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Inclusive Publishing Seasonal Survey 2018

Silhouette of a tree with colored clipart icons on the branches. The icons denote different types of survey and assesment images which are purely decorativeAs we rapidly approach the end of 2018, it’s the perfect time for us all to reflect on the progress we have made as a global industry in our work towards publications that can be enjoyed by all readers. Our short survey should only take a few minutes to complete and will allow us to share a snapshot of the community in the new year, as well as make progress towards identifying gaps in the current solutions, be they informational, technical, training provision or reference.

The survey can be accessed here —it is intended for publishing organizations. If you are not actively publishing content in digital formats we thank you for visiting, but ask that you do not complete this survey – we look forward to hearing your views another time and always welcome comments and suggestions though our Contact Form.

We very much value your contribution, and respect your privacy. No identifiable information you submit about yourself or your organization will ever be published or shared in any way.

Thank you once again for your participation. We look forward to sharing a general summary of responses on the Inclusive Publishing website in the new year.

OZeWAI 2018 Conference Highlights

ozewai logoThe OZeWAI 2018 conference, hosted by the ABC in Sydney, has now ended and a great time was had by all. The three-day event is held every year as Australia’s dedicated national conference for digital access specialists and is renowned for its great community atmosphere and presentations with this year being no exception. Here’s some of my personal highlights from the three days.

The keynote was delivered remotely by Nic Steen out from Knowbility titled No Rights, No Responsibility. The speaker made the point that it is important to ensure that people with disability are included in the digital access processes and that training is critical in making sure that effective digital access is achieved.  

Another great presentation was Here comes WCAG 2.1! by Amanda Mace from Web Key IT and Julie Grundy from Intopia. There was some great discussion across the new WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria, explaining the importance of things like reflow and ensuring that content on mobile devices needs to work effectively for people that may not be able to move their device to activate various sensors. With this year marking the WCAG 2.1 release it was a great introduction as to how the new extensions build on the legacy WCAG 2.0 requirements.   

Scott Hillier on the podiumJust before the lunch break on the first day it was my turn to present, discussing the W3C work on inaccessible CAPTCHA. In the presentation I talked about how traditional CAPTCHAs such as the use of text on bitmapped images and audio-based CAPTCHAs are not only inaccessible but also not secure. I also provided an update on the advice our group has been putting together as part of the CAPTCHA advisory note. It was great to have a chance to share the information.

 

Another session that I really enjoyed was Andrew Downie’s presentation titled The Graphics Divide – When the alt Attribute does not Suffice. I’m frequently asked in workshops as to what is best practice when using alternative text, and Andrew illustrated the point well using popular landmarks and providing relevant text descriptions. The key takeaway from his talk is that it’s relatively easy to use alternative text for WCAG compliance, but that doesn’t mean it’s accessible.

Greg Alchin on the podiumA presenter I always enjoy is Greg Alchin, and he did a great job in discussing the importance of ePub. In a PDF-obsessed world, Greg made the point well that there are a lot of tools and readers available to make the most of the ePub format which is essentially web pages compiled into a document format. While there’s still no WYSIWYG editor that works well for the ePub format and this was a point acknowledged as a current restriction, it’s encouraging to hear that there are plans for it to be included in the Office suite in the future which will go a long way to addressing this issue. Greg’s presentation is available on YouTube.

On the second day I featured in a second presentation hosted by Sean Murphy from Cisco Systems whereby we discussed the accessibility implications of Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. When Sean invited me to join him, he said it’d be great to structure it like a fireside chat, so we had an agreement whereby he would bring the questions, and I would bring the fire. As such, I had my laptop next to me playing a YouTube video of ‘HD fireplace with crackle’ while we discussed the implications. Sean made several great points about how the quality of data will heavily determine the effectiveness of our AI perceptions and how issues such as security still have a long way to go. I also talked about my Curtin research as it related to the IoT needs of students in tertiary education.

The last presentation that really had an impact on me was Making Chatbots Accessible by Ross Mullen. Until this presentation I had always assumed that chat boxes were largely a no-go zone for accessibility, but Ross explained that if an effort is made then both conversational support and accessibility can be achieved.

In addition to the presentations it was also great to catch up with lots of familiar faces at the breaks and conference dinners. I also really enjoyed making new friends and meeting many of the Alumni from the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility course.

Special thanks to the OZeWAI committee for putting on such a great conference. If you were unable to get to OZeWAI, you and watch all the session recordings which are now available on YouTube.

This post has been cross-posted with the permission of the author, Dr Scott Hollier, Digital Access Specialist, Author and Lecturer. The original posting of this article is available via Scott’s consultancy website.

Images have been reproduced from the OZeWAI twitter account.

The Big 5 US Higher Ed Publishers are Going All-In on Accessibility

AHG conference logo with conference details listed underneath the image of a mountain

I had the pleasure of organizing a session at the 21st Accessing Higher Ground conference in Denver in mid-November—a conference that is attended by a lot of folks from Disability Services Offices (DSOs) from across the US—to help those folks realize how much the big higher education publishers are doing to make their resources accessible, with a focus on accessible EPUBs.

“Born Accessible” is getting closer to the new normal!

The publishers on my panel were from Cengage, Macmillan Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson and Wiley, and they all had compelling stories to tell. While I don’t have space here to get into everything they had to say (the consolidated presentation is available here), the message was clear: they are not just working hard on accessibility, they’re getting it done. All of them are producing new resources as accessible EPUBs that align with the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 specification.

That means alt text—good alt text, done with an understanding of the nuances required to get it right—and in many cases extended descriptions of complex graphics as well. All of them are ensuring proper structuring and navigation. For resources that include media, most are providing closed captioning and transcripts. And those with math are providing MathML. They’re even working hard to get their tables right!

Cengage Learning logoBut it’s more than just the products themselves. The corporate cultures need to be accessibility aware. Cengage, for example, is putting a major focus on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), including a significant staffing commitment: a Director of Universal Design and Accessible Technologies is already on board, and an Accessibility/UDL Specialist and an Accessibility/UDL Coordinator are soon to be named.

Macmillan learning logo

Macmillan Learning’s presentation was all about the people and the processes, with a realization that just providing specs and expecting vendors to get it right is not sufficient. They have established a wealth of initiatives to foster knowledge of accessibility throughout their organization, with training and workshops that include vendors, creating a judgment free space to encourage motivation, participating in industry events and organizations, building a testing center in-house, and establishing an Advisory Board and Student Focus Groups to involve their constituents.

McGraw Hill Education logo

McGraw-Hill provided an in-depth look at the specifics, detailing both alternative text and extended descriptions not just for alignment but as captions and transcripts for audio and video content, enforcing contrast specs in their designs, use of MathML, using language tags at the page and phrase levels, and even tackling proper structuring of tables.

Pearson logoPearson stressed their end-to-end commitment to accessibility for both their content and platforms, all based on WCAG 2.0 AA conformance and alignment with EPUB Accessibility 1.0. They are putting a special priority on making these accessible resources easy for students to obtain and use, through initiatives like their partnership with VitalSource to establish the Pearson Accessibility Store, all resources of which are guaranteed to be accessible, and partnerships with Kurzweil and T-Base to integrate well with those key technologies.

Wiley logoWiley is doing all these good things too. (They came last due to alphabetical order.) They are addressing accessibility not just for going-forward content, but for legacy content as well, and expanding into other business areas outside of higher ed. Because of the diversity and technical nature of much of their content, they are working on discipline-specific alt text guidelines. And like several of the other speakers, they mentioned that they are working with Benetech on their Global Certified Accessible program, expecting to be certified this summer.

The message was clear: these folks are working hard on accessibility, and many of their products and platforms are much more accessible than students and DSOs realize. They’re doing this by aligning with standards and taking advantage of the right resources, like Ace by DAISY and the Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base. “Born Accessible” is getting closer to the new normal!

This event report was kindly submitted by Bill Kasdorf, Principal, Kasdorf & Associates

Call for Nominations: Accessible Books Consortium International Excellence Award 2019

ABC is now inviting nominations for the 2019 Accessible Books Consortium International Excellence Award for Accessible Publishing. This award recognizes outstanding leadership and achievements in advancing the accessibility of commercial ebooks or other digital publications for persons who are print disabled. Two awards will be presented, one to a publisher and one for an initiative.

You may nominate either your own organization/company or a third party anywhere in the world, and ABC encourages nominations of companies, organizations or individuals based in developing or least developed countries. The two awardees will be presented with trophies at the annual awards event held at the London Book Fair on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.

Please submit your application by Thursday, January 10, 2019 through the London Book Fair site.

CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, 2019

March 11th to 15th, 2019

The CSUN Assistive Technology Conference will be held in March this year and it promises to be as exceptional as ever. More than 5,000 people gathered last year to explore new technologies designed to assist people with disabilities.​ Registration will commence on January 8, 2019 and we will update this page with details on relevant sessions at the conference as they become available.

Date

March 11-15, 2019

Venue

Anaheim, California

Learn More

For further information and registration details visit the CSUN Conference website

ebookcraft 2019

March 18th to 19th, 2019

ebookcraft is a two-day conference dedicated to ebook production—if you’re looking for a mix of practical tips and forward-thinking inspiration, you won’t want to miss it.The main conference day for ebookcraft 2019 will be held on Tuesday, March 19 with workshops on Monday, March 18. for the #eprdctn crowd for whom this conference is designed.

Early bird pricing is available until January 25, 2019 and newsletter updates are also available. Check back here for program highlights for the inclusive publishing community, as they are released by the organizers.

Date

March 18-19, 2019

Venue

Toronto, Canada

Learn More

To access registration and conference details visit the ebookcraft website.

Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference 2019

January 29th to 30th, 2019

The ATIA conference is an extensive assistive technology conference showcasing international excellence in the field. With 350+ sessions covering 10 topic strands the program is varied and exciting.

Date

Jan 29-30, 2019

Venue

Orlando, Florida

Learn More

Registration and conference details are available at the ATIA website

World-Leading Book Accessibility Initiative Creating the Dignity to Read

Handout rom the forum - diagram revelaing the inclusive publishing ecosystem - iinterested parties outlined in the following paragraphThirty individuals from more than 20 organizations met last week at Barangaroo for the third forum of the Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative (AIPI) which is uniquely comprised of representatives from the ecosystem that makes books accessible to people with print disabilities, including libraries, publishers, authors, editors, print disability peak bodies, copyright experts, and government agencies.

Reflecting on two years of work since the first Marrakesh Treaty Forum, the AIPI mapped the next steps towards an accessible future of creating books to ensure all people, regardless of ability, have the dignity to read.

The AIPI was created in 2016 to address concerns that people are missing out on the joy and learning experience of reading books. It can take up to a year to convert a traditional book into a version that is suitable for someone with vision impairment or a print disability.

International book accessibility expert, Bill Kasdorf, opened the AIPI forum via web cast, commenting that the collaborative efforts of the Australian cohort is world-leading and inspirational. “There are other publishing industry groups across the globe that are further ahead in terms of technology, but the wide group of stakeholders AIPI has is actually world-leading, innovative and will ensure sustainability of outcomes,” Kasdorf said.

Josie Howse, a world authority on braille and large print services from the NSW Department of Education, has “never been so excited” by the developments in the print disability space. “In more than 30 years that I have been working on copyright access to files for people with vision impairment, this is the most exciting time I’ve experienced. The progress and stimulation felt with our third AIPI get-together is significant.”

Historically, print accessibility groups have come together but never with as many organizations under the one banner. “There was a round table for print disability in 1988 and an annual meeting since,” Ms Howse continued, “but the dynamics of now, largely due to the driving force of the Australian Publishing Association, is what’s making the difference.”

The fact we’ve progressed so much in a year, and we have achievable targets involving the widest group of stakeholders from publishing and the disability advocacy space, demonstrates the great momentum and opportunity we currently have.

Sonali Marathe from the Royal Institute for Blind and Deaf Children says this momentum through collaboration wasn’t always the case, “Two years ago, there was a divide between publishers and the print disability sector, but now we are a cohesive group. It’s a game-changer for the goal of creating book formats for all abilities to read and enjoy. The needs of people with a print disability is more widespread than some might think. Data from The Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights that there are one in five people in the community living with a permanent disability. Furthermore, more than 20% of these have some form of print disability which inhibits their experience of a standard print book. This initiative will enable so many more people to read for purpose and enjoyment.”

The AIPI working meeting ,with representatives from both sides, has resulted in a strong set of goals for 2019. Jess Coates from the Australian Digital Alliance said, “This year was particularly productive and has built nicely on previous years. The first year was big and I think we felt trepidation in what we were trying to achieve. The second year we had a lot of enthusiasm as a group and in 2018, we’ve been able to see outcomes. After the meeting today, you can say that things are really happening.One key task the group will work on,” Ms Coates says, “will be to create a digital knowledge hub. People have been asking what AIPI is doing and when this web platform is complete we will have a space to showcase what the group and industry has done. We will be able to share information about the regulatory framework publishers need to work within, guidelines for publishers and disability services personnel, and also conversations from the global context about developments in the inclusion and book accessibility milieu.”

The overarching challenge that the AIPI is working towards is called born-accessible publishing. This is where a master file holds the content of the book, which can then be exported into any format required: braille, audiobook, large font and more. It’s a process that requires new workflows for publishers, but one that has been piloted successfully by Sydney University Press (SUP). AIPI member and SUP Publishing Manager, Agata Mrva-Montoya, has shared her experience of creating born-accessible files through EPUB. One of the most time-consuming aspects of making a book’s content accessible is in describing images through what is called alt-text. “The alt-text of images in our workflow now goes to authors. They are best placed to provide content to describe any images in their books, so we get authors to write the alt-text and then we simply copy it in. It saves a lot of time and ends up being better content,”

Changes to the regulatory framework in which publishers operate are accelerating the need to find solutions. Since 2010, if a publisher has created a book that is not available in formats that consumers require, they are potentially in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. Lee Walker, President of the Australian Publishers Association and Director of School Publishing at Oxford University Press, says that besides the inherent desire to help more people to read books, “The changes in the legal space are key drivers for publishers to consider how to meet the problem of changing workflows. We want to create texts in various formats with ease—while safeguarding copyright for authors and publishers in the process.The print disabled community is quite vast. When you consider the ageing population, people with degenerative muscle disorders who can’t hold books, people with dyslexia—the market of people requiring books in non-traditional formats is not as narrow as one might first imagine.”

Greg Alchin, a member of AIPI from All Equal, explains the situation the book industry is in: “The book industry has a simple choice. They can either embrace publishing digital books to international accessibility standards or not. Accessible standards and modern formats such as EPUB enable publishers to reach a greater market, maintain better copyright control and diminish legal risks. Conversely publishers who choose to produce electronic books in outdated formats such as PDF fail to comply with accessibility standards and put themselves at great risk of lawsuits for not providing equal access. It’s like airbags with the car industry. By choosing to incorporate substandard airbags it has opened the industry to compensation lawsuits as well as the costly task of retrofitting better quality airbags in. The publishing sector stands to find itself in legal trouble if they don’t make changes soon. On a positive note, Australian publishers are making efforts to make their books more widely accessible and the AIPI group is working together to ensure their changes are fit for purpose,”.

The ultimate goal of AIPI is to make it as easy as possible for publishers to produce born-accessible content to the benefit of all readers. The AIPI group will continue to work towards a number of identified projects across the year. Further updates will be published on the APA News and the, soon to be developed, AIPI Knowledge Hub.

Inclusive Publishing will update its readers on AIPI’s progress and the projects that are identified for the future year.

This report was kindly submitted by The Australian Publishers Association. All images have been supplied courtesy of the Australian Publishers Association

The Sound of Silence

textBOX logo

One of the most challenging aspects of accessible publishing is understanding how to write immersive image descriptions for visually impaired and print disabled readers. Content providers are often uncertain about where to begin and how to integrate description work into their publishing process. The images included within digital content often remain silent to readers listening in audio format through screen readers, thereby negatively impacting learning outcomes and the joy of reading.

Legal, educational and commercial pressures are intensifying for content providers to now prioritize accessibility. Although resources and guidelines are readily available to help content providers establish accessible production workflows, the lack of available image descriptions continues to be a significant barrier to readers.

In a WebAIM survey conducted in December 2017, the most problematic content-related issues were the availability and quality of alternative text (alt-text) for images.(1) In addition, Bill Kasdorf stated in the January 2018 Learned Publishing special accessibility issue that “all of the publishers I interviewed – even extremely large publishers that have done extensive work on accessibility – find image descriptions to be probably the single biggest issue across all types of content.”(2)

For content providers, the decision comes down to choice. Who should create the descriptions for image content? Should it be the author of the work or a member of the editorial staff? Due to the complexity of the methodology, should it be outsourced to a specialist in a similar vein to indexing? Publishers may delay decision-making as a result of this predicament and elect to keep generic, inadequate and incorrect alt-text “image” tags.

There are a variety of resources to meet accessibility challenges and many companies are seeking to develop solutions. However, image description authoring services are still falling short of the detail necessary to capture image complexity. We can better understand the image description predicament by examining Utagawa Hiroshige’s 1857 print Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi Bridge and Atake.(3)

A woodcut print by Utagawa Hiroshige depicts figures scattering during a sudden rainstorm on the Shin-Ōhashi bridge in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1857.

Microsoft Word includes a publishing tool for automated alt-text. For Hiroshige’s image, Word automatically assigns the following description: “A picture containing building, fence. Description generated with very high confidence.” This incomplete image description highlights the current limitations of alt-text automation.

So, what is the solution if publishers are struggling to find the best way forward and automated technologies generate deficient descriptions? textBOX addresses this challenge. We have a long-standing publishing background and a passion for promoting access for all readers.

The industry needs a simple, workable approach to image description and textBOX delivers it.

The objective of textBOX is to marry the art of immersive description with a scientific approach towards data analytics while adhering to industry standards.

textBOX’s solution is focus/LOCUS – a method for producing high-quality image descriptions. This approach deconstructs the image into key elements and builds the description using a pathway through individual components. The description becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

As the sighted reader will know, Hiroshige’s image is not a “building” or a “fence”, as interpreted by Microsoft Word. A more suitable alt-text description is:

A woodcut print by Utagawa Hiroshige depicts figures scattering during a sudden rainstorm on the Shin-Ōhashi bridge in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1857.

Hiroshige’s image may require a longer, more robust description in circumstances where detail is critically important (e.g., art history books or galleries). The focus/LOCUS method has been designed for this type of description:

The foreground is dominated by a wooden bridge on which seven figures are hurrying to avoid a heavy rainstorm. Two brightly-dressed women are traveling from right to left on the bridge, sheltering under their umbrellas. A man is following closely behind them wearing a conical hat and ducking down beneath the downpour. Three figures hurry in the opposite direction, huddled under a single umbrella. Before them walks a hunched-over figure covering his upper body with a cloak.

In the background, a boatman is steering his log raft along the river. A shadowy line of trees marks the bank of the river. The upper reaches of the picture are filled with ominous dark clouds and dark lines of rain streak across the face of the image. The positioning and postures of the figures in the image give a strong sense of movement and flight from the elements.

The reader’s understanding is increased because they feel the image is tangible and they are involved in the story.

“Writing useful alt-text is a bit of an art,” according to Google.(4) The objective of textBOX is to marry the art of immersive description with a scientific approach towards data analytics while adhering to industry standards. textBOX reveals to publishers that there is an opportunity to enrich their content and promote discoverability through image descriptions.

textBOX is the product of late nights, wide-ranging conversations and meticulous research. The foundation of our business is built on listening closely to the issues that content providers are experiencing and learning from the expertise of industry leaders, colleagues and friends. The accessibility community is overflowing with innovation and collaboration and it is this sense of community that has inspired us to embark on this path.

Inclusive Publishing plays a pivotal role within the accessibility community, the publishing industry and as a core resource for textBOX. We are delighted for the opportunity to share our thoughts and future goals through these pages.

Image description is challenging but it is also a fascinating field. We look forward to listening to content providers and working with the accessibility community to develop solutions and build a future where every image tells a story and every reader experience is equal.

For images, the sound of silence is far from golden.

To learn more about textBOX please visit the textBOX website, read our inaugural soapBOX blog post, or write to us at hello@textboxdigital.com.

References

  1. WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey #7 Results: https://webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey7/
  2. Kasdorf, B. (2018), Why accessibility is hard and how to make it easier: Lessons from publishers. Learned Publishing, 31: 11-18. doi:10.1002/leap.1146
  3. Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857. Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi Bridge and Atake from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. Public domain image. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/36461
  4. Kearney, M., Gash, D. and Boxhall, A., Text Alternatives for Images https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/accessibility/semantics-builtin/text-alternatives-for-images

This article was kindly submitted by Huw Alexander and Caroline Desrosiers, Co-Founders of textBOX.

 

The Journey Towards Dyslexia-Friendly, Digital Publishing

Teenage boy walking with handheld device with earphones attached. Image is just of his torseDuring 2018 Dyslexia Awareness Week, Abi James, Chair of the British Dyslexia Association New Technologies Committee, looks back at how dyslexia-friendly practices have evolved and how the latest accessibility standards and inclusive practices can help publishers produce materials that are suitable for everyone.

Dyslexia affects approximately 10% of the population and, of those individuals, 4% severely. It is a life-long condition and studies have shown it has a neurological basis, often running in families. Dyslexia is one of several Cognitive Disabilities that are hidden from view but, through their impact on processing, attention and recall, can significantly affect the effort, efficacy and enjoyment of printed text. Technology has increasing been used to help overcome the difficulties associated with dyslexia.

The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) New Technologies Committee has been providing free advice on assistive technology for over 20 years. Popular tools include those that support the composition of text, such as word processors, spell checkers and speech recognition; or assistive technologies such as text to speech and other customised tools to aid reading. However, while technology has evolved significantly in that time, the most popular articles are still those about fonts and layouts for making accessible documents.

In 2003, as word processing became a common tool, the BDA developed a Style Guide to promote dyslexia-friendly publishing practices. The style guide called for a minimum font size, the use of clear font styles and consideration of how glare and colour combinations can have an impact on some readers. The BDA Style Guide remains one of the core references for those interested in inclusive publishing practices and is frequently cited in academic studies.

In the decade that followed the publication of the Style Guide, interest from typographers also grew with the creation of several dyslexia-specific fonts (i). These fonts attempted to aid dyslexic readers by making letter sizes more consistent and recognisable. Some of these fonts have been included in mainstream ebook tools, including the OpenDyslexic font which comes with some Kindle devices. This in turn has led to an increased interest from researchers about how fonts and colours affect some dyslexic readers. Studies such as Rello and Baeza-Yates’ Good Fonts for Dyslexia have failed to identify the benefits of dyslexia-specific fonts, although they have continued to highlight the impact that fonts and typography have on reading skills.

This work has led to the BDA once more revisiting the style guide, to update it not only to include the latest research, but also to take account of the latest technologies and publishing practices. The 2018 BDA Style Guide highlights several important findings from recent studies including:

  • Font size matters; larger fonts improve readability.
  • Letter spacing can have as big an impact on readability as the font style. Fonts where letters have a more equal spacing are easier for dyslexic readers.
  • Word and line spacing also influence readability for those with dyslexia. Line-spacing of at least 1.5 lines can be beneficial, although if the line spacing is too large, the benefits are removed.
  • Shorter lines or reading on small screens can help some dyslexic readers.

How can these Recommendations be Built into Digital Publications and Ebook Devices?

The increase in the availability and use of e-books, as well as the all-pervasive nature of smart devices has meant that dyslexic children and adults have a greater opportunity to make use of assistive tools when reading text. Ebooks can bring many hidden accessibility wins and the publishing community, through initiatives such as epubtest.org are working towards making ebooks more accessible to all users. Being able to change the font style, the background colour and/or hear content read aloud can make a difference. However, the options to allow users to personalise all their ebooks frequently remains unavailable or are limited to basic font size changes.

This may be due in part because accessibility standards have tended to focus on supporting the needs of those who face sensory and/or physical barriers. The primary web accessibility standard, WCAG2.0, which forms part of accessibility legislation in many countries, had minimal guidelines on personalisation. Earlier this year an update of the Web Accessibility Content Guidelines (v2.1) was released with several new guidelines aimed at supporting the needs of those with cognitive disabilities as well as the use of new technologies such as touch screens. Guidelines related to reflow (1.4.10) and text spacing (1.4.12) will be particularly useful for encouraging dyslexia-friendly text, although additional dyslexia friendly approaches remain unspecified.

One area that still needs to be addressed by accessibility guidelines is background colour. Colour choice is felt to be a design issue and so guidelines only consider barriers that may arise due to insufficient contrast or certain colour combinations. While the impact of coloured filters and lenses remains controversial to remediate dyslexia, the negative impact of glare on readability has been recognised for nearly a century (ii). Recent studies have shown that dyslexic readers prefer coloured backgrounds that reduce glare although some also prefer back on white rather than unfamiliar colour combinations, which can be distracting. The BDA style guide continues to recommend that alternative background colours should be considered to reduce glare.

Even when an ebook publisher or platform offers many accessibility options, it can be difficult for readers to identify if the platform will meet their needs. In particular, dyslexic readers who wish to listen to text find their assistive technology does not work as the tools tend to rely on accessing the clipboard, while built-in accessibility modes can present ebook content as pure text, removing the formatting and visual structure clues that dyslexic readers rely on. A recent audit of ebook accessibility by university library staff highlighted how difficult it was for students to know if ebooks and digital resources were accessible for their needs. There were no clues in the ebook description or by the download as to whether text to speech or other personalisation options would work.

One initiative, which may bring real change to the sector, includes recent legislation that applies across Europe to ensure that public sector websites, digital resources and mobile apps meet accessibility standards (iii). This will require organisations such as public libraries, universities and local government to confirm that content they publish on their websites, even if sourced from a third-party supplier, meets accessibility standards. These organisations will be required to publish an accessibility statement outlining how the digital sites and resources meet the European accessibility standard EN 301 549 (which is aligned to WCAG 2.1).

What Does This Mean for the Publishing Community?

As these new regulations come into force, accessibility could become an increasingly important factor in procurement decisions as public sector organisations look to minimise their accessibility issues. Understanding accessibility and personalisation requirements could put you ahead in business decisions, as well as providing a better experience for your readers. But remember, creating accessible and inclusive publications is not just about meeting technical standards. It is about understanding the needs of people with different strengths and weaknesses and how they might overcome digital barriers as well as understanding how personal preferences and choices combine. At the University of Southampton, we provide the opportunity for anyone to learn more about digital accessibility and its impact through our free FutureLearn Digital Accessibility MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). This course will be running from early October 2018, so why not encourage colleagues to sign-up now.

Abi James is the Chair of the British Dyslexia Association New Technologies Committee and a digital accessibility researcher at the University of Southampton.

 

Footnotes

i Dyslexia fonts include Sylexiad, Dyslexie , Read Regular and OpenDyslexic.

ii Goldsberry reported to negative impact of white and shiny paper in Goldsberry, L. D. (1921). Eyesight and paper glare. The Elementary School Journal, 21(10), 782-785.

iii Countries within the EU have been required to implement the EU directive on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies by September 2018