Posts

World-Leading Book Accessibility Initiative Creating the Dignity to Read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inclusion Promised as the Default Publishing Standard in Australia

This article was kindly submitted by Greg Alchin, Inclusive Design Specialist and Accessibility Advocate in the Australian Publishing industry.

Delegates seated in discussion at the Publishing Forum in AustraliaOn the 2nd November 2017, the Australian Publishing Association (APA) hosted the “Marrakesh Treaty Forum II”. This Forum brings together representatives of the publishing industry, authors, libraries, copyright, disability associations, government and accessible format providers for a far-reaching exchange of information and ideas to progress the Marrakesh Treaty’s implementation in Australia. Australia was an early signatory to the
treaty which encourages governments to allow books to be converted to accessible formats without having to obtain permission from copyright owners every time.

The purpose of the Forum is to identify the key challenges in ensuring that published material is accessible to the print disabled and to identify the pathways to address those challenges. The 2017 Forum saw updates on industry projects to advance not only the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty but to move to a default model of inclusive publishing where equity of experience is available for all.

The Business Case

A clear appreciation of the need for inclusive publishing was impressed upon participants and agreed to. Understanding the demographics of disability within the market makes good business sense. For many their understanding of disability is based upon a misconception that disability is just a personal health attribute. It is embedded in the stereotypical images of people in wheelchairs, deafness and blindness. It may be caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease. It may also be total or partial, lifelong or acquired, visible or invisible.

A more nuanced understanding of disability has developed in recent years. Disability is no longer seen as just a personal attribute or health experience. Disability is context dependent.  It is, as the World Health Organisation states, “a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.” What this means, is that disability happens at the points of interaction between a person and the context in which they find themselves.  Mismatched interactions result in a loss of ability to participate and interact and result in exclusion.  Consider the following examples:

  • Individuals with an ear infection may experience a temporary hearing disability.
  • The environment of a noisy bar or hotel may result in patrons experiencing a situational hearing disability when they try to interact and be understood over background noise.
  • Individuals with a wrist injury / broken arm have a temporary physical disability.
  • New parents attempting to complete tasks whilst holding an infant experience a situational physical disability

Being mindful of the continuum from permanent to situational disabilities helps us to reconsider the number of people who experience disability on a daily basis. The benefits of designing publications that are “Born Accessible” from the start are undeniable.

The Legal Position in Australia

Furthermore, there is a range of international mandates and national legislation that supports the case for “Born Accessible” content. Equal access to information in Australia is:

It is important to note that all of the above legislative and professional requirements either directly or indirectly reference the W3C’s technology neutral  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

Inclusive Publishing as the Default Publishing Standard

There was a lot of genuine good will and positive energy in the room from all parties. The forum agreed inclusion should be the default publishing standard in Australia and that by no later than December 2021 there will be:

  • high community and business awareness of the value of accessible content
  • seamless discoverability of accessible formats
  • inclusion as the default standard
  • Full implementation of accessibility standards by APA members
  • equitable and sustainable economic model

Next Steps

The Forum agreed to progress the following projects over the next 12 months in order to achieve these exciting new objectives:

  • accessibility fields to be agreed for both Title Page (the industry look up service) and Trove (the repository run but the National Library of Australia).
  • copyright guidelines to be finalised, made widely available and training to be underway
  • publish a plain English guide to accessibility standards
  • APA to inform publishers about accessibility standards
  • APA publishers to review workflow practices and how to implement accessibility
  • develop a shared messaging on “inclusive by design” and “equity of reading experience”

Chief executive of the Australian Publishers’ Association Michael Smith-Gordon added his support commenting that making content accessible at the outset made better economic sense than ”retro fitting” books once published with digital add-ons.

 

Editors note: Thanks to Greg Alchin for this article. We look forward to seeing how things progress with this ground-breaking initiative.

Linda Morris of The Sydney Morning Herald has written Book of the Future is a choose-your-own-adventure on events at the forum in Australia.

Australian ABC Radio broadcast this interview on the Marrakesh Treaty on the 4th of December 2017.

If you have an Inclusive Publishing story to share, feel free to contact us.