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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!

M-Enabling Summit, Washington DC

June 11th to 13th, 2018

The M-Enabling Summit promotes accessible technologies and environments for persons with disabilities and has established itself as the leading global conference and showcase covering fast-moving technology innovations improving access to digital content and services in new ways.

The M-Enabling Summit offers a unique gathering of leading executives and accessibility professionals from Government, Industry, and Advocacy Organizations from around the world to network and participate in plenary and specialized breakout sessions, as well as other special featured events.

Date

June 11-13, 2018

Venue

Washington DC

Learn More

For registration details and access to the full program visit the M-Enabling Summit website

Accessible ebooks: BIC Breakfast Event Report

BIC logoThe Book Industry Study Group held their regular BIC Breakfast meeting last month on the 25th of April focusing specifically on accessible ebooks. Speaking to a full room Emma House, Deputy CEO of the Publishers Association in the UK, opened proceedings with a presentation on the importance of accessibility and setting the scene in terms of legal and international requirements.

Do not wait; the time will never be “just right.” Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

Richard Orme, CEO of the DAISY Consortium, followed presenting a range of tools and support services based on industry accessibility standards. In particular, he concentrated on Ace, the new , open source, EPUB Accessibility Checker, a newly developed knowledge base built to accompany Ace and SMART (Simple Manual Accessibility Reporting Tool).

The DAISY Consortium (@accesibledaisy) promotes EPUB 3 because it has all the accessibility provisions that the book industry might need. #bicbreakfast

Chris Saynor from EDItEUR rounded off proceedings with a presentation on the importance of accessibility metadata looking specifically at schema,org, ONIX, the crosswalk and the role of each. Chris was asked the question whether accessibility metadata was actually being used by retailers and it was promising to hear that this is indeed starting to happen and that Amazon are keen for publishers to supply this level of detail.

Metadata improves discoverability. “Good” metadata improves sales. People with print impairments require different functionalities and the population of specific metadata fields to find the book they need. #bicbreakfast

For further information on this interesting event and access to the slide deck used by all speakers, readers should visit the BIC website.

Easy Access: Building Bridges for Better Access to Information, Leipzig

June 13th, 2018

For visually impaired and blind students and teachers the availability of accessible study materials is the precondition of academic success. This one day symposium, organized by the DAISY Consortium and the Equal Opportunities Office University of Leipzig and Deutsche Zentralbücherei für Blinde (DZB), will focus on the important topics of creating an “inclusive university” in a practical way and discussing possibilities of accessible publishing of and access to study materials.

Date

June 13, 2018

Venue

Leipzig, Germany

Learn More

Further information including registration details can be found at the DZB website

An Introduction to Screen Readers: Live Webinar

May 17th, 2018

In this webinar, Steve Sawczyn, Solutions Architect at Deque Systems, will demonstrate how he uses a screen reader to navigate the web. In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), this fundamentals-based webinar will provide developers, designers, business users or anyone new to digital accessibility a first-hand experience of how people who are visually impaired navigate the web.

Date

May 17th, 2018

Venue

Online

Learn More

To book your place on this popular event visit the Deque Systems events page

Accessible Publishing to Feature at DPUB Summit in Berlin

The Digital Publishing Summit Europe, being held in Berlin on the 16th and 17th of May, 2018, has a significant focus on accessibility this year. EDRLab, the organizers of this popular event, aims to “strengthen a true spirit of cooperation between professionals supporting the adoption of open standards and software by the European publishing industry”.

Avneesh Singh, COO of the DAISY Consortium, will be presenting a session on EPUB 3 and accessibility alongside Stephan Knecht, CEO of Bones AG.

Avneesh and Stephan will concentrate specifically on validation tools and processes which can enable the publishing industry to implement accessibility with consistency and uniformity across diverse production processes. The new EPUB accessibility checker, Ace by DAISY, will demonstrated at this session and delegates will also benefit from an accessibility focus throughout the summit – from an introduction by ABC Excellence Awards Winner, Luc Audrain from Hachette Livre, to a presentation given by Cristina Mussinelli of the LIA Foundation, we look forward to an exciting and informative event.

For further details on the full program and registration see the DPUB Summit events page.

 

Ignore Those Bells and Whistles

This article was kindly submitted by Kevin Callahan, ebooks developer and proprietor of bngobooks.com

ereader placed on top of a pile of printed booksThere’s too much discussion in the ebook-making world about bells and whistles and EPUB3. Folks don’t want to make EPUB3 files because, who needs Javascript anyway? Kindles certainly don’t. How many books in their right minds need video? Very few. But many of these so-called bells and whistles aren’t that at all – they are simply regular features that you might find in some books but not necessarily all.

Features which, by their very nature, ensure that your ebooks reach a wider audience…

Ding Ding Ding

Understandably, no one wants particular features if they aren’t going to work everywhere. Scripting, MathML, audio and video: there’s no denying that support is spotty.

Talking about bells and whistles and how they’re not supported is a great way to keep the conversation limited to ebook developers and out of reach — or interest — of people in publishing. You know, our clients. Authors, editors, designers.

That’s why I’d like to banish that phrase and instead talk about real-life book features that our colleagues can get excited about. Features that are already in books and that can be boosted in the ebook edition and that will enrich the reading experience for all readers. Features that improve the accessibility of ebooks.

It’s All About Books

Let’s talk about the ordinary, everyday book: a novel, a memoir, a bit of history or politics. In other words, a book that’s mostly text, with a few images, a bibliography and maybe a glossary, perhaps a few tables.

Those elements aren’t bells and whistles.

They are parts of a book.

The same with tables of contents. Not every print book has one, but many do. So when included in an ebook, they don’t ring any kind of bell. They just live there, naturally.

When we organize a book, we use simple, straightforward hierarchies: what’s the book title (h1 in ebook-speak)? Chapter number and title (h2)? No bells and whistles here, just book stuff.

If we include a glossary, we prepare the manuscript so that glossary terms and their definitions each have the correct tags. No pealing bells here.

When we add a table of illustrations to go along with the table of contents, we’re not proposing anything unusual.

We’re just making the book more accessible. And when a book is accessible, it’s easier to use for everyone. It’s the same whether that book is a print edition or a digital one.

Why Resist?

I’ve wondered about the cause of the resistance, and I have an idea. Quite a while ago a client wished for a one-click solution to ebook making. Well, it’s available if InDesign is your source document. It is possible to export a valid EPUB from InDesign and just put it up for sale.

I sympathize with this stance. If sales aren’t there to support an hour or two of an ebook developer’s time, then I see why a publisher would shy away from doing further development. But: chicken, egg? Spend the time, plan to add simple book features — features you wish you had room to fit into print — and your readers will notice and buy your next book because its a better read for them, because its more accessible.

It’s Not Technical

One stumbling block for a lot of editors, designers, and even ebook developers is that it all seems so technical. Non-book-world verbiage, indecipherable version numbers, unfamiliar interface, no feel of paper or smell of ink. But think back to when we just had print – the lexicon was exclusive to many non-production people – CRC, formes, galleys, the list is endless.

ABut all you need to keep in mind is that EPUB3 lets a book be more like the books you cherish on your bookshelves. More text, more features that don’t fit into the page count, better structure that will survive future reading systems and thrive there. EPUB 3 helps us make sense of this new digital world – it allows us and our readers greater access.

It’s Also About the Future

Future reading systems? Yes, new and different reading systems will come along. Work is ongoing to improve e-reading software. So for an editor who needs her ebook edition of Moby Dick to be as readable in that future state as her paperback, the best idea is to make EPUB3 files now.

We Are All Book People Here

A book is a book, in whatever format. As a print designer, I take care with the print edition, nudging design elements, making sure styles are consistent, establishing clear hierarchy through typography. I’m going to want to do the same thing to the ebook edition. I’ll add tables of contents that are as complete as possible, make hierarchy clear through proper tagging, and ensure elements are marked up consistently. Like I said, an EPUB3 is just like a print book, only moreso.

More Thoughts

On epubsecrets.com, Laura Brady mused about the slow adoption of EPUB3, and countered several common arguments. Click here to read her take On the Slow Adoption of EPUB3.

Also on epubsecrets.com, Dave Cramer, cochair of the W3C’s EPUB3 Community Group, wrote about versioning, the differences between EPUB and the Web, and how we can create ebooks that utilize existing technology, old technology, and technology yet to come. Read “Good Enough: A Meditation on the Past, Present and Future of EPUB” here.

In the December 2017 edition of InDesign Magazine, I wrote the cover article on creating accessible EPUB3 files right out of InDesign. It can be done with minimal change in the workflow. Click here to access the article

 

Kevin Callahan is an ebook developer who writes and speaks about ebook design and production. He trains other developers — and everyone else in the publishing community — on best ebook–making practices. He specializes in adapting simple and complicated print designs to their best digital use. Kevin will be hosting webinars for the Editorial Freelancers Association and Editors Canada throughout 2018.

www.bngobooks.com  Twitter: https://twitter.com/bngobooks Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BNGObooks/

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!