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EPUB Adoption in Academic Libraries–Progress and Obstacles

cellphone with ebsco name displayed and various icons extending from the sides to represent a swiss army knife effect New Inclusive Publishing Partner, EBSCO, explores the challenges of EPUB adoption for academic libraries.

Just as accessibility in publishing has gained momentum in recent years, so has accessibility in libraries. In 2019, the Los Angeles Community College District ruling was an inflection point–libraries were found to bear responsibility for the resources they make available to users, even with limited control over the vendor platforms themselves. Vendors perked up and have made great strides in recent years, ensuring their software and platforms conform to standards whilst providing increasingly accessible experiences for users. Despite the progress with platforms, however, there are still some endemic challenges that limit the accessibility of ebooks in academic libraries. With EBSCO’s scope and reach, we feel we have a vital role to play in addressing these challenges wherever we can.

We see this un-met potential when we look at the EPUB availability and EPUB accessibility of academic content.

One challenge is that the EPUB format has simply not yet achieved broad acceptance with academic users. EPUB has many accessibility advantages compared to PDF, but until the format is pervasive and fully supported, academic users will not fully benefit from those advantages. Since demand for the format is limited, so is the pressure on publishers to create EPUBs and to invest in the accessibility potential. Academic users tend to gravitate to PDF because it’s familiar. They know exactly what they can and can’t do with it, and they’re using PDF for journal articles, which is a large portion of academic research output. EBSCO gives the user a choice to access the EPUB version for every title where the publisher makes both a PDF and an EPUB version available, and users only select the EPUB version 15-20% of the time.

The single biggest factor driving academic libraries’ resistance to EPUB (and the persistence of PDF) is the lack of pagination. Most EPUB files we receive from publishers do not contain pagination, which means there are not stable page numbers for citations, a critical aspect of academic research and scholarly communication. Citation standards have mostly kept up with the times: they instruct users to cite the database or even the chapter and paragraph if an ebook is in EPUB format or is accessed on a reader without stable pagination. This is simply unacceptable for most of the faculty that we talk to, on practical grounds as well as philosophical. Faculty members that have to grade papers and check sources recoil at the thought of finding an ebook in a database and counting paragraphs when they are already sitting under a mountain of undergraduate essays. But perhaps more important is the integrity of knowledge-transfer–it’s important for the scholarly record to easily identify the place in the work where the knowledge was produced, and to preserve the continuity of the scholarly discourse. So “arbitrary” page numbers that might be displayed by the device are not acceptable if they don’t correspond to other versions of the work, and if they aren’t consistent across platforms. Only 25% of our incoming EPUB files contain page numbers, and until we can get this number much higher, academic libraries and users will not adopt EPUB at scale. Without the use and demand, the evolution of the format and the possibilities for academic users that would benefit from it are diminished.

Only 25% of our incoming EPUB files contain page numbers, and until we can get this number much higher, academic libraries and users will not adopt EPUB at scale.

We see this un-met potential when we look at the EPUB availability and EPUB accessibility of “academic content.” Publishers whose content is available in academic libraries range from large commercial publishers to university press publishers (among which there is also much variation), to very small or specialized academic presses. A significant portion of this content set is still in PDF only–30% looking at 2019 and forward publication years. Most of the publishers that aren’t creating EPUB for all of their titles indicate that they can’t afford the EPUB conversion process. It’s an unfortunate reality that many small academic publishers are simply not able to produce EPUB files, let alone born accessible ones. That said, even some major publishers have indicated that if a title has formatting or other characteristics that don’t easily lend themselves to reflow, they only produce a PDF. We are aware of some working groups addressing formatting challenges like these, so we are hopeful that EPUB solutions will be found in the coming years.

Among the EPUB-format files EBSCO receives, not all have been made fully accessible. While the production processes of trade and higher education publishers have matured to the point where most are creating born-accessible EPUB files, the landscape of academic publishers is much more varied. To assess the files we do host, EBSCO created an EPUB assessment tool integrating Ace by DAISY, and to date we have assessed 1.16 million EPUB files. Only around 40% of these fully pass a check for the WCAG 2.1 A standard.

EBSCO works closely with publishers to provide them data about the accessibility of their files. Our detailed “Progress Reports” show them the extent to which they are passing or failing accessibility checks, what percentage of their titles have an EPUB version, and how to access resources, vendors, or organizations like Benetech to help them improve. We even produce a title-level report showing which files pass or fail which WCAG metrics, in the hopes that the data can be used to drive targeted improvements in their production processes. That said, only a quarter of our publishers say that the problem is the know-how. Almost half of publishers say they just don’t have the budget to make the needed improvements to their workflows.

Since EPUB has not yet been broadly adopted (or demanded), few vendors offer online EPUB reading systems which would greatly improve and universalize an accessible experience for users. The reason an online reading system is important is that most academic publishers require the use of (Adobe) DRM to support library checkouts and user access limitations. (Not all publishers require DRM, and for those that don’t, users can get a DRM-free EPUB for download fairly easily.) With the option to access the EPUB online, users can access the full range of EPUB and accessibility features available without having to download into a separate reader that might limit the accessibility of the title.

EBSCO’s choice to offer and evolve a fully-featured online EPUB reader stems from our desire to optimize the experience for all our users, to support the EPUB standard as it evolves, and to be advocates for the potential of EPUB in the academic setting. Each year, we measure our industry’s progress–on EPUB output, on accessibility metrics, and on usage, and we are happy to report that all of these metrics are headed in the direction we, as a community, would like. We have also joined the W3C EPUB working group to address EPUB pagination consistently across the publishing ecosystem. Many of the EPUB working groups are populated by trade publishers and reading system vendors, so we see our role as being advocates for the academic users as a vital partnership with these colleagues. We hope that combining their experience in trade publishing with ours in academic libraries will lead to real benefits for users performing research and accessing readings assigned in academic courses. To learn more about accessibility at EBSCO, visit https://www.ebsco.com/technology/accessibility.

This article was written for Inclusive Publishing by Kara Kroes Li, Director of Product Management, EBSCO

What does the European Accessibility Act Mean for Global Publishing?

Flags of the member states of the European Union in front of the EU-commission buildingDirective (EU) 2019/882 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility requirements for products and services

Our thanks to Laura Brady (House of Anansi) and Tzviya Siegman (John Wiley & Sons) for this article.

The European Accessibility Act

What do publishers around the world need to know about the European Accessibility Act? This legislation is some of the strongest we’ve seen around accessibility and will force change, without question. If publishers plan to sell digital products into the European Union in the near future, they must get up to speed on what this means for their workflows.

So, what is the legislation exactly? The EAA is a directive that aims to improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services, by removing barriers created by divergent rules in Member States.

Businesses will benefit from:

  • common rules on accessibility in the EU leading to costs reduction
  • easier cross-border trading
  • more market opportunities for their accessible products and services

Persons with disabilities and elderly people will benefit from:

  • more accessible products and services in the market
  • accessible products and services at more competitive prices
  • fewer barriers when accessing transport, education and the open labour market
  • more jobs available where accessibility expertise is needed

The Directive entered into force in June 2019.  Member states have until 28 June 2022 to adopt and publish the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive. This means introducing new and/or updating existing national legislations to comply with its principles and requirements. The full force of the legislation comes into effect on June 28, 2025.

The legislation follows market-driven standards, requiring publishers to produce their digital publications in an accessible format  It also requires the entire supply chain (retailers, e-commerce sites, hardware and software reading solutions, online platforms, DRM solutions, etc.) to make content available to users through accessible services.

The EAA hinges on the discoverability of products and services by end users. Using international standards for accessibility , such as EPUB 3, and describing the accessibility features within the content with schema.org and ONIX metadata enables publishers to expose metadata on retailer and publisher websites, which is crucial.

General Summary

The legislation applies to products and services placed on the market after June 2025

These include:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Websites
  • Mobile Apps
  • ecommerce
  • ereaders
  • ebooks and dedicated software
  • all products and services, including information about how to use above, user sign in, and identity management

There are several factors which allow specific organisations to be exempt from compliance. In addition, the directive does not apply to the following types of content on websites and apps:

  • Pre-recorded time-based media published before 28 June 2025.
  • Office file format documents published before 25 June 2025.
  • Online maps; though if the map is used for navigational purposes then the essential information must be provided in accessible format.
  • Third party content that is entirely out of the control of the website or app owner.
  • Reproductions of items in heritage collections which are too fragile or expensive to digitise.
  • The content of web sites and apps which are considered archival, meaning they are not needed for active administrative purposes and are no longer updated or edited.
  • The web sites of schools, kindergartens, and nurseries, except for content pertaining to administrative functions.

Service Providers must prepare necessary information and explain how services meet this act.

All accessibility information must remain private.

In general, this follows the same principles as WCAG’s Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust model, but it points to specific outcomes. The requirements of this legislation incorporate many types of disabilities, including cognitive disabilities, which have only begun to be incorporated into WCAG.

It’s time for publishers to come to terms with what’s required to meet accessibility standards. If the EU is part of your market, it should be a business imperative to investigate how to fix workflows, and implement robust metadata practices.


Information from the EAA Legislation that Pertains to the Publishing Industry

Details from Appendix I in Directive 2019/882

Information and Instructions

Information, instructions for use must be:

  1. be made available via more than one sensory channel;
  2. be presented in an understandable way;
  3. be presented to users in ways they can perceive;
  4. be presented in fonts of adequate size and suitable shape, taking into account foreseeable conditions of use and using sufficient contrast, as well as adjustable spacing between letters, lines and paragraphs;
  5. with regard to content, be made available in text formats that can be used for generating alternative assistive formats to be presented in different ways and via more than one sensory channel;
  6. be accompanied by an alternative presentation of any non-textual content;
  7.  include a description of the user interface of the product (handling, control and feedback, input and output) which is provided in accordance with point 2; the description shall indicate for each of the points in point 2 whether the product provides those features;
  8. include a description of the functionality of the product which is provided by functions aiming to address the needs of persons with disabilities in accordance with point 2; the description shall indicate for each of the points in point 2 whether the product provides those features;
  9. include a description of the software and hardware interfacing of the product with assistive devices; the description shall include a list of those assistive devices which have been tested together with the product.

User Interface (UI) and functionality design.

Products and their UI must contain features that enable disabled people to perceive, understand and control them, by doing the following things:

  1. Communications must be over more than one sensory channel
  2. Speech alternatives must be provided
  3. When product uses visuals, must provide flexible magnification, brightness, contrast
  4. When product uses color, must convey information in an alternate way
  5. Audible information must be conveyed in an alternative way
  6. Visual elements must offer flexible ways of improving vision clarity
  7. Audio –  must provide user control of volume and speed and improve clarity
  8. Manual controls shall provide sequential controls (not simultaneous)
  9. Avoid operations requiring extensive strength
  10. Avoid triggering photosensitive seizures
  11. Protect user’s privacy when using accessibility features
  12. Alternatives to biometric id and controls
  13. Consistency of functionality and enough and flexible time for interaction
  14. Interaction with assistive tech
  15. the product shall comply with the following sector-specific requirements:

Publishing

  • e-readers shall provide for text-to-speech technology

Support Services

Where available, support services (help desks, call centers, technical support, relay services and training services) must provide information on the accessibility of the product and its compatibility with assistive technologies, in accessible modes of communication.

Section IV, article f  Ebooks

  1. ensuring that, when an e-book contains audio in addition to text, it then provides synchronised text and audio
  2. ensuring that e-book digital files do not prevent assistive technology from operating properly
  3. ensuring access to the content, the navigation of the file content and layout including dynamic layout, the provision of the structure, flexibility and choice in the presentation of the content
  4. allowing alternative renditions of the content and its interoperability with a variety of assistive technologies, in such a way that it is perceivable, understandable, operable and robust
  5. making them discoverable by providing information through metadata about their accessibility features;
  6. ensuring that digital rights management measures do not block accessibility features

(Note: all of these, except as relates to DRM are part of the EPUB specification)

 E-Commerce Services

  1. providing the information concerning accessibility of the products and services being sold when this information is provided by the responsible economic operator;
  2. ensuring the accessibility of the functionality for identification, security and payment when delivered as part of a service instead of a product by making it perceivable, operable, understandable and robust;
  3. providing identification methods, electronic signatures, and payment services which are perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.

Section VII – Functional Performance Criteria

  1. Usage without vision. Where the product or service provides visual modes of operation, it shall provide at least one mode of operation that does not require vision.
  2. Usage with limited vision. Where the product or service provides visual modes of operation, it shall provide at least one mode of operation that enables users to operate the product with limited vision.
  3. Usage without perception of colour. Where the product or service provides visual modes of operation, it shall provide at least one mode of operation that does not require user perception of colour.
  4. Usage without hearing. Where the product or service provides auditory modes of operation, it shall provide at least one mode of operation that does not require hearing.
  5. Usage with limited hearing. Where the product or service provides auditory modes of operation, it shall provide at least one mode of operation with enhanced audio features that enables users with limited hearing to operate the product.
  6. Usage without vocal capability. Where the product or service requires vocal input from users, it shall provide at least one mode of operation that does not require vocal input. Vocal input includes any orally-generated sounds like speech, whistles or clicks.
  7. Usage with limited manipulation or strength. Where the product or service requires manual actions, it shall provide at least one mode of operation that enables users to make use of the product through alternative actions not requiring fine motor control and manipulation, hand strength or operation of more than one control at the same time.
  8. Usage with limited reach. The operational elements of products shall be within reach of all users. Where the product or service provides a manual mode of operation, it shall provide at least one mode of operation that is operable with limited reach and limited strength.
  9. Minimising the risk of triggering photosensitive seizures. Where the product provides visual modes of operation, it shall avoid modes of operation that trigger photosensitive seizures.
  10. Usage with limited cognition. The product or service shall provide at least one mode of operation incorporating features that make it simpler and easier to use.
  11. Privacy. Where the product or service incorporates features that are provided for accessibility, it shall provide at least one mode of operation that maintains privacy when using those features that are provided for accessibility.

Resources

George Kerscher Named NISO Fellow for Lifetime Achievement in Information Access

Photograph of George KerscherCongratulations to Dr. George Kerscher,  Chief Innovations Officer at The DAISY Consortium and Senior Advisor, Global Education and Literacy at Benetech, who was recently recognized as a Fellow by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) for his lifetime of achievement. An internationally recognized leader in document access, he has been devoted to making published information fully accessible to persons with print disabilities since 1987. We had a chance to hear from George about what this honor means to him and how people with reading barriers can be better served across industries and disciplines going forward.

Q: What does being named a NISO Fellow mean to you?

GEORGE: I have worked with NISO for more than 20 years, and most of that work has been in the library sector. NISO is also a pathway for the US to contribute to international standards, and I have participated in those activities as well. Most recently, ISO (an independent, non-governmental international organization) has approved the EPUB Accessibility Conformance and Discovery specification, and I participated through NISO in that work.

Being named a NISO Fellow is a great honour, and, being blind, I feel this reflects the change in society toward inclusion. People with print disabilities must be considered as we design information systems and standards.

Q: After achieving this distinguished honour through your work and accomplishments, what is the next critical problem that needs to be addressed regarding accessibility?

GEORGE: There is a lot more to do in access to information. Yes, the publishing industry has really stepped up to the accessibility plate, but there are still many publishers who need to embrace the principles of born accessible publications, meaning ebooks that have accessibility features built in from the start. Furthermore, society in general needs to be producing born accessible publications as a part of the normal process of document creation. I understand that Ph.D. students are now starting to produce their theses as accessible publications. This trend needs to be pushed down to all college students, and then down to high schools and into elementary schools. As soon as students start to produce materials for other students, they should make sure all students can read and consume what they produce. I can envision seventh graders creating documents which they share, and some of the students read them with the read aloud function and text highlighting as it is spoken. Once the features of accessibility are generally understood, they will become commonplace.

Q: How do people know if a title will be accessible?

GEORGE: In a born accessible EPUB, accessibility metadata is embedded using the schema.org vocabulary. Publishers are also including accessibility metadata using ONIX. The Publishing Community Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is finishing up a user experience guide for translating the technical metadata to a user-friendly set of information. VitalSource has already implemented this in their catalogue, which means people can decide if the title will work for them, or if it would be a good option for a course. We need to promote this approach of exposing accessibility everywhere, including library systems and search engines.

Q: What’s next for areas such as accessible math standards?

GEORGE: All browsers and reading systems need to support MathML natively. Screen readers used by blind users have supported MathML for years, but until browsers and reading tools provide correct visual presentation of equations written in MathML, it will not be accepted. I expect that read aloud functions will present spoken math correctly and highlight the expression as it is spoken. If we can figure out how to have a car drive itself, we should be able to have math made fully accessible. While reading math correctly is the first step, doing math must also be fully accessible. Interestingly, it was the National Science Foundation (NSF) that first provided me with a tiny grant to work on accessible math back in 1989, and this problem is still not solved.

Q: How can professionals in publishing, education, technology, and other disciplines work together to better serve people with reading barriers?

GEORGE: Born accessible documents and publications are at the core of a change in the information society to be fully inclusive. Authors and publishers must embrace the born accessible movement. Authoring tools must include accessibility checkers, like Word does today, MathML, and features to add alt text to images and provisions for extended descriptions. The reading systems and apps must be fully accessible and tested, and the work at epubtest.org is a good example of the testing. Schools and institutions of higher education must buy born accessible ebooks that are third-party certified, as Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPAT) may say all the right things but do not prove that the book is accessible.

About George Kerscher

George Kerscher, PhD, is the Chief Innovations Officer for the DAISY Consortium and served as the President of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF).  An internationally recognized leader in document access, he has been devoted to making published information fully accessible to persons with print disabilities since 1987. He coined the term “print disabled” to describe people who cannot effectively read print because of a visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability. A tireless advocate, George believes that access to information is a fundamental human right and properly designed information systems can make all information accessible to all people.  He is the Director Emeritus at Guide Dogs for the Blind and in 2012 was honoured at the White House as a Champion of Change for leading innovation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math for people with disabilities. George and his guide dog Kroner graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind in July, 2015.

About NISO

The National Information Standards Organization is a not-for-profit membership organization that identifies, develops, maintains, and publishes technical standards to manage information.

This article has been cross-posted with kind permission of Benetech, where George is a Senior Advisor. Our thanks to Carrie Motamedi, the author of this interview. George is also the Chief Innovations Officer at The DAISY Consortium and you can read more about the NISO Award at our DAISY news piece.

The Art and Science of Describing Images Part Three (W)

Art of Science of Describing Images part 3 title slide
In our series of free webinars February 10th saw the 3rd session focusing on image description: in the series entitled, The Art and Science of Describing Images. This webinar focused on 3 specific types of complex images with speakers Huw Alexander and Valerie Morrison showing us all how they approach these seemingly daunting areas.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar

Speakers

  • Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium—host and chair
  • Valerie Morrison—Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation at Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Huw Alexander—textBOX Digital

Session Overview

Huw Alexander opened this session by giving us a brief resume of what the webinar will cover. Continuing on from Part Two of this series this session will focus on 3 specific types of complex image: Artwork, Anatomy and Assessment.

Artwork

As with all images, Valerie advocates beginning with an overview of the artwork piece, the title together with a brief resume of the main components. For a more complex description it is imperative to consider the context for which you need the description. This may include:

  • The painting style
  • The color and composition
  • The style of the figures
  • Allegorical messaging
  • Influences
  • Historical notes

To include all of these notes within your alt text image description would be far too much and if there is a need for lengthy content here then it is better to write an extended description.

Huw explained “Sector Description” – by breaking down a painting into sections you can take the reader on a journey. This can be done in a number of ways: linear, clock face style, compass etc. Using this approach helps to create an immersive experience for the reader.

Valerie and Huw used some excellent examples to demonstrate how effective these techniques can be when describing complex images.

Anatomy

Making sure that you convey the relevant and precise elements of an anatomical image is likely to be an exacting process. Valerie made the point that you have to think very carefully about what to include in your description, because simply labelling all the parts often isn’t good enough. It doesn’t take into consideration the context in which the image is being used and it is far more useful to consider the following:

  • The name of the structure itself
  • The shape
  • The location
  • Proximity

Huw’s sectoring approach works very well with anatomical images, deciding what needs to be retained and considering the visual impact of the image itself.

Assessment

Images that are used in assessments, quizzes and tests can be extremely hard to recreate in description form and Valerie suggested that assessors consider an egalitarian approach here. By thinking of alternative ways to test knowledge you may be far more successful in creating a useful testing scenario. The example used was a geography question on the silhouettes of countries and the following might work equally well:

  • Questions about the size and shapes of countries
  • An essay question
  • Tactile graphics

All of these would test knowledge in various ways and offer an alternative to the silhouette question!

 

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

NISO Plus 2021

February 22nd to 25th, 2021

The NISO Plus Conference has been devised as a place where publishers, vendors, librarians, archivists, product managers, metadata specialists, electronic resource managers, and much more come together to both solve existing problems and more importantly have conversations that prevent future problems from ever occurring. DAISY developer Marisa De Meglio will be speaking alongside EDRLab’s Laurent Le Meur on “Accessibility and Ebooks: Strategies for Ensuring it’s Done Well” and we encourage all of our readers to take the opportunity to hear for themselves from one of the Ace by DAISY developers.

Date

February 22-25, 2021

Venue

Online

Learn More

For full program details and registration information visit the NISO Plus 2021 Conference website

New Australian Research Offers a Valuable Insight into Accessible Publishing

Smart phine being held up with a picture of book shelves which take up the whole screenThe findings of an exploratory survey of Australian book publishers seeking to better understand the issues affecting the production of accessible content show that although producing digital books is almost the norm, ensuring that they are accessible is not.

But there is a lot of good will. Publishers are motivated by ethical considerations, the need for legal compliance and the desire for innovation to engage with the production of accessible ebooks, and see the return on investment to be of lesser importance.

Need for More Guidelines and Training on What Accessibility Is and How to Achieve it

Interestingly, publishers of all sizes have been able to produce accessible content, which shows that this is achievable regardless of the human, organisational, and financial resources available to them. However, there is a clear need for “plain language instructions and resources that can be understood by publishing staff without prior knowledge”.

This survey is part of a larger study investigating the production of accessible content in Australia carried out at the University of Sydney. It collected information from staff working for Australian publishers regarding the key drivers and challenges to transitioning workflows to create “born-accessible” books. The second survey was aimed at staff of disability organisations and alternative format providers, as well as disability support services from universities, vocational training organisations and state departments of education, about the process of converting books into accessible formats, and the key challenges that they need to deal with.

While the results from this small study, developed in collaboration with the Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative and the Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities, cannot be generalised to the whole publishing industry in Australia, it offers valuable insights into the level of engagement of the publishing industry in the implementation of accessibility standards, and provides preliminary recommendations for the sector.

The surveys identify an important role that the Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative can play in raising awareness of accessibility, developing industry-specific guidelines, resources and training, and facilitating collaboration with the disability sector, libraries and other stakeholders.

Long Term Aspirations

In the long term, publishers need to incorporate accessibility standards directly into their publishing workflows and produce basic accessible ebooks and perhaps even audiobooks themselves, leaving disability organisations to focus on more complex projects such as braille transcription and other specialised services. In order for publishers to embed accessibility in the whole publishing workflow, they need to make an organisational commitment to accessibility, develop and implement an accessibility policy, and invest in staff training.

Short Term Possibilities

In the short term, there is a lot that publishers can do to help make the conversion process easier and ensure faster access to books for individuals with print disabilities. The key suggestion is for publishers to improve response and turnaround time for providing files, provide updates on the processing of requests, and provide access to suitable files, such as InDesign, Illustrator, EPUB or MS Word, or editable PDFs (free of DRM restrictions or watermarks). It would also be good – and easily achievable, even in the current COVID-19 environment – for publishers to have on their websites a clearly defined and accessible policy and procedure for requesting content.

Further Research Would Help Inform Development

Finally, it is also clear from the responses that further research is needed to investigate the distinct needs of people of print disabilities themselves, as well as of the various stakeholders across the book supply chain. This would then inform the development of a set of best practice guidelines for writers and all publishing professionals involved in the creation and distribution of books, which is urgently needed by the industry.

The reports can be downloaded via the following links:

This report was kindly submitted to Inclusive Publishing by Agata Mrva-Montoya, who conducted the surveys discussed and prepared the above detailed reports on their findings.

Agata Mrva-Montoya, PhD, is Publishing Manager at Sydney University Press. Agata has been involved in the Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative since 2018 and led the implementation of accessible publishing practices at Sydney University Press (SUP), which resulted in SUP becoming a signatory of the Accessible Book Consortium’s Charter on Accessible Publishing in January 2020. She can be contacted at agata.mrva-montoya@sydney.edu.au and @agatamontoya. ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6043-575X

W3C Announces the First Public Working Draft of EPUB 3.3

The EPUB 3 Working Group has published four First Public Working Drafts today for EPUB 3.3. This technology defines a distribution and interchange format for digital publications and documents and is the main format for accessible digital publications.  Read the full W3C announcement which indicates that EPUB 3.3 is now on a W3C Recommendation Track.

Event Report: Key Takeaways from NIPI Include! 2020

NIPI conference logoThe following report was prepared by Marianne Gulstad and we are delighted to cross-post it here on Inclusive Publishing. Marianne is the EPUB QA Officer at Publizon A/S, a key distributor of digital publications in Denmark.

________________________________________________________

So, back in November 2020 I had a splendid day with my Scandinavian colleagues at the NIPI Include! 2020 conference. About 125 like-minded joined in at 9:30 am and stayed online until the end, at 3 pm. We came from Latvia, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Many from MTM Sweden, I noticed – only a from Denmark, which actually surprised me a little … But I was happy to ‘see’ my former workplace Systime being represented by Claes Sønderriis, with whom I have created many text books for music and physics 20 years ago when I was working there as a graphic designer. It was also nice to see a handful of NOTA-people present, also from Denmark – which I will look forward to getting to know. Well, back to the story: We had a full programme of well-known speakers from the accessible publishing world – and a few new ones (to me, that is) – and they all had important takeaways. I was not disappointed.

Let me enlighten you with my key takeaways – things I did not know beforehand, or statements I find important to know:

Key Points from the Speakers

First up, Molly Watt (accessibility and UX expert):

  • Not all visually impaired readers prefer audio to text as their first choice
  • Many visually impaired readers rely on color adjustment, text scaling in order to enhance text visually
  • When designing reading apps, give users multiple choices for color adjustments, scaling and margins

Richard Orme (cool DAISY dude … CEO of the DAISY Consortium):

  • Try to think accessibility broader
  • Focus on visually impared, but also on how physical handicaps and situations can be helped
  • Understanding who you are doing this for will make you (ebook authors and RS developers) create smarter solutions for ALL users and situations

Daniel Saidi (freelance software engineer):

  • Being reachable, is not being accessible

Cristina Mussinelli (Secretary General of Fondazione LIA) on what “Born Accessible” means:

  • Define a specific procedure aimed at defining accessibility checks (internal or external) of the publication
  • Adopt international standard metadata schemas and distribute them along the value chain
  • Provide to end users an accurate, but friendly, description of the accessibility features available in the publication
  • Use the checkers that already exists for accessibility validation, like Ace.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – You don’t have to go through the same workload that we did. Seek help from organisations that are further in the process, like LIA. We are here to help

Wendy Reid (Accessibility and Publishing Standards Lead at Rakuten Kobo – @wendy_a_reid):

  • You can now create accessible audio books with W3C Audiobooks specs. Plz, feel free to invent its checker

Luc Audrain (former Head of Digitalization, Hachette Livre):

Lunch Break was Tool Time

I stayed glued to the screen during the lunch break, watching the two tool presentations.

Elisa Molinari (LIA Project Manager with M.A. in Italian literature) showcased some best practice for writing image descriptions, and how not to.

Also from Fondazione LIA was Gregorio Pellegrino (Chief Accessible Officer & Computer Engineer) who showcased how their pilot project can create image descriptions using AI algorithms. Still work in progress but I find this pilot project very interesting. You can find more on YouTube, or contact LIA directly.

Richard Orme showcased how to use Ace by DAISY and SMART to self certify your accessible EPUB publications to WCAG Level AA. If you are an ebook creator, I strongly advice you to see how to use Ace for analyzing your files for accessibility.

How to Accomplish the Move into Accessible Publishing?

Well, some changes are easily implemented, others will take months to get right. But we (the publishing ecosystem) have 4 years to get it right. And like you would begin any new journey – like climbing Mount A11y – or eating an elephant – start with one step at a time. One mouthful at a time. It is important NOT to be overwhelmed, but be excited to begin implementing accessibiliy into your publishing workflow. Start now. Reach out. Take the first step… or bite.

Thank you, NIPI-folks, for a lovely inspiring conference.

(If I did not mention you, I am sorry, you were not boring – I just have an extreme appetite for tech info)

About NIPI

The Nordic Inclusive Publishing Initiative (NIPI) is a Nordic network of governmental agencies committed to provide accessible information, products and services to people with print disabilities.

The Include! Conference aims to connect key participants from the Nordic world of reading and inclusion, with the goal of initiating the joint work on inclusive publishing. #nipi_include!

Go to Programme and Speakers  or YouTube to see the entire NIPI Include! 2020 Conference.

A Quick Guide to Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors

ALLIA logo

With the rise in advancing technologies, making our self-published books accessible to everyone is becoming easier and easier. This post from the Alliance of Independent Author’s AskALLi team, dives into accessibility issues for indie authors and how you can make your books more accessible. With thanks to ALLi Partner member Jens Troeger from Bookalope for his contributions to this post.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: What’s it all About?

What is an accessible ebook exactly? That’s the question I’ve never stopped asking. Over the years, I’ve helped numerous authors and publishers transform their book manuscripts into well-designed print books and accessible ebooks. They usually have a good idea of how the printed book should look, but haven’t thought much about its digital equivalent. And while many authors and publishers assume that a digital book is much the same as its printed counterpart, it is in fact an entirely different design incarnation.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: The Difference Between Print and Digital

The best way to get you thinking about print books and digital books is by looking at them as two different presentations of the same content. Let’s refresh what we know about book content so far; it’s its text, images, and tables. The main narrative text is usually structured into chapters and sections. It may contain other elements like footnotes, endnotes, quotations, poems, and so forth. Traditionally, we express the text’s structure and elements visually; by changing the text size, fonts, and using white spaces. This visual expression is then printed onto paper — once printed, the book’s design doesn’t change anymore.

When I talk with authors about the digital incarnation of their books, I often ask them, “How would your book look on a small phone? Or on that big thirty-inch computer screen? What if I change the font and make it tiny or really large?” I’m trying to get authors to understand that the digital book obeys different visual design rules and so needs to be reconsidered entirely — the book has to be redesigned for the digital medium, as a digital product. It has to interact and compete with the wider range of print and digital books available; and this all starts with how you approach the designs of your book. Richard Hendel, a well-known book designer and author himself, summarized this duality of the book in the essay The conundrum of the Ebook, published in his book Aspects of Contemporary Book Design. It’s worth a read, if you’re curious about this topic! I think that if we can grasp this duality, we can begin to understand what designing accessible ebooks is all about.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: Why Bother?

Like all serious authors and publishers, you care about your books and your readers. You’d like more people to buy your books and appreciate your work; that’s your objective. But I think that in addition to expanding the market reach of your books, you still want to be inclusive and respectful by making your books accessible to all readers, whether they live with an impairment or not. Overall, prioritising accessibility is crucial for your image as an author, and for your branding as a publisher.

In technical terms, then, we’d like to build accessible ebooks. Last year, Booknet Canada published a lengthy blog titled Accessible Ebook Publishing in Canada: The Business Case which details the many aspects of accessible ebooks and their relevance for business, illustrated with some interesting numbers that all emphasize the importance of accessible ebooks. In short, there’s no avoiding the necessity of building accessible ebooks in our current climate, and that’s why I think we need to up our design game.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: Working with Rich Content

So, what can you do as an author to make sure that your book — print or digital — looks great for everyone, including impaired readers?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at how some people use assistive technologies to read digital content, websites, and ebooks. For example, your web-browser and most modern reading apps and devices have a “text to speech” feature which allows a book to be read out loud. You can try it out for yourself, and listen to a synthesized voice read back to you the content of a web page or an ebook. Chances are that what you hear is confusing; a stream of words stringed together in a seemingly random order — perhaps even without intonations, pauses, or changes in speech. This content is not accessible, and you’d have a similar experience with an electronic Braille reader presenting such content to a visually impaired or blind reader.

This is why it’s important to structure your book’s content; you don’t want the message to be lost in the medium. I’ve mentioned above that text structure is independent of presenting that structure visually — because with read-aloud or with a Braille reader there is no visual presentation of the book’s structure. And while ebooks have a well-defined way of implementing structured text, as an author you want to have an intimate understanding of your book’s structural elements: you need to know which paragraphs are chapter or section headings, which ones are narrative text, and which ones are poems or quotations. This shows you’re committed to creating the best version possible of your book, where all the different parts work together.

The same holds true for inline formatting. Traditional book design uses italics to emphasize text or for a phrase in another language, or to denote a book or article title, whereas bold text is occasionally used to visualize a strong emphasis. Notice how we differentiate between visual presentation (e.g. “italic” or “bold”) and its intended meaning (e.g. “emphasized”) — it is the meaning that you, as the author, want to be clear about, and that your book designer and ebook implementer must express in some visual way or another.

And then we come to images and illustrations; that’s where accessibility and ebooks get interesting. In print, we use images to support a narrative visually or perhaps to illustrate data correlations as graphs. For accessible ebooks, text is always preferred over an image, but often we can’t do that. To make images accessible, think about explaining and describing the image meaningfully in the context of the narrative. If you were to replace the image with a text box, what would a visually impaired or blind reader (or listener) of your book get in place of the image? This is called an “alternative text” for your images, and such alternative text needs to be meaningful and attached to every image and illustration in your book. Remember, it all comes back providing information to make your content accessible, and then presenting that content for different media.

When we work with images, we must also consider their color and contrast. There are different kinds of color blindness, which means that some readers won’t be able to see your pictures the way you do. One solution would be to change the picture itself — e.g. working with black-and-white or avoiding certain colors. In any case, we must constantly ensure to supply a meaningful alternative text for our images. In addition, it is good practice to avoid inlining images into the text flow. Large drop caps, foreign language letters, or mathematical formulas must be made part of the content as text to ensure that they are accessible and meaningful to the reader.

Dyslexia is another important aspect to keep in mind. It is a reading disorder that can manifest in different ways, and you can get a sense of how a dyslexic reader may perceive text on this website. Modern ereader apps now ship with typefaces that are especially designed for dyslexic readers; their letters are purposefully irregular in order to break the symmetrical and monotonous design of common text faces.

While less common, tables also need to be considered carefully when we rethink our content for an accessible ebook. We often spend a lot of time formatting a table for a printed page; yet, for an ebook, we’d need to reconsider whether a table would work at all! Here, too, it helps to imagine how a table would look like on a phone display; both in portrait and landscape mode. Maybe for an ebook a table isn’t a good choice at all, and we’d want to explore alternative ways to present the content, such as a bullet list or as plain text. Whatever we choose, the goal is to consistently strive towards an intelligent and inclusive book design which will resonate with all types of readers independently of the type of reading medium.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: Piecing it Together

By now you’ve probably noticed that authoring content which works well for both print and accessible ebooks requires some more work than most people realise. But I believe it’s worth the effort, and not only for the sake of your readers. It challenges you, the author, to understand your text and its intended structural presentation from the inside out; with no page left unturned.

Now that we’ve edited our manuscript, understood the intended structure of our content, and come up with helpful alternative text for all images, one question remains… How exactly do we create a functional, valid, and accessible ebook? Well, in the same way we go about creating a well-designed print book; we find a good designer, or we find a good tool that does the work efficiently and reliably for us.

Bookalope is a tool that publishing houses, book designers, and self-publishing authors alike use to create fully accessible ebooks with just a few clicks. Being a software veteran by trade, I’ve built the Bookalope toolset over years of working with digital and print books. My mission is to make the process as easy and comfortable as possible for myself and other professional users. I want to put the creativity back into the book design; minimising effort but maximising quality. So, here is a brief introduction to creating accessible, beautiful books using these tools.

After uploading your manuscript, the Bookalope AI gets to work; it analyses the visual styling of the text to extract the intended structure — exactly what we’ll need for making the ebook accessible. Sometimes, the original visual styling is a little ambiguous, or it’s something Bookalope hasn’t encountered yet. But we can still review and adjust the extracted rich content. And that’s almost all there is to do, before you can download your accessible ebook.

While Bookalope takes care of almost everything for you, you may still be curious about some ebook technicalities, and might want to ensure that your ebook is indeed valid and accessible. Here’s what you’d need to do next…

The easiest way is to open the ebook yourself on your phone, tablet, or laptop and see how it looks; then, have it read back to you. On your laptop, resize the window of your reading app or browser, change the font size, and invert the color theme. Make sure that the table of contents is linked into the book, and that the glossary and index are linked throughout. Traditionally, both reference the page numbers of the printed book, so make sure that those print page numbers are also built into your ebook.

If you’d like to get even more technical, you can have the ebook checked by EPUBCheck to make sure it’s implemented properly, and by the Ace tool to check if the built-in accessibility information (if any) is valid. If you’d like to take your tests to the next level, check out Flightdeck!

Bookalope does all of that for you, though, so you don’t need to worry. If you’re having your ebook built by a vendor, you should always ask them to provide you with these validation results.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: Summary

At first, this all may seem like a daunting process. Granted, it takes some additional effort to prepare and enrich your book’s content, but building an accessible ebook is its own reward. And, with the right tools, it’s not that difficult to do.

In the end, you’ll have a good chance of increasing your book’s market reach. Your readers will be thankful for your efforts, and will be able to enjoy your writing no matter how they consume your book. To me, that’s the answer to what makes an ebook accessible and inclusive; designing a one-of-a-kind book product that touches the hears and minds of all readers. And isn’t that why you wrote your book in the first place?


Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: 4 Quick Tips

Vellum – Large Print

Large print books are books that are formatted and printed with much larger typeface than usual. Vellum is a formatting software designed to make formatting your books easier, quicker and more intuitive. And it really does do just that. One of the benefits of Vellum though, is that it has presets that can help you turn your book into a large print edition in just the click of a button.

When you create a large print edition, make sure you increase your trim size and font size. It also helps to create some kind of stamp, sticker or indicator that goes on the front of the cover to promote the fact its large print. Once your large print book is loaded, you’ll need to connect it to the sales page of your other book editions and don’t forget that because it’s a new format, you will need a separate ISBN

Closed Captions

According to Wikipedia,

“Closed captioning and subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a television, video screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information.”

You might not realize, but there is actually a difference between the two. Subtitles assume that the viewer can hear the audio. Whereas closed captioning assumes the viewer cannot. So as well as providing dialogue information, it will convey information like background noises, phones ringing and other auditory clues.

YouTube provides the opportunity for close captions on all your videos. Go to the creator studio, click edit video and then subtitles/CC to edit. You also have the option to upload your own subtitle files.

Rev.com is often cited as one of the best closed captioning softwares on the market. If you use transcription software then you can use that to load up your captions.

Audio Books

Are your books in audio yet? The audiobook market is booming.

And the audiobook market is still comparably young compared to print and digital. But for those who are either visually impaired and therefore listen to audio, or those that prefer audio anyway, you’re missing an entire market and section of your potential audience. If you don’t want to record and narrate your own audiobooks, consider searching for a narrator through places like Findaway Voices.

Digital Devices

Technology has advanced considerably in the last few years, and reading has become infinitely more accessible since the advent of the Kindle and other digital reading devices. These devices have the ability to produce high contrast reading displays, different colored backgrounds, font changes like using OpenDyslexic—a purpose created font—for those people with dyslexia that prefer it. If your books are only in print, then it’s time to turn them into digital ebooks.

Accessibility Issues for Indie Authors: A Final Word

If you’d like to read or download guidelines on creating accessible books, Dave Gunn has written a guide that was published by the Accessible Books Consortium, in conjunction with the International Authors Forum. To download click here.

 

About Jens Troeger: Jens is a software veteran with an MS and PhD in computer science, who’s been building software for over thirty years. He is also a passionate typophile and book lover. Jens started Bookalope several years ago out of his personal need for efficient and intelligent tools that help him design print books and digital books. What started out as a pet project has now grown into a powerful yet easy to use commercial product. When Jens isn’t glued to his laptop, he often travels to remote places to dive and photograph underwater. You can find Jens Troeger on Twitter.

 

The Art and Science of Describing Images Part Two (W)

Art and Science of Describing Images Part Two opening slideIn our series of free weekly webinars December 2nd saw a session focused on image description: part two in the series entitled, The Art and Science of Describing Images. This webinar focused on more complex images than Part One, with speakers Huw Alexander and Valerie Morrison digging deeper into how we approach alt text and long description.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar

Speakers

  • Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium—host and chair
  • Valerie Morrison—Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation at Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Huw Alexander—textBOX Digital

Session Overview

Huw Alexander opened this session giving us a brief resume of what the webinar will cover. The world has become driven by content especially in the digital space and, now more than ever, that content needs to be as accessible as possible. Over the last 10 years we have seen educational materials shift to a much more visual form of conveying information and society has followed suit. We need to be able to deliver this information so that it is accessible to everyone.

Valerie Morrison and Huw then took us through a series of complex image types, giving us an overview of how they tackle describing them and sharing with us their top tips for success. Valerie admitted that she still finds many types of images daunting, even with her years of experience but if you have the right approach you can break it down and keep it simple for the reader. Below are some of the main points for each image type which can be found in greater detail in the slide deck, together with some excellent examples.

Maps and Choropleths

Maps

  • Always begin with a general overview giving a description of what the map is about
  • If there’s an inset table this might be a good  place to start
  • Only describe items which are contextually important to the map
  • Lists are useful in describing maps
  • Don’t worry about colors (unless it’s a choropleth) or symbols which often don’t carry significance

Choropleths

These type of maps display quantitive values for distinct spatial regions using color. Consequently, they require a slightly different approach:

  • Reference the title, the structure, the text key which may point to colors to measure the data, the scale and the trend analysis
  • A political choropleth may also need dates, emphasis and context, places of interest, edge boundaries and a  scale ratio

Timelines

  • Create one general overview sentence
  • Describe the range of the timeline
  • List some of the details

Bar Charts

  • Begin with the title and what the x and y axis denote
  • Describe how the chart has been arranged and why. Sometimes bar charts are arranged to create a visual impact and this might require highlighting
  • Describe each bar in regular, predictable ways

Supply and Demand Curves

  • Begin again with the title and an x and y overview, remembering that this is just a graph!
  • Describe the slopes and where they intersect
  • Keep it simple. It’s easy to get lost in the “word salad” with this type of image

Complex Infographics

  • Overview sentence should contain information on the basic parts of the infographic, the timeline and the illustrations it contains
  • Work from the general to the specific, filling in the details as needed
  • Make sure your description references: the title, the structure of the graphic, the information contained within each section, descriptions of the relevant images only, numbered list elements
  • Do not describe decorative images

Tables

  • Sometimes the tables are arranged specifically for sighted readers and you should sort the information out into more of a table to help readers process the amount of data.
  • Complex STEM Infographics are very hard to parse and it’s much easier if you can convert them into tables with specific columns. An example of how making images available in multiple modalities can help reach more learners eg. a dyslexic reader would benefit from this specific approach.
  • Consider adding structural alt text to your tables. This gives the reader an head start in understanding how the table is organized and allows them to create a mental map before they process the information that it contains.

Before taking questions, Huw ended the session by reminding us:

You are trying to recreate the image and it’s impact for the reader. To do this you need to unravel the complexity it may involve and create a level playing field for all users.

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!