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Accessible Books Consortium Celebrates 100th Signatory to ABC’s Charter for Accessible Publishing

Fountain pen with ink drippingHachette Livre has become the 100th signatory of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) Charter, marking an important milestone for the WIPO-sponsored alliance working to increase the number of books in accessible formats for use by hundreds of millions of people around the globe who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled.

By signing ABC’s Charter for Accessible Publishing publishers commit to making its products fully accessible to all users. Specifically the charter asks publishers to:

  1. state their accessibility policy on their web-site
  2. nominate a senior manager who will be responsible for accessibility
  3. raise awareness among, and provide technical training for, relevant staff
  4. designate and publicise a point of contact in their organization to assist persons with print disabilities to access their publications
  5. test their digital publications for accessibility, incorporating appropriate feature descriptions and metadata
  6. monitor their progress in this area
  7. promote the adoption of accessibility standards throughout the supply chain
  8. support national and international collaboration with organizations representing persons with print disabilities so as to increase the availability of publications in accessible formats

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry welcomed the development, saying: “We are pleased to see a growing number of key industry players signing the Charter for Accessible Publishing. This advances our global efforts to increase the number of books available for use by people with print disabilities.” He added: “Hachette Livre is a world-leading publisher and its membership will make a big difference in making accessible format books available to blind and visually impaired persons.”

Hachette Livre Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Arnaud Nourry said “For the book industry, making books accessible to the widest readership, including readers who are blind, visually impaired, or print disabled, not only makes economic sense, but is a moral imperative. If we, publishers, do not pioneer this duty on an industrial level, who will?”

Accessibility Camp

October 25th, 2019

The Accessibility Camp is a one day event organized by the LIA Foundation. Participants will meet with national and international digital accessibility experts to share knowledge, insights and good practice, aiming to establish relationships that lead to the design and implementation of innovative and shared projects and to provide solutions for people with visual impairments.

The first part of the day will be dedicated to keynote speeches by national and international experts, including DAISY’s COO Avneesh Singh. This portion of the day will set the stage and present the dynamics at a global level. During the second part of the day, thematic working groups will be organized with everyone playing an active role. The working groups will cover:

  • Accessible Math in production workflows
  • Reading solutions: platforms and reading experiences
  • Discoverability: user requirements
  • Image description: how to produce them in an efficient and sustainable way

Date

October 25, 2019

Venue

Milan, Italy

Learn More

Visit the Accessibility Camp web page to see the full schedule.

Accessing Higher Ground 2019

November 18th to 22nd, 2019

This 5 day conference, presented and hosted by AHEAD focuses on the implementation and benefits of:

  • Accessible media, Universal Design and Assistive Technology in the university, business and public setting;
  • Legal and policy issues, including ADA and 508 compliance;
  • The creation of accessible media and information resources, including Web pages and library resources.
  • Universal Design and curriculum accessibility.
  • best practices for web design, reaching untapped audiences through accessible design, and compliance with existing and anticipated Section 508 and ADA stipulations.

Date

November 18-22, 2019

Venue

Westin Westminster, Colorado, U.S.A.

Learn More

For further information on this excellent program and how to register visit the Accessing Higher  Ground website

EBooks for All: Towards an Accessible Publishing Ecosystem

Front cover image of the new whitepaper from LIAEBooks for All: A New Whitepaper Publication from The LIA Foundation in Italy

New legislative framework, the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty and the recently approved European Directive on the accessibility requirements for products and services (European Accessibility Act), invites the entire digital publishing industry to become accessible to people with disabilities.  The standards used to create, distribute and describe accessible content to end users are available and it seems the right time to start discussing on how to implement an Accessible Digital Publishing Ecosystem.

This whitepaper aims to be an agile manual, providing an overview of the different areas of focus for everyone in the book supply chain: content producers, aggregators and digital distributors, Books in Print Catalogues, online bookstores and platforms, developers of reading solutions. It identifies the role each person should play in the accessible ecosystem, describes the critical elements to be considered and provides the relevant references to the international standard accessibility specifications or guidelines to be followed.

The paper consists of 3 chapters including:

  • The new legislative framework
  • An accessible digital publishing ecosystem
  • Metadata standards for accessibility
  • And more!

To access this new publication please visit: https://www.fondazionelia.org/en/e-books-all-towards-accessible-publishing-ecosystem

Inclusive Design 24

October 10th, 2019

Inclusive Design 24 (#id24) is a free 24-hour online event for the global community. It celebrates inclusive design and shares knowledge and ideas from analogue to digital, from design to development, from planners to practitioners, and everything and everyone in between.

Date

October 10, 2019

Venue

Online

Learn More

For registration and program details: https://inclusivedesign24.org/2019/

4 Strong Finalists Revealed for DAISY Award at DBW

The shortlisted finalists for the DAISY Award for Accessibility at Digital Book World 2019 have been announced. The winner from this impressive list of contenders will be announced at the DBW Awards Dinner on Tuesday September 10th. The 4 finalists in this category are:

  • Macmillan US
  • VitalSource
  • Hachette Livre
  • Kogan Page

Congratulations to all finalists and our thanks to everyone who submitted nominations for this award. We are excited to hear who our winner is!!

Inclusive Publishing readers can still register for DBW with a 20% discount using the code DAISY. Make sure you don’t miss out on the stellar program which includes Dave Gunn’s (DAISY) presentation “Challenges and Success Stories in Accessible Publishing”.

 

Cressida Cowell, Children’s Laureate, Creates Charter for Reading

Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train your Dragon series,  has been elected as Children’s Laureate in the U.K. Speaking to an audience at the Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London, Cressida said that she had “two super-simple key messages” as laureate:

Books and reading are magic.

This magic must be made urgently available to absolutely everyone.

Our congratulations to this outstanding author on her appointment and for immediately focusing on the reading needs of everyone. To accompany this exciting news she has published a reading charter, again emphasizing inclusivity and accessibility.

Cressida Cowells Laureate Charter

Inclusive Publishing Hearts and Minds at the Digital Publishing Summit

DPUB logoThe 2019 edition of the Digital Publishing Summit took place in Paris (France) on June 25-26. This increasingly popular two-day conference—now in its fourth iteration—is organised by the not-for-profit organization EDRLab (European Digital Reading Lab). The conference began in 2016 in the town of Bordeaux (France), then moved to Brussels (Belgium), followed by Berlin (Germany).

This year’s opus was hosted by the National Library of France, in the capital city where EDRLab’s headquarters are located and has, yet again, been a showcase of some of the most exciting developments in the industry. The two conference days were packed with in-depth presentations as well as entertaining insights on the many facets of the publishing ecosystem. Business managers and technical experts shared their experiences, and reflected on the challenges and opportunities that have marked the year.

The extensive program covered a broad spectrum of topics, including:

  • The essential role of technical open standards—the EPUB specifications, the W3C web platform, and the global collaboration to normalize digital sequential art / visual narratives (comic books, manga)
  • The strategic significance of open source software—EPUBCheck and the Ace by DAISY Accessibility Checker
  • Innovative research and development projects coming to fruition and the growing adoption of Readium architecture in commercial-grade solutions
  • User-friendly Digital Rights Management gaining traction in the library context—Readium LCP (Licensed Content Protection)
  • The emergence of bleeding-edge software solutions and services, automated production processes powered by machine learning principles
  • Changing consumer habits and evolving business models including  the remarkable expansion of the audio-books market
  • Legal directives and legislative frameworks, ensuring inclusive access to all published content—the European Accessibility Act and the ongoing ratification and implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty

This short article only touches the surface of some of these topics, so make sure you explore the YouTube video recordings of the conference talks.

Daniel Weck presenting at DPUB with a power point slide containing the Thorium logo

Image supplied by Luc Audrain, Hachette Livre

I personally made a presentation about Thorium, an open-source desktop application based on the Readium architecture. Thorium is a reading system developed by EDRLab, which aims to support EPUB (reflowable and fixed layout), the LCP DRM, OPDS catalogs, TTS read aloud, accessible annotations, and many other essential features. I talked about usability, as well as the technical challenges faced when implementing accessibility techniques (e.g. keyboard navigation, screen reader support, customizable text formatting, adaptable user interface, etc.). Aferdita Muriqi (EDRLab) showcased the Readium mobile apps, with the notable addition of support for audio books. Naturally, accessibility is also high on the priority list of the Android and iOS projects.

Over the past few years, the digital publishing industry has demonstrated a passionate drive to create systems with inclusive design in mind, impacting not only the reading experience end of the supply chain, but throughout the entire ecosystem—authoring tools, production practices, validation utilities, delivery and discovery systems, and of course technical standards and publication formats.

Ken Jones' first slide at the #dpubsummit a11y=accessibility

In the first slide of his presentation, Ken Jones (Circular Software) showed how the word accessibility contracts to the term a11y. Ironically, Ken immediately went on to make live demonstrations of interactive, animated, all singing-and-dancing fixed layout EPUB publications, which usually rate low on the a11y-o-meter! However, Ken made the case that documents authored with Adobe’s InDesign—a tool typically geared towards visual typesetting and graphic-oriented creations—can indeed feature a clean navigation structure and linear reading order. Ken showed keyboard usage and gave an example of accessible text in typographically-rich layouts. He also explained how to label interactive controls so they are announced by screen readers as well as demonstrating EPUB Media Overlays read aloud— the playback of audio narration synchronized with highlighted text.

There is indeed a strong case to be made for optimized publications – as defined in the EPUB Accessibility specification, for example those that meet the particular needs of readers with dyslexia, using adapted typography, text formatting, colours,  and synchronized voice narration, etc.

However, fixed layout EPUBs have an intrinsic characteristic that makes them inherently less accessible than their reflowable counterparts: they are not authored with responsive design in mind. By definition, a fixed layout document is not meant to reflow depending on screen size and device orientation. At best, it can be scaled in or out, and panned across. Crucially, in the real world, many fixed layout publications are just mere exports from typesetting tools like InDesign, or straight conversions from PDF with little or no care for accessibility.

A case in point: Vincent Wartelle (ISICrunch) gave an entire presentation about using machine learning—more commonly referred-to as artificial intelligence—to reverse-engineer the navigation structure, linear reading order, and text flow from PDF files typically published in the education sector. In my opinion, although there are valid justifications for fixed layout EPUBs, I believe the first port of call for any modern digital creation should be a reflowable responsive design.

Thankfully, nowadays there are readily-available tools to help validate publications not only in terms of their correctness with respect to the EPUB specification (i.e. EPUBCheck), but also by asserting a number of well-defined accessibility criteria. As Romain Deltour (DAISY Consortium) demonstrated, the Ace by DAISY Accessibility checker verifies W3C WCAG rules as well as EPUB-specific ones. The report produced by Ace contains a list of categorized and prioritized issues, which content creators can use to identify problems and address them effectively (references to the DAISY Knowledge Base are provided).

@wendy_a_reid @kobo talks about audio books at #dpubsummitI anticipate that in some not-too-distant future, there will be similar validation/checking tools to help with the production of audio books. In her presentation, Wendy Reid (Kobo) walked us through the W3C audio books standardization effort, which includes a strong recognition of the need for a structured table of contents (not just a playlist of MP3 files!), accessible descriptions, as well as the potential of more advanced features like escapability and skippability (which are well-known concepts in DAISY Digital Talking Books)

Many of the presentations at the Digital Publishing Summit did not have a direct accessibility angle, which made them no less interesting. Julie Blanc (Labo Paragraph) talked about “page.js”, an HTML toolkit for print layout based on CSS stylesheets. Florian Dupas (Kwalia) presented the latest research and development in the field of digital comic books – sequential art / visual narrative – a collaborative effort that involves participants from several countries (notably Japan, where manga is a popular art form, and a vibrant market).

Conversely, a whole portion of the conference was dedicated to discussing inclusive access, head-on. Notably, Cristina Mussinelli (LIA Foundation) provided an overview of the Marrakesh Treaty and the European Accessibility Act. Avneesh Singh (DAISY Consortium) talked about the global accessibility specifications that are used to implement the legislative requirements.

To conclude, here is a quote from one of Avneesh Singh’s slides:

We are in the beginning of a revolution, we have a lifetime opportunity to achieve the era of born-accessible publications.
Let’s come along for a common worldwide standard for accessible publications

We certainly are. We certainly should.

Avneesh Singh talks about the "born accessible" publishing revolution.

This article was kindly submitted by software engineer, Daniel Weck, who works with the DAISY Consortium and EDRLab to implement accessible open source production tools and reading systems. Daniel also contributes to the standardization of web technologies and open publication formats, with a particular focus on inclusive publishing.

The History and Future of Audiobooks

Space Gray Iphone 6 and Red On-ear HeadphonesThis article was kindly submitted by Wendy Reid, Senior QA at Rakuten Kobo Inc and one of the co-chairs of the Publishing Working Group of the W3C. She is the editor of the audiobooks profile of Web Publications, the focus of this blog piece. Wendy recently presented on the new audiobook standard at the DPUB Summit in Paris.

When Thomas Edison recorded the first audiobook in 1877, he probably didn’t think of them as anything other than a way to sell more phonographs. In the 1930’s, when the Library of Congress and the AFB developed a program for talking books, audiobooks got their real start and reputation as a medium for reading accessibility. The talking books program was created to provide reading materials for wounded war veterans and people with visual disabilities, and the model would be recreated in other countries in the years that followed.

My first exposure to the world of audiobooks came in grade 10. My English teacher, a man well known for his coke-bottle glasses and sweater vests, popped a cassette tape into a player on his desk and played us a recording of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It was pretty good, certainly more interesting than reading the worn copy in my backpack or listening to my classmates stumble over Shakespeare’s peculiar use of English. However, it was a cassette in a time when I carried an iPod around in my school bag and feverishly downloaded MP3s from torrent sites. Audiobooks, though better than reading my school books, seemed antiquated. When I picked up an audiobook again at a summer data entry job, it was on a CD. I later discovered I could torrent them off music sites too, but my tiny 8gb iPhone 4s couldn’t handle more than one at a time, and I always seemed to lose track of my place.

Little did I know then that in a few years I would be working on audiobooks on the other side of the table. Instead of torrenting them I’d be working on an app to purchase, download, and listen to them all on my iPhone 6s. I would spend 6 months of my life listening almost exclusively to audiobooks, some I enjoyed, some I hated, many in languages I didn’t understand, all for the purpose of releasing a product. A product I inevitably use almost every week..

Last year the Publishing Working Group  at W3C started work on audiobooks. It had become apparent to us that there was a strong business need for standardization in the industry, especially as it was seeing a newfound popularity.

It would shock many people to know that audiobooks are produced without any sort of unifying specification at all.

Today, if a publisher wants to produce a new audiobook, they are responsible for a few things: they have to produce the audio files, cover, a track list, and any supplemental content that they want to include with the book (this can be things like graphs or photos). Once they have done that, they often send their files to either distributors or direct to retail. Each of those entities may or may not have a preferred “standard” they expect, and this can be very different depending on the requirements.

This fragmentation means that end users, depending on the platform they use (and they are almost always siloed to one), can get many different experiences.

Those reading platforms also have to factor in for a lot of data challenges, things like incorrect chapter lengths, missing track data, a missing or incorrect table of contents.

The Publishing Working Group looked at all of these problems, as well as use cases that we thought were underserved by the current implementation of audiobooks—specifically accessibility. Our specification, now a public working draft, addresses our four main classes of use case:

  • Listening—a user should be able to listen to their content without input or interruption
  • Portability—a user should be able to download, steam, or offline their content
  • Navigation—a user should be able to know when and where they are in their audiobook
  • Accessibility—regardless of ability, a user should able to enjoy their content

Listening

Our specification makes the possibility of seamless listening possible via the reading order section of the manifest. This provides instruction to reading systems or the web that as long as no other input is present, this is the order the content should be presented it. It does not preclude fast forwarding or rewinding, but if a user chooses to not interact with the listening medium, they get their content in order.

Portability

The audiobooks specification is designed for the web first, meaning that streaming was a major use case, but we also recognized the need for an offline distribution model where content could be downloaded and transported in a single piece. For that we have developed a packaging specification that addresses this problem. It means that content creators can bundle their content together into a single file, and users can download that file and enjoy their content wherever they choose to open it.

Navigation

The audiobooks specification has a specific provision for the Table of Contents. We allow content creators to create an HTML document for the table of contents which means they can create a rich document with the necessary structure of the book, and audio platforms can use it for display and information. That data can be used to help the user understand where they are in their audiobook at any time.

Accessibility

Audiobooks are often considered accessible by default—talking books were designed for the blind after all. However, print disabilities is a bigger classification than this and we needed to address all of the possible users for the specification. For that reason, the Audiobooks specification will be using the Synchronized Media specification to provide a method for content creators to sync audio and textual content for optimal experience. The specification also allows content creators to reference accessibility metadata within the manifest (on top of any ONIX they may use) to allow users to understand exactly what content they are receiving and if it meets their needs.

The audiobooks specification is moving towards recommendation status with the W3C, at this point in our process we are looking for feedback and implementation, so please reach out to us on our GitHub at https://github.com/w3c/wpub or to the editor at wendy.reid@rakuten.com (you can also reach me on twitter @wendy_a_reid if you are really keen).

Global Specifications for Accessible Publications

EPUB logoAccessible books were originally produced by organizations working for people with disabilities who are, of course, the accessibility experts. Publishers are now expected to produce accessible publications but they are not accessibility experts like the organizations working for people with disabilities.

They need accessibility specifications and guidelines to conform to and to refer to for guidance. At the same time, it is important to verify the accessibility claims of publishers, and this can only be done if there is a common accessibility specification.

We know that for efficient implementation of accessibility in publications we also need tools for checking accessibility and tools for accessible production throughout the supply chain. These tools need a common accessibility specification to which they can all conform to—what we don’t want is one tool that highlights one accessibility issue and other tools which highlight another.

We Need One Accessibility Specification that can be Adopted Worldwide.

Let us look at an example. Different countries in the world have different standards for electricity: the US has two strips 110V, Europe has two pin 220V, the UK has something different again,  and countries in Asia also have different standards. International travellers are used to the annoyance of making their appliances work with different electricity standards. It would have been so simple if we had one electric standard which was accepted around the world.

We should learn from this and we prevent any fragmentation of our accessibility standards for publications.

The digital publications market is borderless so it is much more easy to sell digital publications in different countries. EU publishers supply ebooks to different parts of the world and publications from other continents also supply their ebooks to Europe.If we have different accessibility standards, we would create a enormous amount of confusion for publishers, who are already struggling with different file formats for different ereaders. Imagine if they have to be congisant of different accessibility standards also?

Man scratching his head in confusion at a computer screen

The different areas of the publishing supply chain all need a point of reference for ensuring accessibility. What if a publisher produces accessible publication but:

  • the aggregator does not support accessibility
  • the retailer does not expose accessibility metadata and does not provide accessible user interface
  • the reading system does not support accessibility

If any link of this supply chain is not able to support accessibility, the person with disability will not be able to read the publication. Each and every element of the supply chain needs to conform to the same accessibility requirements.

Furthermore, this would result in a suboptimal reading experience for people with disabilities. People with disabilities especially senior citizens need additional guidance for using new technology like touch screen, smart phones etc., how can we expect them to make sure that their ereaders conform to different accessibility standards?

Image of man using an ereader to access content.

It is very important to have one international standard that provides a set of common requirements for conformance and highlighting violations.

Is there an Existing Standard that can be Adopted?

The good news is that there is an accessibility standard for publications which was created in 2017. The EPUB Accessibility Conformance and Discovery specifications:

  • Build on WCAG
  • Add publishing specific requirements and accessibility metadata requirements.
  • Designed at abstract level so that it can be used for publications in the format other than EPUB also.
  • Originally developed by International Digital Publishing Forum
  • Maintained by World Wide Web Consortium
  • Progressing towards becoming ISO Standard.

Are there Tools Available to Ensure Conformance to the EPUB Accessibility Standard?

Having a specification is great, but to ensure its implementation on the ground, we need conformance tools. It is impossible to imagine the implementation of accessibility throughout the supply chain without these tools:

  • Ace by DAISY (Accessibility Checker for EPUB)
  • DAISY Ace SMART (Simple Manual Accessibility Reporting Tool)
  • Ace plugin for Sigil
  • Ace at the backend of Born Accessible Checker

Are Big Publishers Using the EPUB Accessibility Conformance and Discovery Specifications?

Many publishers are either using the specification or in the process of up grading their workflows for implementing the specification. To name but a few: Pearson, U.S., Hachette Livre, France, Wiley, U.S., Macmillan Learning, U.S., Fondazione LIA, Italy, National library of Korea, Korea, Réseau Canopé, France, Kogan Page, U.K.

In conclusion:we have a international accessibility specification for ebooks, we have tools that conform to it, and we already have big publishers adopting the standard. We are in the beginning of a revolution.

We have a life time opportunity to achieve the era of born accessible publications.

This article was submitted by Avneesh Singh, COO of The DAISY Consortium and newly appointed board member of the W3C Advisory Board. It is based on a presentation given at the 2019 DPUB Summit in Paris.