Event Report: Digital Content & Disabilities Seminar, January 10th

This report was kindly submitted by Nicola Swann from the Publishers Association, U.K.

Photograph of the UCL quad

Co-production of resources with those with disabilities and the involvement of the whole supply chain in providing accessible content were two of the main imperatives to come across at a Digital Content and Disabilities Seminar held at University College London on January 10th, 2018.

This seminar was organised as a tie-in with Dr Peter Williams’ British Academy-funded post-doctoral research fellowship at UCL, which is examining the impact of mobile technology on the lives of people with learning disabilities.  As one of the seminars and workshops that Dr Williams is running to gather data and disseminate findings, the event brought publishers, university library and learning specialists, community groups, textbook platforms and other suppliers together to explore creating original content to serve disabilities, and adapting content for maximum accessibility.

The first session, looking at original content to serve disabilities, looked at methods, tools and practice, with Professor Barrie Gunter of the University of Leicester in the chair.  First speaker was Dr Williams, who gave an outline of his work on  the digital lives of people with learning disabilities as they use mobiles, laptops, apps and social media.  His project includes a look at prevalence of use, agency (self or supporter), purpose, consequence (benefit/barrier) and ease of use of mobile devices.  Each participant is helping to produce an accessible, annotated hyperlinked electronic archive of their experiences; they have their own web page to record what they enjoy and what they find difficult.  Supporters can comment, with the consent of the person whose page it is.  Issues unearthed include difficulties in finding photos as phones offer no sort mechanism, in using the access code in a supported house, and understanding how music can get onto a phone.  The web material’s password-protected, but would be available to academics and other professionals on request ( – and additional participants are welcome.

Philip Gibson, Project Manager for Camphill Village Trust, outlined findings from creating a communication platform for people with learning disabilities.  The key message was ‘if you are going to do something, do it co-productively’.    This referred both to the specialist knowledge that may be required to develop electronic resources and the importance of involving all stakeholders, including those for whom the resource is being developed.

Camphill found around three years ago that those with learning disabilities were trying out quite a few digital services – – Skype, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, apps, information sites and bill paying. Most use was via touchscreen device rather than laptop, and was mostly to keep in touch; men particularly also used their devices for games.  Camphill wondered therefore if it was missing options to help users as they mostly did this in traditional ways, though the use of digital was perhaps not as effective as it could be.  It was not clear how users were weeding out misinformation and fake news, and there was evidence that once burned, people quickly shut down if they had problems with issues like signing on, fear of what might happen to personal information and operating hand-me-downs.  Many of those supported dabbled, enjoyed using tech for a while, but then stopped as benefit plateaued.

Camphill is therefore making its own app, CVT Connect, in co-production with users so those within their communities can use them to keep in touch.  More and more are signing up for accounts to use in innovative ways, sharing photos and expressing likes and dislikes.  The challenge now is to make it so interesting that people will wish to use it daily.  Camphill is working on single-click use, tagging, and a less ambitious personal profile; and is keen to share with other charities and community groups.

Dr Yvonne Vezzoli, a learning and communication specialist with the Ca’Foscari University of Venice  @ Go Touch VR, is looking at the visual literacy practices of young people with dyslexia in multimodal digital environments (MDEs).  Her work is based on a strength-focused perspective on dyslexia, viewing it as a thinking and learning difference while not denying the existence of neuro disorders.  She has found that dyslexic teens strongly prefer visuals, knowing they have good skills in retrieving, accessing & interpreting them even though they may have lower skills relating to their production.  Further information on her research is available at

and at

The second session of the afternoon focused on adapting content for maximum accessibility:  tools, methods and practice, chaired by John Akeroyd, Honorary Research Fellow UCL and CIBER Research.  Tanja Stevens and Lars Christensen outlined the work of their company SensusAccess,, a subscription service which enables students, faculty, staff and alumni to automatically convert documents into a range of alternate media including audio books (MP3 and DAISY), e-books (EPUB, EPUB3 and Mobi) and digital Braille.  Christensen said that providing accessible content is not restricted to publishers but must involve the whole supply chain; he credited Jisc ( with a huge amount of work on technical sticking points, including complex platforms, but felt that inadequate provision of appropriate reading software was often a barrier to what could be a very positive experience for students.

Teresa Pedroso, Disability Librarian for the Bodleian Libraries, outlined the opportunities and challenges digital presents to those with accessibility needs; it is a mere 40 years old compared with print so presents a great opportunity to explore, despite the drawbacks.  The Bodleian subscribes to 1,300 databases with a variety of accessibility features; users have to learn how to use them as well as staff.  Issues include referencing in non-paginated monographs (though a lack of pagination leads to better visibility and flow).  Readers with disabilities prefer flexible provision of both print and digital; some value the lack of a wait time, where others find the flicker of digital off-putting.  How does a librarian decide between a need and a preference?  Questions apart, accessibility is making an appreciable difference – Questions apart, accessibility is making an appreciable difference – 20 years ago staff and volunteers had to produce everything the Bodleian needed to enable work with a blind academic; now 80% is sourced from the university’s collections, liaison with publishing houses or using materials the library already has.  The DAISY Consortium CEO Richard Orme pointed out that the tech and frameworks exist to enable accessibility; parties should work together to enable accessible metadata and the balance should shift towards mainstream provision (born accessible), though special repositories will likely be needed for a while.

Emma House, Deputy CEO of The Publishers Association, gave an update on the publisher perspective on adapting content.  The challenge is to make all published outputs available to anyone who has a print impairment, for commercial, ethical and legal reasons.  She outlined the relevant legislation both existing (on the PA website at and to come, flagging the European Accessibility Act and the Marrakesh Treaty as the legislation to monitor as it is implemented.  Marrakesh is regarded as a real triumph. One exceptional concept in this Treaty is the enablement of cross-border access to works; an IPO consultation is awaited on the changes needed within UK legislation to implement it.  Remaining to-dos include promotion in the user community on what’s available; publishers’ inclusion of accessibility in ONIX feeds; and publishers’ building accessibility into the mainstream.  Emma’s presentation is on the PA website at

A video from Ben Watson, Accessible Information Project Adviser for the University of Kent, described building ramps and lifts for digital information with the OPERA project  This project promotes inclusive design and assistive technology, aiming to mainstream accessibility – shifting the culture from adjustment for individuals via inclusive learning plans towards anticipatory reasonable adjustments and inclusive practice by design.

A lightning talk from Heather Smith of the National Trust highlighted the importance of working direct with disabled people, and one from Barbara Denton of the University of the Arts London flagged the digital accessibility centre as a helpful external testing company; UAL has had a culture change as the benefits of accessibility for cohorts with a higher proportion of students with disabilities than most have become apparent.



CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Program is Live!

The program for the 33rd CSUN Assistive Technology Conference has been announced and, as ever, there is much on the agenda that is of interest to the publishing industry. George Kerscher, Chief Innovations Officer within the DAISY Consortium will be presenting 3 sessions at the conference:

Publishing at the W3C: The Future of all Accessible Digital Publishing– March 21st, 9am

Your Ace in the Hole to Win the Digital Publishing Accessibility Jackpot– March 21st, 10am

Why EPUB is the Standard for Accessible ebooks– March 22nd, 1.20pm


In addition to these presentations Inclusive Publishing has identified the following sessions which will also be of interest:

DIAGRAM Report 2017: Deep Look at Emerging Technologies for Learning.– March 21st, 10am

Guerilla Alt Text: Making Accessibility Happen– March 21st, 4.20pm

EPUB Creation Tool Comparison– March 22nd, 9am

Global Certified Accessible: EPUB Accessible Certification Goes Global– March 22nd, 10am

RNIB’s Operational Impact 2 Years Post-Move to Bookshare’s Private Library– March 22nd, 4.20pm


Registration for the conference opens on January 13th. For more details

Accessibility to Feature at Digital Book World, 2018

Digital Book World Conference Logo

The popular mainstream publishing and technology conference, Digital Book World, is scheduled to return this year with a new focus and an exciting program. Accessible publishing will feature in Nashville as well as other publishing hot topics and DAISY are delighted to be be playing a significant role at the conference.  The session entitled “Building Accessibility Into Publishing Workflows: From The Ground Up” will be delivered by DAISY speakers and the Consortium will also play an advisory role in the creation of an Achievement in Accessibility in Publishing Award to be presented at the awards ceremony.

For details of the full announcement visit

Typefi User Conference, Brighton

March 22nd to 23rd, 2018

The Typefi User Conference offers Typefi users, partners and staff an opportunity to network, share best practices, and learn from each other. If you’re considering adopting Typefi as your automated publishing solution, this is an excellent chance to see the platform in action and talk to other users.

Of particular interest is the morning workshop on the 22nd of March on Accessible Publishing which will include an introduction to accessibility, as well as in-depth presentations and conversations with experts in accessible publishing. If you want to understand why accessibility is important, and how to build standards-compliant accessibility features right into your publishing workflows without increasing composition costs then this session is for you!


22nd-23rd March, 2018


Brighton, U.K.

Learn More

Funka Accessibility Days, Stockholm

April 17th to 18th, 2018

Funka Accessibility Days is northern Europe’s largest conference on accessible ICT. As usual, an exciting program awaits delegates with specific focus this year on the new international WCAG 2.1 standard  and the latest W3C developments regarding standards and tools for accessible technology, design and content.

”Meet the expert” is a successful part of the program where you have the opportunity to book a master class with Funkas’ experts in smaller rooms, during the event. You can choose to pose your questions to a developer, a designer, a language expert, a requirements specialist, an assistive technology expert or an over all accessibility professional – and get answers and recommendations on the spot.


April 17th – 18th, 2018


Stockholm, Sweden

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W3C News – Synchronized Multimedia for Publications Community Group Proposal

Marisa DeMeglio, software developer for The DAISY Consortium, has proposed creation of a new group  working on a way to “synchronize audio or video with Web Publications and other document formats being developed by the Publishing Working Group, in order to make the publications accessible to people with different types of reading requirements.”  For more information on this and details of how to support this proposal visit:


Digital Content and Disability, London

January 10th, 2018

Logo for the UCL Centre for Digital HumanitiesThis afternoon seminar will examine accessibility and usability issues in digital content, with a particular emphasis on learning disabled people. Within this area, themes will centre around different hardware (mobile, laptop, ebook reader), media (web, ebook, apps), barriers to effective use and experts from particular sectors will explain initiatives attempting to address the differing access needs. Emma House, Deputy CEO of the Publishers Association and Chair of the Accessibility Action Group will be presenting.

This seminar will be of interest to content providers, librarians, publishers, educationalists, supporters of people with disabilities (whether professional or informal carers etc.), interface designers and interested academics.  It represents an opportunity to understand an increasingly significant issue, see how others have responded and work out how to better target and market products.


January 10th, 2018 – Doors will open from 13:00 for registration, and the event will start at 14:00. The event will be followed by a short wine reception.


London, U.K. – UCL London: Registartion and Refreshments: Wilkins Building, South Cloisters; Seminar, Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre

Learn More:

The registration fee is £95/person – please register online (some student and speaker concessions available – please email For full program and event details visit:

Ensuring the Accessibility of all Learning Content

Photograph of Rick Johnson, author of this articleRick Johnson, Vice President of Product Strategy at Vital Source has written an incisive article for the latest issue of Research information, focusing on what is required during this time of “dramatic change” for accessibility in learning content. Read the full article on their website

Rick Johnson will be presenting a number of sessions at the CSUN Assitive Technology Conference in March 2018 with George Kerscher, Chief Innovations Officer within the DAISY Consortium.

Digital Publishing Summit, Berlin

May 16th to 17th, 2018

Logo for EDRLab the organizers of this conferenceFollowing the two highly successful EPUB Summits in Bordeaux (2016) and Brussels (2017), EDRLab have announced that the Digital Publishing Summit Europe will be held in Berlin on the 16th and 17th of May, 2018.

During this day and half, there will be presentations (from W3C and EDRLab members) and demos of technical and business innovations in the publishing industry, from the production of natively accessible ebooks to the spread of highly interoperable EPUB 3 reading applications on all platforms, with Readium LCP inside. Insights into the German publishing industry, the wide digitization of the whole sector, the evolutions of the Tolino platform and the innovations in German startups will also be a focus.

EDRLab aims to strengthen a true spirit of cooperation between professionals and encourages the adoption of open standards and software by the European publishing industry.


May 16-17, 2018


Berlin, Germany

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For further information inclusing details of early bird pricing visit:

W3C ARIA Working Group finalize digital publishing specifications

The Accessible Rich Internet Applications Working Group has finalized several documents:

Further information about this is available in the blog post:

Following the completion of WAI-ARIA 1.1, the Working Group will begin work on WAI-ARIA 1.2, which will focus on defining features that correspond to existing HTML 5 features. This reflects convergence of an accessibility taxonomy for the web across various technologies and will support future scripting and automation of accessibility features. More information about the Accessible Rich Internet Applications Working Group is available from its home page: