Inheritance Tax: The Real Cost of not Making Content Accessible

Monopoly hotel atop of a pile of coins symbolizing inheritance taxAt last year’s London Book Fair, I was invited to speak at the Publishers Association Accessibility Action Group’s annual seminar. My aim was to bring the perspective of a large trade publisher to the subject of accessible content production. There, I emphasised both the enormous value in creating books with enhanced accessibility, and also the unique challenges in doing this at-scale when you are responsible for a list of the size that we are. Both our backlist catalogue, and our ongoing frontlist output are at such a scale that we have to make workflow changes very selectively and deliberately.

Rather than restating the content of that talk here, I thought it was worth talking more about the practical benefits of creating this content, beyond the indisputable ethical case. There has been plenty of excellent discussion about the moral imperative, so I won’t add to that here, but I think it’s important to spend some time talking about some other key advantages that creating accessible content brings.

I am also not going to address the argument from a surface-level commercial perspective. There have been claims about the potential unaddressed market, but it’s very hard to estimate what that really means in terms of sales and I am not qualified to make that kind of assessment. However a more easily-argued, but no less grounded commercial benefit is to do with preparing content for the reading surfaces of the future.

I write here not as a representative of my employer, but as somebody who has worked in digital publishing in various forms for over a decade, and with great optimism for the changes I see happening in our attitudes toward quality content. What I intend to argue is that the goals of accessible publishing are, in fact, goals that improve publishing and the publications we create as a whole. Rather than talking about accessible books, I like to refer to ‘semantically-enriched’ content, because this emphasises that the very same work that creates more accessible books also makes them a richer, more valuable store of preserved culture and knowledge, more ready to be transformed into the formats of the future.

When we create accessible ebooks, nothing we are doing is specific to print-impairment. Above all, what all of the tasks involved (tagging, metadata enrichment, logical structuring, described content et al) have in common is that they are adding semantic depth and direction to a work. By creating semantically-enriched content – which is to say, in essence, content that is fully realised, described and presented – we create content of fundamentally greater value, from which any reading system of the future, of any kind, will benefit. Particularly as we develop multivarious forms of artificial intelligence and ponder the uses to which it might be put, it is more important than ever that digital content describes itself, providing cues to its intended shape beyond the surface level of the written word. When we create semantically-enriched content, we are creating digital files that are ready and able to be turned into literally any format or surface we might think of in the future, beyond just ebooks as we currently know them.

On a raw technical level, semantically-enriched content involves creating better markup, with more semantic hooks that reading systems of any kind are able to use to trigger functionality and alter presentation. File formats will change over time, but as long as that semantic data is present, content can be reliably transformed into any format. Failing to add these features now is really just delaying the cost to a later date, as publishers who are now having to rework their backlist from the ‘dark days’ of early ebook conversion are already experiencing.

All of this was emphasised again for me recently by the PA’s fantastic ‘Axe the Reading Tax’ campaign. Ebooks are a crucial method of cultural storage and preservation, and far from being print’s poor cousin, in fact bring substantial benefits that I believe make them an even more important medium of cultural preservation. By making all of our books digitally and semantically rich, we bequeath a more valuable inheritance to future generations and the technologies they will create.

I am going to end this high-minded ramble by returning to the very thing I set out to not talk about: The oft-discussed ethical imperative. By creating semantically-enriched content, we open avenues that help make the human inheritance of literature – from its soaring highs of cultural value and moral power to its soul-enriching entertainment and precious distraction – available to the broadest number of people, and for the longest period of time possible; and by doing this fulfil our cultural mission as publishers to elevate, propagate and enrich the culture in which we operate. As it happens, in this instance, it also makes good commercial sense from anything other than a direly short-termist perspective.

It is incumbent upon each generation to pass on the great cultural inheritance of the written word. Our generation has a unique opportunity to do so in a profound and meaningful way that simply did not exist for those who came before us. It’s not often that those of us on the ‘nuts and bolts’ side of the industry get the opportunity to engage directly with such profound and meaningful goals, but here is one. Make it count.


This article was kindly submitted by Simon Mellins, Ebook Technology Coordinator at Penguin Random House UK. Simon’s slide deck from his presentation at the London Book Fair 2019 is available here.

Inclusive Publishing 2019 Review

Head shot of Richard OrmeIt’s been a busy year for Inclusive Publishing and, as we look forward to 2020, Richard Orme, CEO of the DAISY Consortium, reflects on some of the year’s successes for accessible publishing and our industry.

As an industry hub and news portal, has seen and reported on some major advancements in 2019, culminating in the release of a desktop version of our very popular Ace by DAISY tool, which gives the industry an EPUB accessibility checking tool—invaluable to many in-house workflows. Open source and free, the Ace App allows you to quickly test EPUB files through a familiar graphical user interface and highlight any issues which need to be addressed.

For those publishers who have joined our Inclusive Publishing Partner program they have the additional benefit of the enhanced SMART license (Simple Manual Accessibility Reporting Tool) which can be integrated with Ace, providing manual conformance checks. Other benefits of the program include expert advice and support and quarterly bulletins on the latest developments.

We’ve been pleased to report on some terrific events this year as accessibility becomes a major focus for publishers worldwide:

In March DAISY staff could be found at 3 major international events. The London Book Fair saw the annual Accessibility Action Group seminar focus publisher efforts towards inclusive and accessible publishing. DAISY presented results of our seasonal survey, framing the case studies and giving us some context to the challenges and opportunities for publishers. DAISY were also delighted to present at the LBF BIC Building a Better Business seminar where accessibility is always a highlight.

The CSUN Assistive Technology Conference was a huge success, as usual, and DAISY staff presented on a variety of inclusive publishing themes to packed audiences. Ebookcraft in Toronto had an enormous focus on accessible publishing and we were thrilled that our Ace developers were able to present a three-hour workshop at this very popular event.

In May we supported Global Accessibility Awareness Day with a publisher’s toolkit of ideas for highlighting the event in-house. We plan to give this even greater attention this year and urge our publishing colleagues to start planning asap.

EDRLab ran their annual DPUB Summit in June and DAISY staff played a prominent role in updating delegates on standards and DAISY tools. This is quite a technical event where accessibility is of huge importance.

In September we attended Digital Book World and we were delighted to play a major role at this event where we delivered a session on Born Accessible publishing and were proud to present the DAISY Award for Accessibility to Vital Source. We were also honored to receive an Outstanding Achievement Award for the Ace by DAISY tool.

In October we attended the LIA Accessibility Camp in Milan, presenting on standards developments and the Accessing Higher Ground conference in November was a huge opportunity to hear from a wide variety of publishers about the strides being made towards inclusive publishing practices. In particular, the face-off between various publishers was a terrific session.

The DAISY Consortium maintains and develops EPUBCheck, the conformance validator for the EPUB format and which received several updates, with a major release coming in 2020. EPUBCheck is overseen by the W3C and continues to be funded by generous contributions from across the digital publishing landscape.

We also maintain to conduct and facilitate reviews of reading systems, offering benchmark feedback to developers and consumers on flexible reading support. Working with technology companies of all sizes globally has proved incredibly fruitful, and we have seen a growth in interest from the wider community of developers seeking to maintain and improve their support for readers with print disabilities.

We’ve been very lucky to work with some top-quality contributors this year and our thanks go to all of them for their submissions. From event reports to opinion pieces, we’ve been fortunate to be able to publish some terrific pieces of extremely high quality. We very much hope that all our readers and supporters will take five minutes to update us on their progress by taking this year’s survey. Please make sure that we are aware of all your good work. Our thanks to all those who have completed this already—we look forward to sharing the anonymous results with you all soon.

We look towards 2020 with perhaps more optimism and enthusiasm than previous years. It has been wonderful to see how the industry has responded to our Inclusive Publishing website and newsletter, and we hope that you will all continue to support us—we rely on your input and are very grateful for it. There are some exciting developments we look forward to sharing with you next year, and we will continue to publish both technical and non-technical information to cater for all our readers in this way.

We wish you all a very happy new year and we look forward to working with you in the forthcoming months.

Richard Orme
CEO DAISY Consortium

Bett 2020

January 22nd to 25th, 2020

Bett is the first industry show of the year in the education technology landscape, bringing together over 800 leading companies, 103 exciting new EdTech startups and over 34,000 attendees. People from over 146 countries in the global education community come together to celebrate, find inspiration and discuss the future of education, as well as seeing how technology and innovation enables educators and learners to thrive. Of particular interest to inclusive publishing readers are the sessions presented by Abi James, on behalf of Abilitynet.


January 22-25, 2020


ExCel, London, UK

Learn More

Visit the Bett website for further information

Reflections from Accessing Higher Ground 2019

AHG Conference banner featuring conference information against a backdrop of a snow covered mountainAs we reflect on the Accessing Higher Ground Conference and look ahead to the new year, it’s clear that higher ed will continue to build an increased focus on accessibility. In an all-out effort to avoid falling victim to the triple-digit increase in digital accessibility lawsuits over the last few years, the higher ed community has been largely focused on getting its arms around the ins and outs of IT accessibility, governance, documentation, and remediation. Specifically, there has never been a more important time than now for institutions to place an increased focus around equitable and accessible learning materials. 

Nearly one in five college students have some type of disability, but on average only 11 percent of all undergraduate students formally register with a Disability Services Office (DSO). That means most institutions aren’t aware of the more than half of students with some form of disability or accessibility need. We are no longer in the age of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to instruction and learning. In the spirit of “accessibility helps everyone,” more and more campus stakeholders are embracing the universal design and inclusion mentality.

This year’s Accessing Higher Ground (AHG) Conference felt like the first major shift toward putting the student learning experience first. Thanks to conferences like AHG and the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, the higher ed community now has a foundational understanding of what it takes to lead accessibility initiatives on campus. This has allowed us to turn inwardto the heart and soul of our institutions: the student learning experience.

One of the themes for this year’s sessions was focused around the equitable and accessible learning experience. An attendee who wanted to learn more about universal design and inclusion could curate an entire week of sessions around these subjects. From a workshop on the process of inclusive design, to tips on helping instructors and faculty understand the importance of usability, to planning for the variability of learners with universal design for learning (UDL) principles, this year’s sessions covered a wide range of topics. 

Another emerging theme from the conference was around “born accessible” EPUB in the higher ed space, driven by two of the world’s biggest accessibility rock stars, George Kerscher and Richard Orme. The publishing industry is beginning the shift from PDFs to more accessible EPUB formats in order to provide the best possible experience for all. George and Richard conducted workshops designed to demystify the world of EPUB, provided how-to sessions on creating and remediating EPUB, and chaired panels of key educational publishers showcasing the accessibility features of their EPUB titles. 

In addition to the forward-thinking sessions and discussions, an important piece of the conference went back to the basics of accessibility. As accessibility becomes increasingly more essential within higher ed, sessions and workshops around understanding accessibility laws and associated documentation, successful testing methods, and emerging assistive technologies were helpful for all of those looking to gain a base understanding. 

This year RedShelf was thrilled to share a presentation around helping campus stakeholders understand the importance of adopting accessible course materials. In order to create lasting change around accessibility, institutional stakeholders like publisher representatives, faculty, campus store managers, and accessibility offices need to be engaged. 

Knowing the importance of stakeholder involvement, one of the biggest initiatives of RedShelf’s accessibility team is educating our campus partners on the importance of adopting EPUB titles every term. Helping our partners understand why an EPUB is more effective than a PDF empowers them to create a groundswell on campus to ensure that everyone from individual faculty to admin offices is making sure course material accessibility needs are being met. While change is oftentimes difficult and institutional processes can be inflexible, we take pride in supporting each campus in their journey from accessible adoption to accessible delivery.  

The AHG Conference always feels like an opportunity to put the finishing touches on our yearly quest for accessibility as a requirement, not a feature, and look ahead to our ambitions for the new year. We are all truly accessing higher ground each November by learning, networking, sharing ideas, and seeing old friends and making new ones. I am proud to be aligned with such thoughtful and influential people helping to make the world a better place.  

Cheers to a prosperous and accessible 2020!

Our thanks to Erin Lucas for kindly submitting this article. Erin is Senior Director for Digital Accessibility at RedShelf, an Inclusive Publishing Partner.

Inclusive Publishing Seasonal Survey 2019

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 approach the end of 2019, it’s the perfect time for us all to reflect on the progress we have made as an 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 but we do 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. In the meantime we would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and healthy new year. Here’s to 2020!!

Rumble in the Publishing Jungle: PDF and EPUB Duke It Out!

November 12th, 2019

In the PDF corner, wearing the blue tutu, is Susan Kelmer and in the EPUB corner, wearing green trunks, is George Kerscher. This heavy weight event is ten rounds of full impact advocacy for access to information. “EPUB is the greatest,” said George Kerscher, and he went on to say, “I will show the way of the future for all born accessible published materials.”  “PDF is the established world champion,” countered Susan Kelmer, following with a right hook by continuing, “We know how to deal with PDF, and our students want PDF.” This is a sanctioned AHEAD championship event. The referee and question-keeper, who will make sure there is no hitting below the belt, will be Rachel Kruzel. Fans should make sure their tickets are booked ASAP because seats are limited, and this is the ultimate event to fully understand EPUB, PDF, their differences, and the advantages of each.


November 12, 2019



Learn More

Full registration details are available on the AHEAD event page

ABC International Excellence Award—Seeking Nominations for 2020

The Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) International Excellence Award, to be given at London Book Fair 2020, is now open for nominations. ABC aims to increase the number of books worldwide in accessible formats, and make them available to people who are print disabled; the ABC International Excellence Award, given at LBF, recognizes outstanding leadership and achievement in advancing the accessibility of commercial e-books or other digital publications.

Two awards will be presented, one to a publisher and one for an initiative.  You can nominate your own organisation or a third party anywhere in the world, and nominations are encouraged from those based in developing or least developed countries.  The submissions deadline is December 16, 2019, and the awards will be given on March 10, 2020.  Click through for full details and visit the LBF awards site for submission information.

Accessibility Camp—A Moment of Study Between Experts

A collection of pink sticky notes being positioned on a boardThe LIA Foundation recently organized a day completely dedicated to the theme of accessibility for professionals in the publishing world and for content producers at the  Talent Garden Calabiana in Milan , as part of the MiCA project—Milan for Accessible Culture.

It was a day in which participants were able to meet experts from the world of digital accessibility to share knowledge, information and experiences—offering a moment of study, exchange and comparison on the subject of accessibility amongst professionals.

The first part of the day was dedicated to presentations from national and international experts who introduced and explored the dynamics and scenarios taking place at a global level.

Speakers included:

  • Cristina Mussinelli—The LIA Foundation
  • Antonio Cotroneo—The LIA Foundation
  • Avneesh Singh—The DAISY Consortium
  • Luc Audrain—Hachette Livre

The day began with a demo of a visually impaired user trying to buy and read an ebook which was great for setting the mood for the day.

Print impaired reader presenting to delegates with Gregorio Pellegrino assisting


Cristina Mussinelli from the LIA Foundation then introduced the workshop and explained the need to work together in order to comply with the new European legislative framework for accessibility: Marrakech Treaty and European Accessibility Act. The LIA Foundation has recently produced a white paper entitled: EBooks for All: Towards an Accessible Publishing Ecosystem

Avneesh Singh from The DAISY Consortium gave a keynote speech on publishing standards, including:

  • an introduction to EPUB 3.2
  • EPUBCheck—the prerequisite for adoption of EPUB 3.2 together with plans for further development
  • State of the art accessibility of EPUB 3—greatly reinforced by EPUB 3 Accessibility Conformance and Discovery specifications
  • information on EPUB 3.0.1 and EPUB accessibility specifications becoming ISO standards which will serve to further elevate EPUB and the EPUB Accessibility specification worldwide.

Luc Audrain, Head of Digitalization for Hachette Livre, rounded off the first part of the day with a keynote describing Hachette’s move to an EPUB 3 born accessible publishing workflow, without incurring additional cost. Luc’s drive has been a major factor in Hachette’s success made possible because he was the right person, in the right place, at the right time. It was great to see how just one person can bring about such a change.


Luc Audrain presents on EPUB 3 and workflows within Hachette Livre


During the second part of the Camp, three operational working groups were organized to explore specific topics in more detail:

  • How to make mathematics accessible in traditional production processes. This workshop also looked at other STEM materials.
  • Reading solutions: platforms and user experience
  • Discoverability and metadata : what do users want and what steps are needed to meet the deadlines set by the European Accessibility Act?

The LIA Foundation has also recently announced that the notable organizations, Associazione Italiana Dislessia (AID) and the Biblioteca Italiana per i Ciechi (Italian Library for the Blind) (BIC) have signed an agreement for the production and distribution of accessible copies of textbooks to blind and visual impaired students. The full press release of this announcement is available. The Foundation is busy setting up a Scientific Committee with many esteemed collaborators and we look forward to hearing about the plans and work of this group.

Accessible Books Consortium Celebrates 100th Signatory to ABC’s Charter for Accessible Publishing

Fountain pen with ink drippingHachette Livre has become the 100th signatory of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) Charter, marking an important milestone for the WIPO-sponsored alliance working to increase the number of books in accessible formats for use by hundreds of millions of people around the globe who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled.

By signing ABC’s Charter for Accessible Publishing publishers commit to making its products fully accessible to all users. Specifically the charter asks publishers to:

  1. state their accessibility policy on their web-site
  2. nominate a senior manager who will be responsible for accessibility
  3. raise awareness among, and provide technical training for, relevant staff
  4. designate and publicise a point of contact in their organization to assist persons with print disabilities to access their publications
  5. test their digital publications for accessibility, incorporating appropriate feature descriptions and metadata
  6. monitor their progress in this area
  7. promote the adoption of accessibility standards throughout the supply chain
  8. support national and international collaboration with organizations representing persons with print disabilities so as to increase the availability of publications in accessible formats

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry welcomed the development, saying: “We are pleased to see a growing number of key industry players signing the Charter for Accessible Publishing. This advances our global efforts to increase the number of books available for use by people with print disabilities.” He added: “Hachette Livre is a world-leading publisher and its membership will make a big difference in making accessible format books available to blind and visually impaired persons.”

Hachette Livre Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Arnaud Nourry said “For the book industry, making books accessible to the widest readership, including readers who are blind, visually impaired, or print disabled, not only makes economic sense, but is a moral imperative. If we, publishers, do not pioneer this duty on an industrial level, who will?”

Accessibility Camp

October 25th, 2019

The Accessibility Camp is a one day event organized by the LIA Foundation. Participants will meet with national and international digital accessibility experts to share knowledge, insights and good practice, aiming to establish relationships that lead to the design and implementation of innovative and shared projects and to provide solutions for people with visual impairments.

The first part of the day will be dedicated to keynote speeches by national and international experts, including DAISY’s COO Avneesh Singh. This portion of the day will set the stage and present the dynamics at a global level. During the second part of the day, thematic working groups will be organized with everyone playing an active role. The working groups will cover:

  • Accessible Math in production workflows
  • Reading solutions: platforms and reading experiences
  • Discoverability: user requirements
  • Image description: how to produce them in an efficient and sustainable way


October 25, 2019


Milan, Italy

Learn More

Visit the Accessibility Camp web page to see the full schedule.