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Accessible Publishing and the Marrakesh Treaty—Are you Ready? Event Report from LBF

Logo for AAG Seminar at LBF

This year’s Accessibility Action Group seminar was held on Thursday 14th of March at the end of the London Book Fair. This didn’t deter delegates in the slightest and the seminar was a huge success—The Faculty was packed and no-one was going anywhere until they were up to speed with what is happening with accessible publishing in the U.K.

Emma House, Deputy Chief Executive of The Publishers Association kicked off proceedings with an update on the legal state of affairs in the UK specifically with regards to the Marrakesh Treaty for Visually Impaired Persons and the new European legislation that has been welcomed by FEP in the last two weeks. Publishers have an obligation to make their content available to people with print disabilities. Consequently,  it remains within their interest to make sure that their mainstream digital content is fit for this purpose. If workflows and supply chains are able to embrace this notion then the need for specialist formats will become obsolete and business practices will become more cost efficient and timely.  With the opportunity to increase the size of markets, the business case is clear although different for the huge variety of publishing businesses out there.

The seminar was designed to encourage publishers to build accessibility features and functions into their products from their very inception so that they are complying with the law and benefitting all readers with well built, well-structured EPUB files.

Three case studies were presented from Kogan-Page, Macmillan Educations and Penguin Random House showcasing a real cross-section of the publishing industry, highlighting the opportunities and challenges that still present themselves and ultimately leaving our audience encouraged in the knowledge that accessible publishing is achievable and well within their grasp.

Martin Klopstock and Arthur Thompson from Kogan-Page are truly committed to producing “born accessible” content that is suitable for all their readers, regardless of their disability.  The availability of relevant standards and documentation are a huge motivating factor for them and, together with the Ace by DAISY,  free EPUB accessibility checker they have found that validation is a straightforward component of their digital-first workflow at Kogan Page. They identified 4 areas of focus within their case study: structural semantics, accessibility metadata, image descriptions and tables with the latter 2 items still challenging them in-house. That said, Kogan Page are indeed producing born accessible digital content within their digital-first workflow and plan to look towards their legacy content in the future. For more information on their methods and lessons learnt you can access their full slide deck here.

Astrid DeRidder from Macmillan Education took the stage next and began by discussing the ASPIRE project which was the first large scale interactive ranking of publisher and platform accessibility data. Macmillan scored well and Astrid urged delegates to take the opportunity of this easy win and improve their own accessibility information that is available within their organisation. Important to Macmillan is their forthcoming Employee Disability Network which will greatly influence how accessibility is viewed within the company and the quality of the digital content being output.

Finally, Simon Mellins from Penguin Random House gave us the trade viewpoint, talking about accessibility on a large scale basis and highlighting the opportunities and challenges that EPUB presents for accessible publishing. With its natural aptitude for accessibility EPUB 3 is becoming more mainstream but, ironically, workflows in-house are fairly rigid and it is difficult to influence change on such a grand scale. The opportunity has been recognised, though, and whilst image descriptions remain the biggest challenge, there is much underway at PRH which we should watch out for in the future. Simon’s complete slide deck is available here.

Sarah Hilderley, editor of the Inclusive Publishing website and newsletter, a DAISY Consortium initiative, rounded this event off by giving a brief overview of the state of play with regards to accessibility internationally. She referred to their recent survey on content creation and validation and was pleased to report that 62% of those surveyed are adhering to the EPUB 1.0 accessibility specification and that 54% are using, or plan to use in the near future,  Ace by DAISY for their automated validation. This is very encouraging—publishers are taking accessibility seriously and the tools and standards available to them are providing them with confidence and reassurance that goals are being met.

“Accessible publishing is good publishing after all.”

This event report was prepared by Sarah Hilderley from Inclusive Publishing for the Publishers Association with whom it has been cross-posted.

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.

Accessibility – Strategies for Success

April 12th, 2018

The annual Accessibility Action Group Seminar at the London Book Fair is suitable for everyone in the book industry who is involved in producing good quality ebooks and bringing them to their readers. No registration is required and the AAG welcomes everyone at the fair. With case studies from publishers who have experienced the challenges and opportunities of accessibility, this seminar will aim to show how achievable a successful accessibility strategy can be. Emerging technology solutions and tools to assist strategies (including Ace by DAISY, the new free EPUB accessibility checking tool) will also be presented along with an overview of challenges facing students when trying to access published learning materials.

Date:

April 12th, 2018, 13.00-14.00 UCT

Venue:

London Book Fair, Olympia, London, UK

Learn More:

Information is available at the LBF website