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Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019

May 16th, 2019

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is designed  to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion for people with different disabilities. Last year we reported on some terrific events held at publishing organizations and we hope to see similar this year.

Date

May 16, 2019

Venue

International

Learn More

For information on this year’s event please visit the GAAD website

Book Summit 19

June 18th, 2019

This event is Presented by the Book and Periodical Council, the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Literary Press Group of Canada in association with the Toronto International Festival of Authors.

Book Summit 19 encourages reflection and prediction but above all challenges us to publish with intention.

Of particular interest to our readers is the session entitled: Accessible ebook Publishing: The Business Case with speakers Laura Brady (House of Anansi) and Daniela Levy-Pinto (NNELS) exploringthe importance of developing and promoting ebooks that can be accessed and enjoyed by all audiences.

Date

June 18, 2019

Venue

Toronto, Canada

Learn More

For details on how to register (early bird pricing is available until May 2nd) visit the booksummit 19 website.

Avneesh Singh For W3C Advisory Board

Avneesh Singh, Chief Operating Officer (Strategy and Operations) at the DAISY Consortium, is standing for election to the W3C Advisory Board which “provides ongoing guidance on issues of strategy, management, legal matters, process, and conflict resolution” within the W3C.

Avneesh will bring a unique perspective to the AB:

  • I will bring my knowledge of strategy, governance and experience of managing the DAISY Consortium to the development of structure and the governance model of W3C.

  • Equally important is work towards diversity and inclusion. I am committed to work to ensuring that our worldwide consortium creates worldwide standards with worldwide participation that includes appropriate representation of people from developing countries and people with disabilities.

  • Another important priority is the reinforcement of accessibility and the work towards ensuring that accessibility is embedded in all standards from their inception stage to final Recommendations.

We wish him every success with the nomination and election process. For more details you can access Avneesh’s submission blog piece here. Avneesh welcomes any contact regarding this nomination.

EDRLab Announces Program for DPUB

EDRLab  has announced it’s program for June’s European Digital Publishing Summit with a heavy focus on accessibility. DAISY colleagues, Avneesh Singh and Romain Deltour will both be presenting at the 2 day conference alongside an impressive line up of international speakers. There will be a number of sessions concentrating on accessibility and demonstrations of the Ace by DAISY software and the SMART tool will be taking center stage.

See our events page for details on how to register and find out more

Rethinking Content for Inclusive Higher Education Part Two

A photo of a bookshelf running the full length of a narrow, lighted hallway. The focused foreground advances into a blurred background.In March, textBOX examined the challenges in delivering accessible web content for print-disabled college students in Part 1 of Rethinking Content. This second article focuses on practical solutions for universities and publishers that impact the future of inclusive higher education.

At the March 2019 CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Macmillan presented accessibility milestones and initiatives. Jonathan Thurston, Head of Global Product Accessibility at Pearson, announced their commitment to publish born-accessible digital content, as well as strategic partnerships forged with Kurzweil, VitalSource and T-Base Communications. Lisa Nicks, Director of Accessibility at McGraw-Hill, described the challenges of transforming publishing from a print to digital workflow and announced several new company directions, including EPUB 3 certification through Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible program, EPUB 3 accessibility metadata and new quality assurance policies and procedures. Macmillan’s Rachel Comerford, Senior Director of Content Standards and Accessibility, announced their commitment to delivering born-accessible digital content and meeting Macmillan’s timelines for accessible product releases.

Major academic publishers are overcoming significant barriers to accessible publishing and have changed their organizational culture and approach. The publishing industry has reached a tipping point with delivering inclusive higher education. Accessibility is no longer considered a niche area and is now a central factor in usability and intuitive design. We are at a critical juncture for tackling more specific issues while providing proactive solutions that will have a wide-ranging impact on the higher education community. Universities and publishers now need to seize the potential of this moment and move forward together with a renewed, unified direction and purpose.

Major Obstacles to Inclusive Higher Education

While universities and publishers are making progress with delivering accessible content, major obstacles are creating a vicious cycle and consuming valuable time, money and resources. The graphic below illustrates the challenges faced:

A table comparing the major obstacles for Universities and Publishers. Universities. Passive accessibility policies and procedures. Allocation of staff resources and technical expertise. Remediation without publisher accountability. Publishers. Inadequate communication and transparency. Delayed response to university requests. Vendor quality and consistency issues.

Solutions for Universities

Implement Proactive Accessibility Policies and Procedures

Proactive accessibility policies and procedures can save time for universities in the long run and have the power to influence widespread adoption of industry standards, such as EPUB 3 and WCAG 2.1. Adoption of inaccessible content creates a continual strain on university resources and risks of legal exposure. Now is the time for universities to raise procurement standards and expectations to keep pace with increasing publisher accessibility practices. The AEM Center’s Quality Indicators provide a comprehensive guide for creating proactive accessibility policies with links to useful resources.

The recommendations and examples on the checklist below save valuable Disability Service Office (DSO) resources while furthering the availability of accessible content for the entire higher education community:

  • Ensure university accessibility statement requires vendors to meet WCAG 2.1 AA. Example: CSU Vendor Accessibility Requirements.
  • Allow sufficient time for alternative format development. Contact publishers as soon as DSO or faculty identify the adoption of non-compliant products.
  • Establish procedures for evaluating content collaboratively with publishers. Example: CSU ATI Procurement Process.
  • Include requirements in new and existing publisher contracts for content accessibility and remediation as well as delivery timelines.
  • Create faculty guidelines and incentives to adopt accessible content. Example: TBR Procurement Considerations.
  • Designate DSO staff to build effective publisher partnerships. Conduct regular publisher meetings, establish requirements and expectations, create an action plan and timeline and track progress.

Allocation of Staff Resources and Technical Expertise

Taking time for a transition stage is necessary while the long-term benefits of a proactive approach take effect. Therefore, universities must plan ahead to resolve content remediation issues collaboratively with publishers.

First and foremost, universities must prioritize the use of industry standards, EPUB 3 and Accessibility 1.0, over PDF to continue positive momentum. While PDF remediation may seem like a quick fix it does not contribute to increasing the availability of mainstream accessible content in the long term. Prioritizing EPUB 3 will require changes to existing procedures. For example, universities can create an action plan that involves requesting accessible EPUB content and Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPAT) from publishers and the provision of appropriate training to staff and students on how to use EPUB files.

It is also imperative for the DSO to have at least one employee who has experience with EPUB files and industry accessibility standards. For eTextbooks, AccessText and Benetech’s Bookshare offer a wide range of EPUB content that DSOs can take advantage of using. Additionally, Ace by DAISY is a helpful free and open source tool for automatically checking the accessibility of EPUB files.

Accountable Remediation

If universities are forced to continue to remediate EPUB 3 content, publishers should be held responsible. Universities must require resolution in a timely manner. If the publisher does not respond, online retailers may be able to assist the university by contacting the publisher to remediate the problem. If universities allow time to request EPUB 3 files early in the adoption process, this will contribute to increasing accessible content availability on the market. A remediated PDF file must be a last resort and temporary solution for the university. Publishers should be responsible for providing accessible content for every non-compliant product adoption. The DSO should notify the instructor and the adoption should be identified as at risk if the university is not able to acquire an accessible EPUB 3 file in a timely manner.

Universities must also hold publishers accountable for quality assurance (QA). EPUB files must be tested by publishers and print-disabled users on multiple platforms with assistive technologies to ensure all functions and accessibility features are working consistently. If there are issues encountered in the QA process, the university should be notified and the publisher should work to resolve the issue. Publishers, platforms and assistive technologies should not work in isolation. They all play a critical role in delivering an accessible learning experience for the user.  

Solutions for Publishers

Publishers have made major improvements in recent years. Many have established a central accessibility task force responsible for listening to university partners, secured executive sponsorship, promoted accessibility across the organization and budgeted for improvements for WCAG non-compliant digital products. Publisher commitments to born-accessible content have raised the bar in an ever-competitive marketplace. For publishers who have not tackled these issues yet, now is the time to move forward to remain relevant.

While publishers have prioritized accessibility and made improvements to digital content and technologies, they now must tackle communication and transparency as well as improve responsiveness to university requests and vendor management.    

Enhanced Communication and Transparency

Publishers need to be more transparent with providing accessibility specifications for digital products and platforms to eliminate the need for university evaluation and consumption of DSO time. Populating digital product accessibility metadata in ONIX (codelist 196), on retail websites and/or within EPUB files is an industry standard requirement that improves the discoverability and sales of digital products while reducing the number of DSO requests for alternative formats.

Publisher sales representatives must be aware of accessibility requirements so they can inform and answer questions and avoid misleading prospective adopters. Representatives are on the front lines selling digital products to universities and must be instructed to notify the publisher accessibility team of problems. Educating sales representatives demonstrates support for university policies, procedures and resources. It is not acceptable to expect the university to shift resources to handle emergency remediation when this should have been handled at the front end by publishers.

Accessibility statements on publisher websites require improvement. The ASPIRE Project evaluated publisher websites for accessibility information, including accessibility contact details, enquiry response times, file navigability and image descriptions. The results revealed that publishers scored an average of 3.3 out of a total of 35 (ASPIRE). Publishers must implement the ASPIRE guide for updating website product information (available here).

Publishers can improve communication with universities by listening more actively. For example, publishers can host a session with universities to collect accessibility feedback. They can also participate in specialist conferences like Accessing Higher Ground and CSUN. Maintaining a constructive, collaborative dialogue between publishers and universities is the key to successful partnership and change.

Timely Response to Remediation

A born-accessible approach is a giant leap forward for inclusive higher education, however, there must be a solution for fixing existing inaccessible content and platforms. Universities are continually battling deadlines and are forced to triage internally when publishers do not provide usable content.

Publishers must establish both reactive and proactive approaches to university requests. If publishers take a reactive approach, they must also develop a solution to quickly respond to requests and meet university deadlines. Publishers must be prepared to receive rush requests from universities that may only have a few days before the start of class. Collaboration with partners in the education sector is key here. Everyone needs to help each other to be successful in these time-critical situations.

On the other hand, a proactive approach is more desirable because it reduces the amount of content remediation and helps them remain competitive with other publishers. This approach involves creating a prioritized list of published content and then budgeting to remediate selections on an annual basis. Regardless of approach, updating existing content will save time and money when the next edition is published.

To improve responsiveness, publishers should assign a primary contact person for university requests. This person must have a direct line of communication with the publisher’s internal department or an external vendor responsible for resolving accessibility issues. The contact person must be diligent about submitting requests and informing the university of expected delivery dates. This will build trust, ensure satisfaction and reduce the amount of time it takes to deliver an accessible file to the student.

Vendor and In-House Quality and Consistency Issues

As Bill Kasdorf states, vendor management is a critical aspect in publishing accessible content at scale: “many people don’t realize that most publishers don’t actually do the hands-on production work for their books and journals – their vendors do that. But what is a lot of work for the publishers is, frankly, training their vendors. We owe a big debt of gratitude to all the publishers–Hachette Livre in trade and the Big Five higher education publishers (Cengage, Macmillan Learning, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Wiley) particularly come to mind – who have spent years working closely with their vendors to get accessibility right. Now all the other publishers who use those vendors will have an easier path to making their publications born accessible.”

Vendors have a responsibility to maintain the publisher’s brand and reputation and aim to deliver consistent, high-quality digital products that meet accessibility requirements. To address university complaints about the quality of digital products, publishers should implement regular quality assurance checks to evaluate whether vendors are meeting expectations. Publishers must push back on vendors to resolve concerns and, when necessary, add accessibility requirements to vendor contracts.

Publishers should also require vendors to be responsible for remediation and to adhere to delivery timelines that meet university expectations. Addressing issues with vendors proactively will save time for publishers and universities.

Conclusion

We cannot let current challenges prevent us from making the changes we all want to see in the future. We can overcome obstacles together through communication, collaboration and action. Universities must be more consistent and proactive to prevent unnecessary strain on time and resources. Publishers must be more transparent and responsive to maintain their relevance. Solving these problems will make a difference for both disabled and non-disabled readers while establishing a new standard for inclusive higher education.

This article was kindly submitted by Caroline Desrosiers and Huw Alexander, Co-Founders of textBOX. To learn more about textBOX please visit the textBOX website or reach out at hello@textboxdigital.com

2019 Reading Systems Roundup

Individuals and organizations need to choose reading systems that offer the accessibility features they need. Requirements vary between individuals, and might include support for a screen reader, the ability to change the visual presentation of the contents, a read aloud feature, a feature to enlarge images and so on. An updated roundup of popular EPUB reading apps. has been prepared which is  based on detailed accessibility evaluations conducted using a protocol developed by and with people with print disabilities.

Accessibility Takes Centre Stage at ebookcraft 2019

a panel with donuts displayed on it for delegates at ebookcraftebookcraft is fast becoming the number one conference for many who work in digital publishing—Laura Brady and the steering committee have, over the years, devised an inclusive, accessible, diverse and unmissable event that welcomes its delegates to Toronto with open arms. From the atmospheric and moving opening ceremony given by Whabagoon, an Ojibway Elder of Lac Seul First Nation,  to the cheeky treats on offer (a.k.a. the donut wall) there was something for everyone and much more besides.

This year saw an increase in focus surrounding accessibility. All of the sessions that I attended referred to inclusivity and accessibility in some way with 4 sessions dedicated entirely to the subject. No other conference does this. No other publishing event puts accessibility centre stage. Is this a sign of exciting things to come? Let’s hope so.

Marisa DeMeglio and Romain Deltour, (DAISY Consortium), ran one of the opening workshops: Be an Ally at A11y, looking at the background to technical ebook accessibility and then focusing on the tools that DAISY has developed. Holding the attention of a packed room for 3 hours they deftly walked us through all aspects of accessibility giving resource pointers and demos for everyone to experience how they can include validation within their workflows and what they need to do to achieve this. Ace by DAISY, the free open source EPUB accessibility checker is their creation and news of an updated GUI version was welcomed by the crowd as well as details on SMART, which provides information on manual checks necessary to ensure conformance with EPUB and WCAG requirements. Together, Ace and SMART provide the most complete method for accessibility conformance testing of EPUB publications. Take a look at their slides for all the detail on this session, including useful resource recommendations (such as the DAISY knowledge base) and access to the demos.

Laura Brady (House of Anansi) ran a workshop on Remediating Backlist ebooks with Accessibility in Mind, a subject which we think is going to become increasingly important to publishers as they master their approach to accessibility. There is no quick way to do this but Laura showed us all that there is indeed a straightforward process and that there are things that you can do right now to improve the accessibility of EPUB 2 files, particularly for the less complex content that needs work. Top of Laura’s List:

Convert your files to EPUB 3, the number one format for accessibility opportunities.

Other areas for consideration include:

  • Remove bits and bobs you no longer need
  • Level up the HTML
  • Clean markup
  • Language declarations
  • Navigation file
  • Include a navigable Table of Contents
  • Landmarks
  • Page list
  • Semantics – epub:type and ARIA
  • Have complete and relevant Image descriptions
  • Include accessibility Metadata

Check out Laura’s slides for more detail on this and the rest of her presentation.

Sabina Iseli-Otto (National Network for Equitable Library Service) and Shannon Culver (eBound Canada) presented a review of the work done by the NNELS Accessibility Summit in January in their session Who Does What to Make Great EPUB: How to Build an Airplane in Mid-Air.  The outcomes of this summit are gathering momentum and there are a number of exciting working groups forming that all ebookcraft delegates were invited to take part in. They shared detailed feedback from the summit on how to develop and create accessible EPUB 3 files and what still needs to be done. The challenges are clear (image descriptions, tables , EPUB 2 still in use etc) and the group of people that they drew together in January are a stellar selection of top minds who are enthused and passionate about moving forward.

We want to encourage publishers to move towards born accessible publishing. Accessibility features are good for everyone. 

The slides from this session will give you more information on the achievements of this group.

Kai Li, a visually impaired NNELS employee, talked to us all about his reading experiences in his presentation The Users Perspective: Accessibility Features in Action, affirming in our minds that user testing is going to become increasingly more important as we work on old and new files and formats. He impressed upon us that having people with disabilities in the workplace enhances and improves working practices, giving insights that might otherwise be overlooked.

Fixed layout does not make your books last and it is bad for accessibility. In fact, as screen reader users, every word is displayed on a separate line!

Kai and other colleagues were at ebookcraft to answer questions throughout the conference and we were very lucky to have their hands on knowledge made so available to us all.

The conference ended with the extraordinary news that the Canadian Budget 2019 has announced huge funds to be put towards accessible publishing, confirming to us all that Canada is determined to embrace born accessible publishing.

There are a number of excellent event reports emerging from this two day extravaganza and we recommend these for details on the other terrific sessions. A heartfelt thanks to all who make ebookcraft what it is: the details, the welcome and the healthy attitude to conference planning—an impressive display of thoughtful and exacting organization.

We are looking forward to next year already!

 

Canadian Budget Announces Major Focus on Accessible Publishing

The 2019 Canadian budget has a strong focus on the “inclusion of Canadians with visual impairments and other print disabilities.” An exciting funding program has been announced:

  • To address this challenge, Budget 2019 proposes to provide the Centre for Equitable Library Access with an investment of $3.0 million in 2019–20 to produce new accessible reading materials that will be available through public libraries across Canada.

  • The Government is also committed to putting in place a strategy that will ensure the sustainable production and distribution of accessible reading material over the longer term. To that end, Budget 2019 proposes to invest $22.8 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, to assist Canada’s independent book publishing industry in increasing their production of accessible books for persons with print disabilities.

  • To improve employment opportunities for persons with visual impairments, Budget 2019 proposes to provide $1.0 million, in 2019–20, to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to connect persons with visual impairments to small and medium-sized employers.

  • To support the independence of persons with disabilities, Budget 2019 also proposes to invest $0.5 million in 2019–20 towards finding ways to improve the accessibility of electronic payment terminals to enable persons with disabilities to conduct daily activities, such as paying for their groceries, without relying on others.

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.