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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – the AAG Accessibility Seminar at the London Book Fair

This event report was kindly submitted by Alistair McNaught, Accessibility Inclusion Specialist at JISC and one of the presenters at the AAG Seminar this year.

logo for the london book fair 2018

This year’s accessibility seminar felt ‘all grown up’ as if a milestone had somehow been passed. There were, in fact, two major milestones – the 10th anniversary of the Publishers Association Accessibility Action Group was one. The 150th anniversary of the RNIB was – appropriately – the other.

But the sense of maturity was more than a sense of age; it was also a sense of accomplishment. The Accessibility seminar has consistently fielded a great line-up of topics. Usually, there’s an element of aspiration, a sense of what the future could look like or signposts pointing towards it. This year’s topics went further. They were all about now; the tools you can use now, the publishers who are now prioritising accessibility and the information universities and colleges need now to help inform their support for disabled students.

Emma House, Deputy Chief Executive of Publishers Association and long-time coordinator of the Accessibility Action Group, introduced and chaired the session.

 

Richard orme, CEO DAISY Consortium, delivering his presentation at the podium

Richard Orme (CEO of the DAISY Consortium) introduced the new ACE by DAISY tool. Whilst EPUB 3.1 – the latest version of the EPUB standard – is the most accessible format yet it “has enough flexibility that it’s still possible to inadvertently create inaccessible content”. The ACE by DAISY checker examines a file and reports on WCAG accessibility issues, metadata (especially the accessibility metadata), outline structure, image descriptions etc., and creates a report on the file’s accessibility, complete with contextualised links to a knowledge base. A complementary tool – SMART, the ‘Simple Manual Accessibility Reporting Tool’ takes the outputs from ACE and configures a test plan for manual review. Finally, a Reading Systems evaluation protocol has been developed to check the accessibility of the reading system your file might end up being delivered through. This allows publishers to make recommendations for readers about the tools to use (or maybe the ones to avoid). Finally, Richard reminded the audience of the Inclusive Publishing website – a hub for advice and guidance on best practice for accessible content. So, with a highly accessible file format (EPUB 3.1), free tools to audit your content, a tool to evaluate the platform destinations and a knowledge hub… the barriers to being an accessible publisher are lower than ever.


Alistair McNaught
, one of Jisc’s accessibility and inclusion specialists, launched the ASPIRE project, a collaboration between publishers, aggregators and university libraries to provide plain English information on the accessibility features of e-book files and delivery platforms. The project provides the publishing industry with two months advance notice of a crowd-sourced audit of publisher and aggregator accessibility statements. If you don’t know what disabled customers need to look for the ASPIRE website will give you an excellent overview. If you do know, it helps focus your efforts on making the information available in an easily discovered way. The thrust of Alistair’s session was that “even if your accessibility isn’t great, knowing what does and doesn’t work allows disability support staff triage problems and prioritise solutions.” Alistair, a lactose-intolerant vegetarian, claimed that it is “easier to find out whether a £1.99 pie is suitable for my dietary needs than it is to find out if an ebook collection, costing thousands, is suitable for a dyslexic’s study needs”. The ASPIRE project should help the industry to make such inequality a thing of the past.

 

Luc Audrain (Head of Digitalisation, Hachette Livre) is not just an ‘early adopter’ but potentially the very first to incorporate the ACE by DAISY tool into a mainstream publisher workflow. This achievement earned Hachette an Inclusive Publishing award two days earlier. Luc started by identifying a spectrum of publication types depending on their semantic structure and whether they are driven primarily by content or layout. Plotting these on a scattergraph proved a fascinating way of identifying a range of accessibility opportunities and challenges.

Scatter graph of publishing types plotted by semantic structure and layout versus content. Accessibility is easier to achieve in content driven rather than layout driven texts.

Hachette’s work involved adapting their current workflows for fiction books to create “born accessible” EPUB 3. For this category of books, Hachette defined a specific profile of EPUB 3 they called “EPUB 3 Text”. The choice of EPUB 3 format was down to several factors including, a better user experience, better typographic layouts, better accessibility, a modern web technology with full market support. In 2016 Hachette tweaked their existing workflows so that the page layout XML fed an EPUB 3 work stream with epubcheck validation, and at the beginning of 2018, they have added accessibility validation using ACE by DAISY.

 

Close up of Huw Alexander, SAGE, delivering his presentationHuw Alexander, (Digital Sales Manager, SAGE) hosted the final session on “failing better”, encouraging the industry to create a culture of responsiveness and experimentation. He stressed the importance of management buy-in, not least in order to bring coherence to the processes so that everybody knows the part they play. SAGE has an excellent reputation for customer service, aiming at 24-hour turnaround but this level of responsiveness needs planning. SAGE has an accessibility working group within the company to help coordinate the vision of making content that works for everyone. This includes focusing on the user experience and moving mindsets from a niche customer service to a mainstream approach. Huw’s takeaway points included

  • have a long-term view, a pipeline for improvement,
  • acknowledge that some things are harder to do than others. You might fail to sort some issues, but make a point at succeeding at others,
  • don’t be afraid of small steps, enough small steps lead to a big change for the user.
  • Don’t be lonely. Learn from others, network and seek help. Stand on the shoulders of giants.

Emma House wrapped up the session and reminded us that it was the RNIB’s 150th anniversary and the Accessibility Action Group’s 10th anniversary.

The journey has not yet ended.
But we’ve made a good start.

Aspire Project to Launch at London Book Fair Accessibility Seminar

Among several of the strategies for success that will be examined at the annual Accessibility Action Group Seminar at London Book Fair this year, delegates will have the benefit of hearing from Alistair McNaught on the launch of the Aspire Project – a project that will give guidance on and eventually assess accessibility statements made by publishing companies and platform providers.

Aspire stands for: Accessibility Statements Promoting Improved Reading Experiences

By clarifying the benefits (and the barriers) in your accessibility statement organisations will:

  • help customers/readers make best use of the potential accessibility features,
  • reduce customers/reader frustration in trying to do access a functionality that you already know isn’t feasible.
  • help distinguish your product from competitors who provide no information.
  • identify future priorities for your product roadmap.

We very much look forward to the first results of this project and improvements in accessibility statements for all participants.

Further details regarding the project can be found at the Aspire website.

Ebookcraft – An Excellent Adventure Indeed!

Group of signs for various locations at the conferenceThis blog piece was kindly written by Romain Deltour, lead software developer for the recently released EPUB accessibility checking tool Ace by DAISY. Romain delivered a workshop at ebookcraft entitled: Is Your EPUB Accessible: Put it to the Test. This image is one of Romain’s slides used during his workshop.

Last month, on March 21 and 22, while the lovely Toronto was still hesitating between staying firmly in winter or boldly entering spring, I attended ebookcraft, a two-day conference on ebook production. I have followed previous ebookcraft conferences remotely via twitter, and been told several times by friends and colleagues that this event was an amazing experience, so when I was invited to speak about accessibility testing on the workshop day, I was thrilled. And well, ebookcraft didn’t disappoint. It was a fantastic conference.

From the inclusivity guidelines in the speakers’ guide, to the pronoun stickers attendees could put on their badges, you knew that the awesome Lauren Stewart and the BookNet Canada team were serious about organizing an inclusive event. This welcoming atmosphere no doubt helped the attendees and speakers to feel at home and made us enjoy, all the more, the very interesting presentations, round-tables, and corridor discussions. Among the various topics in these exchanges, accessibility was perhaps the most often cited subject. I was very happy, in particular, that the leading efforts of the DAISY Consortium to help make digital publications accessible to everyone were unanimously acknowledged. Despite the technical challenges, the enthusiasm of ebook developers and publishers to make born-accessible publications was tangible. Ebookcraft was all about learning and sharing; when it comes to inclusivity and making information truly accessible to everyone, this feels very heartwarming.

There have been a number of excellent event reports written since the conference and we have listed those that we have found here below. Booknet Canada has already provided access to the slides from the conference, once again increasing inclusion in this ground-breaking event.

Publishing @ W3C Goes to Ebookcraft

An excellent conference report written by Tzviya Siegman, Information Standards Lead at Wiley and Chair of the W3C Publishing Working Group

For many of us who work with ebooks, the highlight of our year is ebookcraft in Toronto…. Why do we love ebookcraft? It’s full of “practical tips and forward-thinking inspiration.” It’s impeccably organized, by the wizardly Lauren Stewart and her team. It’s warm and welcoming. There are cookies. More than half the speakers are women. It really is about making beautiful, accessible ebooks. Of course, that requires standards. The ebook world has suffered more than most, with interoperability being a dream rather than a reality.

Accessibility, Accessibility, Accessibility: A Recap of Ebookcraft 2018

Kris Tomes, author of this Lerner Blog piece, focuses on accessibility as one of the major themes of the conference

As more schools, libraries, and governments set a11y requirements, it is important to understand why a11y features matter and how to implement them in digital publishing.

That’s a Wrap on Tech Forum and ebookcraft 2018

A Booknet Canada blog piece by Kira Harkonen listing conference resources including slides, you tube videos of presentations, links to articles, a round up of conference tweets and information on next year’s event.

@Simon_Collinson’s conference tweet stood out in particular:

Steve Murgaski: ‘For a lot of blind people, books are really important. They’re one of the aspects of popular culture which are available to us without modification.’ Fascinating talk at #ebookcraft

Ebook Magiks

A blog piece for epubsecrets by Melissa deJesus, Associate Production Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

If we get it right, ebooks can combine with any technology, ereader or assistive technologies, to enshrine content not in dead tree sheets but in machine-readable, universally accessible, deathless code.

Booknet Canada and Rakuten Kobo Award 2018 – Ebook Coding Prize

This news piece by Porter Anderson, Editor in Chief of  Publishing Perspectives highlights the winner of the So You Think You Can Code competition held every year at ebookcraft. This year’s winner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Katy Mastrocola, used Ace by DAISY to check the accessibility of her entry.

Getting ‘aesthetically pleasing and accessible content’ out of what the judges gave her as a mashup of sci-fi and Lewis Carroll, Katy Mastrocola beats the competition.

Hats off to Laura Brady and the rest of the ebookcraft steering committee – we can’t wait till next year!

Fondazione LIA and the Italian Blind and Partially Sighted Union Join Forces

Logo for the LIA FoundationAfter many years of fruitful collaboration, Fondazione LIA – Libri Italiani Accessibili (Accessible Italian Books) and the Italian Blind and Partially Sighted Union have decided to strengthen their partnership with the UICI becoming an institutional participant of the Italian LIA Foundation which promotes book and reading through research on digital accessibility, awareness-raising events, training courses and consultancy activities.

This represents a further step forward for Fondazione LIA, which was started in 2011 as a project carried out by AIE, the trade association of Italian Publishers, and later became a Foundation in 2014. Since the beginning, LIA was conceived to increase access to publishing for the almost two million visually impaired people living in Italy. In fact, its main goal was to create a national catalogue of accessible e-books – an initiative made possible thanks to funding from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism for the development of the LIA digital platform. The catalogue has grown even since and today it features more than 20 thousand accessible digital e-books available on the website www.libriitalianiaccessibili.it, and more than 400 titles, mainly new ones,  are added every month.

LIA shows that if associations representing people with disabilities, publishers and institutions work together, actions and results can be much more effective. Technologies today offer opportunities that were unthinkable to us even a few years ago. It would be a shame not to catch them.

For full details of this important announcement read the recent edition of the DAISY Planet Newsletter published on April 4th 2018.

Diversify Your Editorial Offerings: All About Ebooks for Editors

September 26th, 2018

Kevin Callahan of BNGO Books (www.BNGObooks.com) is an ebook developer, writer and speaker based in New York City. He will be presenting 4 one hour sessions on ebooks for editors with a specific focus on accessibility via The Editorial Freelancer Association . Full information can be found at the EFA website including details on how to register. The first session is on September 26th, 2018

The Editor’s Place in Ebook Development – Webinar Series

July 16th to 19th, 2018

Kevin Callahan of BNGO Books (www.BNGObooks.com) is an ebook developer, writer and speaker based in New York City. He will be presenting 4 one hour sessions on accessible ebooks via Editors Canada and accessibility will be a feature during all of the modules. Full information can be found at the Editor’s Canada website including details on how to register.

Making Accessible Ebooks Webinar

April 25th, 2018

Kevin Callahan of BNGO Books (www.BNGObooks.com) is an ebook developer, writer and speaker based in New York City. He will be presenting this webinar on creating accessible ebooks via The Editorial Freelancer Association.

This webinar will address:

  • laws governing ebook accessibility
  • editorial influence on book structure
  • the nitty-gritty of grammar and language choices (an italic word is not always italic!)
  • the editor’s role in art selection, captions, and descriptive text
  • how not to use colour to signify meaning
  • how to build robust ebook navigation: there’s more than one table of contents

Full information can be found at the EFA website including details on how to register.

All About Ebooks – 4 Week Webinar Series

April 19th, 2018
Kevin Callahan of BNGO Books (www.BNGObooks.com) is an ebook developer, writer and speaker based in New York City. He will be presenting 4 one hour sessions on accessible ebooks via The Editorial Freelancer Association. Full information can be found at the EFA website including details on how to register. The first session is on April 19th, 2018

Inspiring Words from Industry Leaders: Interview with Bradley Metrock, Digital Book World

Bradley Metrok, CEO of Score Publishing and producer of the Digital Book World conference. Bradley is the subject of this interviewInclusive Publishing has embarked on a series of interviews with industry leaders and their approach to accessibility. Bradley Metrock CEO of Score Publishing and Producer of Digital Book World , is committed to helping people become better interactive content creators – accessibility is at the heart of this.

It’s great that we’re collectively prioritizing accessibility in the way that we are.

Why is inclusive publishing important to your organization?

Digital Book World exists to bring together the wide world of publishing – we can’t accomplish that without understanding inclusive publishing and integrating as much of the great work going on to make content more accessible into the Digital Book World program as we can.

Why is it crucial for DBW to be so closely aligned with accessibility best practices?

Digital Book World lost relevance in the last couple of years for a variety of reasons. To restore the conference to “The Super Bowl of Publishing”, as one outlet called it, we need everyone represented. We can’t do that without accessibility being a big part of the equation.

What do you think will be the biggest game-changer for inclusive publishing in the next few years? 

Voice technology, more properly referred to as “voice-first-technology,” such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and many others, is the next frontier for accessibility in publishing. Voice assistants, and even primitive AIs, will be able to make content accessible for entire swathes of new people in ways we haven’t even thought about. But that future is very nearly here.

What do you wish you knew about accessibility 5 or 10 years ago? 

My first exposure to the importance of accessibility came when my grandmother’s vision worsened and she couldn’t read anything except large print books, which at that time were harder to find that they should’ve been. We always bought her large print books for birthdays or Christmas and she read them all. I think back to her when I see new technologies emerging that open up reading to more and more people who need assistance. It’s great that we’re collectively prioritizing accessibility in the way that we are.

Can you sum up your attitude towards inclusive publishing in one sentence?

I can sum it up in one word: essential

How would the Digital Book World accessibility awards help the shape the goals of accessible publishing?

The DBW Awards will honour worldwide achievement in publishing, including those people, books and companies doing market-leading work in accessibility. These awards will help reinforce the important idea that accessibility should be understood, celebrated and pursued. We’re excited about them.

Do you have any final thoughts on accessibility or inclusive publishing practices you would like to share? 

We’re fortunate that groups like the DAISY Consortium exist. We need groups that help galvanize understanding of accessibility best practices. We appreciate their work and are honoured to partner them at Digital Book World.

Full details regarding Digital Book World 2018 are available on our events page. Inclusive Publishing readers have been offered a 25% discount on their conference passes with the code DAISYDBW2018

Logo for the Digital Book World conference

Accessible Publishing Webinar: What You Need to Know to Get Accessibility Right

April 4th, 2018

Most publishers now realize how important it is to make their publications accessible. The question is no longer the “why,” but the “how.” This webinar, organized by Apex Covantage, is designed to show you how. Join Bill Kasdorf, noted authority on accessibility and publishing workflows, for practical advice that will get you on the right track to making your publications “born accessible.”

Date

April 4, 2018 at 2pm ET

Venue

Online

Learn More

Information is available at the Apex Covantage website including details on how to register for this free event