Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Celebrates GAAD with Demonstrations for In-House Teams

This news post was kindly submitted by Katy Mastrocola from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#GAAD), the Trade Digital Managing Editorial team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Boston office held an open accessibility hour to demonstrate how iPads read ebooks using the VoiceOver feature. HMH’s Trade employees enjoyed hearing popular HMH titles such as Kwame Alexander’s Rebound read in various accents (Moira’s Irish accent and Daniel’s British accent were quite lovely) and asking questions about how the technology is used. Many were surprised to find that VoiceOver is available for free on all iOS devices!

The demonstration was not only a valuable learning experience for members of Trade curious about assistive technology and its role in publishing, but also for the ebook developers hearing their work on screen readers for the first time. Production Editor Kristin Brodeur got the full experience when her screen went completely dark and she had to figure out how to use the screen reader to change her settings. It was frustrating, but “gave [her] a better sense of what it’s like” to rely solely on a screen reader for navigation. It was also nice to share stories with co-workers about using assistive technology. Production Associate Allie Rottman pointed out that screen readers not only help those who are blind, but people with various other disabilities, temporary conditions, and recurring issues such as migraines. “Some readers will want [the content] read to [them] and then go back to reading traditionally” depending on the situation, she explained. Overall, the hour sparked conversations about providing alt-text for images, how various forms of emphasis and pauses are read (or not), and other forms of accessibility available in ebooks, such as the OpenDyslexic font. It will definitely not be Digital Managing Editorial’s last initiative to make HMH more #a11y friendly!

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