
Livres-Accès is a website that gathers information on accessible books for dyslexic or otherwise print disabled children. It’s catalog contains printed books as well as ebooks, and several of them are distributed in EPUB. Livres-Accès was a bookstore but it is now evolving toward consulting and training activities.
ADELE Team is a university software project with the ambition of creating new solutions in the digital reading field for dyslexic people. The University Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis researchers work in coordination with the French dyslexia expert Laëtitia Branciard. Dyslexic children have been assisting with the project by supplying their own writings in order to test the system.
Disney Company : in the collection “Les mots sont à toi”, Disney presents ebooks in EPUB with specific functions for dyslexic readers. These include:
- Choice of fonts and their size
- Space between letters
- Colorization of syllables
- Alternating lines
These are just a few examples of the vitality of the digital publishing ecosystem for dyslexic persons, as seen at the 11th French National Dyslexia Day organized by FFDYS. We are seeing very specialized solutions converging with mainstream tools and contents. EPUB as an ecosystem with EPUB documents (born accessible or with specific enhancements) and EPUB readers can play a historic role in easing access to reading for dyslexic persons.
EDRLab’s mapping of EPUB solutions for dyslexia is at an early stage : the French solutions are on the map (or at least a large majority of them). and wee now need feedback from other European countries. If you happen to know a publisher with specific involvement in this field or if you yourself are promoting a reader for it’s qualities for dyslexic users, please contact us and we will add them to the EPUB and dyslexia map. In this era of such active innovations we strongly believe information exchange is key to our goal : “ to make publications accessible to all, including people with print disabilities.”
For more information on this topic please see Luc’s article entitled Accessibility in reading systems: what about dyslexia? published on the EDRLab website in June 2017.