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Ask The Accessibility Experts: Send Us Your Questions!

The DAISY webinar series has been a huge success and our final webinar of 2021 on December 15 will be a special “Ask The Accessibility Experts” session to give you the opportunity to ask our assembled team of experts any outstanding questions you may have.

You are welcome to bring your questions to the webinar itself but to help us organize questions into themes, and to ensure we have the appropriate experts on hand, we encourage you to send them in advance to: webinars@daisy.org. Questions on all aspects of accessible reading and publishing are welcome. You can expect this session to cover a broad range of topics and we look forward to hearing from you.

To register for this event:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Lvcn7hLtTd6674d9LQlw8w

Validating and Conformance of EPUB (W)

Title slide: Validating and Conformance Checking EPUB
In our series of free weekly webinars November 3rd saw a session focused on the validation and conformance of EPUB content. When using the EPUB format a few simple steps can help highlight any issues and guide you on the path to creating more usable and accessible content.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar

Speakers

  • Richard Orme, DAISY Consortium—host and chair
  • George Kerscher, DAISY Consortium
  • James Yanchak, Taylor and Francis
  • Charles La Pierre, Benetech

Session Overview

Richard Orme introduced this session explaining that it’s not enough to create content in any format and simply hope it works on reading systems and that it can deliver accessibility. The three experts presenting this webinar looked at validating EPUB from their perspective angles.

What Is An Accessible EPUB?

Many publishers have switched to EPUB as their format of choice for their digital content workflow but, despite it being the format which offers the greatest opportunity for accessibility, some have missed the mark. By failing to include a table of contents, for example, or by not having a clear reading order, EPUB content was often disappointingly lacking in accessibility support. For an EPUB file to be accessible, the publisher must make the most of the features that the format offers.

An understanding of this together with knowledge of the legal requirements in your market are a good place to start an accessibility journey. Add to this an alignment with publishing and web standards and some technical research to provide a base of knowledge and publishers should be in a position to make the most of their EPUB workflow.

3rd Party Certification

Having a 3rd party certify your accessible content helps the publisher to navigate the standards and specifications and Charles La Pierre talked us through the Benetech Scheme, Global Certified Accessible (GCA), outlining the process required for a publisher to be certified. A score is attached and for content to be certified as Born Accessible, 80% is needed.

Developing Internal Standards

Internal standards help the publisher to narrow the technical landscape and make it relevant to their specific workflow. James Yanchak described how this is achieved at Taylor and Francis and explained how this has helped them to reach their accessibility goals. Any internal standard must adhere to the industry standard and it’s vital that training is offered to both in-house colleagues and external vendors.

Validating the EPUB

There are a number of tools which our panel recommended:

  • EPUBCheck – should be one of the first checks and if this is integrated into the workflow using the command line version then it becomes very straightforward.
  • Ace by DAISY – checks conformance of the EPUB to WCAG and offers a command-line version and a desktop version for one-off title checks
  • Ace SMART – to be used in conjunction with Ace and helps the user perform the manual checks that Ace identifies.
  • The DAISY Knowledge Base has been developed to help resolve accessibility issues and is constantly maintained.

All of these stages and checks are important to establish accessibility and “trust” in the end product. A reader needs to be able to trust the accessibility summary and metadata so that they can make the correct purchasing decisions.

Related Resources

Standards

Accessibility Criteria

Tools and Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

Delivering a Beneficial and Accessible User Experience

Image of man using an ereader to access content.Consideration of the User Experience (UX) should be a crucial part of any design team’s road to launch, especially if the goal is to deliver a reading experience that is beneficial to all users. Digital accessibility and usability are vital factors in ensuring that a user can interact with content, delivering the same level of experience to everyone, regardless of their ability.

Being able to deliver a complete, satisfying and inclusive user experience should be integral to your organization’s content strategy where a focus on planning, creation, delivery, and governance of that content is paramount. The overarching benefits of an accessible user experience have significant advantages both for the reader and for your business and you should take action now to ensure that you are doing the right thing for your organization and your customers.

Banks, education institutions, and many other organizations are increasingly prioritizing accessibility initiatives in response to the growing demand for them in the digital space (in addition to legal requirements in many markets). Providing an accessible UX for customers and satisfying all of their access requirements is of the utmost importance.

For many this includes being able to access content with assistive technology (such as a screen reader). Having an understanding of how these technologies affect the UX is a great way to start the transformation of your content into something meaningful, useful for all and accessible.

Business Benefits

There are many business benefits to providing an accessible user experience, not least that it’s the right thing to do. These include:

  • Connecting with a larger audience. Approximately one billion people in the world, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. Organizations are able to expand their audience by making sure that their content is accessible to all markets – a sure way for companies to increase profitability, and be able to grow their share of the market too.
  • Minimizing legal risks and ensuring compliance with accessibility standards. There are quite a few laws and regulations in place to address accessibility. Creating an accessible user experience will help an organization meet Section 508, ADA, AODA, WCAG 2.0 and other compliance standards.
  • Strengthening the organization’s brand and creating a strong sense of purpose. Many companies set out to create meaningful connections with their audience via an accessible user experience. This strengthens the company brand and contributes to ESG initiatives, in turn increasing the likelihood of attracting new ethically-driven users.

Companies looking to create accessible digital communications or documents can utilize solutions that convert content into an accessible format for those with disabilities, enabling access to content with feature parity.

Transforming the UX

There are a number of areas to consider in order to improve the UX you are delivering, not least making sure that your content is well structured and discoverable. Content that has a meaningful structure allows for full navigation and this, like many accessibility features, benefits all readers and gives everyone a richer experience. Users who rely on assistive technology to access content need a clear navigable structure that screen readers and other technologies can make sense of.

Treatment of images within the content is also crucial to the UX and supplying relevant alt text to accompany graphics will mean that print-disabled readers can learn and experience the image in the same way as everyone else. Your treatment of images and richer content will define how accessible your content is and whether the UX delivers.

These are just two areas that need consideration when thinking about delivering an accessible UX. InclusiveDocs has developed an innovative approach to delivering a complete user experience, offering a streamlined, cost-efficient alternative to manual remediation processes. The AI technology within the platform helps to build models adapted from the content, resulting in automated workflows, significant cost savings, and a consistent user experience. Accessibility feature options allow readers to display or access information specific to their user requirements.​

Transforming the UX allows organizations to reach their entire audience.

This article was prepared in collaboration with InclusiveDocs. InclusiveDocs offers conversion solutions for multiple forms of accessible documents, including EPUB and HTML, with added features such as text-to-speech. End-users can access content from any device connected to the internet, or read offline via fully accessible EPUBs. This solution is suitable for all organizations that publish digital content and want to make it accessible to all members of their audience.

As an Inclusive Publishing Partner of the DAISY Consortium, InclusiveDocs is helping to support our work to progress accessibility in all aspects of digital publishing and reading.

EAA Case Study: Finland

The EU flag with a landmark icon of Helsinki's cathedral placed in the middleThe European Accessibility Act has galvanized many European countries and The DAISY Consortium has been pleased to take part in many interesting and collaborative conversations with partners, members and interested parties.

Each country has their own story and their own unique set of experiences in approach to the EAA and we are attempting to capture some of these in our new series of case studies. The more we can share and learn from each other, the better prepared we hope everyone will be.  

Finland 

First up is Finland, a country with two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, and with a relatively small book market. We had the pleasure of speaking with Miia Kirsi from Celia who are integral to the Finnish approach to the EAA. Celia, the national library for accessible literature and publishing in Finland, works towards equality in reading and learning and belongs to the administrative sector of the Ministry of Education and Culture.  

Publishing houses in Finland tend to be small and, in accordance with the EAA, micro-enterprises are not necessarily required to adhere to the new legislation. The hope is that everyone will make the effort to comply, irrespective of their size.  Audio publishing, and consequently all forms of digital publishing, is experiencing something of a boom in Finland and in 2020 the ebook market represented 4500 titles.  Not bad for a population of just 5 million! 

With regards to accessibility, it is far to say that for many this is still an afterthought in Finland. Education publishers are probably furthest ahead because of accessibility requirements for students. Ironically, trade publishers, for whom the accessibility challenge is arguably the most straightforward, are not doing so well and publishers don’t tend to consider the user experience. 

Stakeholder Platforms and Industry Collaboration 

In Finland, various government ministries are responsible for the implementation of the EAA. To foster collaboration there have been intra-ministerial meetings to which all stakeholders have been invited  

Celia works hard with other stakeholders to address challenges and their close collaboration with The Finnish Publishers Association is particularly important.  On October 6th they are co-hosting a seminar “Accessible Ebooks: From Directive to Practice”. Together, both organizations are actively advocating for EPUB 3 and are looking for ways to provide training in this area.  

Celia also takes part in the Nordic Inclusive Publishing Initiative (NIPI) which meets twice a month to share information. The group has members from all five Nordic countries and organized an online accessibility conference Include! in November 2020. There are plans for another conference focusing on Inclusive Publishing for Spring 2023. 

Pilot Project to Assess Digital Files 

Of the 4500 digital titles produced in Finland annually, the majority are produced in EPUB 2 – something which Miia and her team explored during their Accessible EPUBs Pilot this year. The main goals of this project were: 

  • To assess the current accessibility status of EPUB files 
  • To gather information about typical EPUB workflows 
  • To identify risks and weaknesses in the production of accessible content  
  • To identify and develop materials that are needed 

It appears that publishers are not tending to specify EPUB 3 – many are used to working with print-based workflow models so aren’t inclined to change. That being said, many of the files that were examined for this project did include accessibility features and were more accessible than expected. All had some semantic markup and many of them included a Table of Contents. They weren’t “accessible” per se but a move towards EPUB 3 could hail great improvements.  

Other areas that need attention are: 

  • The use of accessibility metadata 
  • XHTML files need improving – correct use of language tags etc 
  • Inclusion of alt text 

What is apparent from this project is that the publishing industry in Finland still looks to the print version first with the digital version being an afterthought. Digital files are not given the same level of scrutiny as print PDFs are given. 

Challenges in this Market 

  • Post-production work for InDesign files needs attention 
  • Responsibility: everyone needs to take an element of responsibility throughout the publishing workflow 
  • Knowledge and Awareness needs improving  
  • Understanding of Tools and Solutions  

Implementation Plans and Resources 

The government has prepared an implementation plan: The National Implementation of the Accessibility Directive for Products and Services (provided here in Swedish for easier translation). This is an ongoing project looking at all areas of implementation within the Finnish market. 

The Finnish Publishers Association and Celia plan to collaborate on various fronts to help the publishing industry prepare for the requirements of the EAA, to find reliable resources and obtain information about accessible publishing in Finnish or Swedish, all to be made available on a website that will point users to the correct path. 

Top Tips for Other Publishers on their Accessibility Journey 

  • Use InDesign more effectively!  
  • Educate all departments within a publishing workflow about the role they need to play. 
  • Not all areas can necessarily be outsourced – awareness about accessibility needs to be addressed in-house also.
  • Metadata needs early attention and training for in-house staff on the importance of accessibility metadata is vital. 

Our thanks to Miia for her collaboration on this case study. If you are interested in the work being done by Celia in this area or would be interested in taking part in a similar case study please contact us for further information.  

Resources and Links 

EPUB Accessibility 101 (W)

EPUB Accessibility 101 Title SlideIn our series of free weekly webinars October 6th saw a session focused on EPUB Accessibility. Our speakers showed everyone what happens under the hood of an EPUB file to support accessibility and managed to demystify some of the technicalities surrounding EPUB.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar

 

Speakers

  • Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium—host and chair
  • Rachel Comerford, Macmillan Learning
  • Tzviya Siegman, J. Wiley and Sons

Session Overview

What is EPUB? The Basics

Rachel Comerford took us through some of the “acronym soup” that makes up an EPUB file, namely:

  • Mimetype – which tells the reading system being used that this is an EPUB file
  • META-INF – which points to the file and allows the reading system to find it
  • OEPS-OPS – containing the content and everything needed to display that content (including the CSS which describes how the book should look)

What is EPUB? Focus on HTML

The text of an EPUB publication is written in HyperText Mark-Up Language (HTML) and Tzviya Siegman explained to us the importance for accessibility of the native semantic elements that can be conveyed within the HTML. Every element in the HTML mark-up contains a meaning and greatly assists with content navigation and order of reading layout.

What is EPUB? Focus on DPUB-ARIA and epub:type

Sometimes content is more complex than the available HTML elements can cope with and Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) provide another way of applying semantic meaning to content i.e. it describes a content component to the reader. DPUB-ARIA specifically maps to the epub:type vocabulary for EPUB content.

Navigating EPUBS

Rachel explained that all EPUB packages contain a navigation document (within the OPF file) from which the Table of Contents (TOC) is generated. The TOC is crucial for accessibility and together with headings, it generally echoes the familiar structure of printed content.

Links are also valuable for accessibility and it’s important to choose a reading system that exposes internal and external links to the reader.

The Value of EPUB Metadata

Also found in the OPF file, EPUB metadata provides information about the accessibility features and potential limitations of the content. Rachel urged us all to make as much use of metadata features as possible, not least via The Accessibility Summary section where the publisher can provide specific information for readers in a non-technical way. See the slide deck attached to this overview for a terrific example of this type of summary provided by Macmillan Learning.

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

The Essentials for Accessible Publishing in 2021 (W)

opening slide: The Essentials for Accessible Publishing in 2021In our series of free DAISY webinars July 21st saw a session focused on The Essentials for Accessible Publishing in 2021. This webinar was held in partnership with the UK Publishers Association, Accessibility Action Group (AAG) in place of their annual in person seminar at The London Book fair.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar

Speakers

  • Stacy Scott (RNIB), chair of the PA Accessibility Action Group—guest host.
  • Dr Agata Mrva-Montoya (Sydney University Press)
  • Laura Brady (House of Anansi)
  • Richard Orme (DAISY)
  • Graham Bell (EDItEUR)
  • Daniella Levy-Pinto (NNELS)

Session Overview

In keeping with previous AAG seminars this webinar promised to be a quick fire journey through this huge topic with lots of speakers, experts in their fields and plenty of take homes for our delegates. Stacy Scott introduced the topic and our first speaker Dr. Agata Mrva-Montoya briefly explained the areas that would be covered.

Advocacy and Policy

Agata briefly took us through the results of an insightful survey conducted in Australia this year,  encouraging us to ensure that in-house advocacy is in place accompanied by a clear and thorough accessibility policy so that “publishers can produce born accessible publications themselves”. Her presentation included an extremely useful overview of how to put together an effective accessibility policy and areas that should be taken into account. Publishers shouldn’t forget that this policy together with their overall approach to accessibility requires regular review and should be cognisant of technical standards and provisions for procurement.

 Content Workflows

Laura Brady gave us a tour of the various workflow routes to accessible EPUB, emphasising the need for culture change in-house to effect these workflow options and stressing that “buy-in throughout the chain is key to the successful production of accessible content.” Lots of useful resources and options to consider including, WordToEPUB, InDesign workflows and XML workflows (the head of the workflow food chain).

Tools and Solutions

Richard Orme continued Laura’s workflow presentation with a look at post-export tools for validation and conformance checking of content. In particular he highlighted EPUBCheck, Ace by DAISY, Ace SMART, The Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base and the Inclusive Publishing hub, urging everyone to take a look at the latter and sign up for the inclusive publishing newsletter at the very least!

Accessibility Metadata

Graham Bell gave us a clear overview of why it is so important to include accessibility metadata at all stages of content production. “If you optimize the accessibility of your books, then your book metadata should reflect that.” He focused on the 3 types of metadata that should be included: metadata included in web pages, metadata included within the EPUB package and accessibility metadata about the book which is embedded in the ONIX. All three serve quite different purposes and should be considered.

Consumer Testing and Feedback

Daniella Levy-Pinto impressed upon us the importance of testing content, using the tools that Richard spoke about and via manual testing using testers with lived experience. It is a necessary and vital part of your content workflow and must take into account the various types of assistive technology that may be used in order to access published works. “Assistive Technology provides opportunities for print disabled readers to access content and it’s important for publishers to understand this technology and to test their content with it.” Talking us through the testing process, Daniella showed us how an accessibility testing process with user feedback improves awareness and communication amongst employees, consumers and other end users.

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

EPUB Accessibility: EU Accessibility Act Mapping

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is an EU directive that establishes accessibility targets to be met by many different types of products and services in order to strengthen the rights of people with disabilities. It is relevant for the publishing industry as it includes ebooks, dedicated reading software, ereading devices and ecommerce sites.

W3C’s EPUB 3 Working Group has published a working group note demonstrating that the technical requirements of the European Accessibility Act related to ebooks are met by the EPUB standard.

Further information on this is available in the Working Group note.

Inclusive Publishing has a number of pages referring to the European Accessibility Act:

Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2021

May 20th, 2021

GAAD takes place on May 20 this year and we’d like to encourage all our readers to take part so that we can build awareness in our industry and play our part to increase the availability of your digital content to people with print disabilities, particularly during this challenging time when many of you are working from home. If your organization has an accessibility advocate then this is their chance to build awareness and co-ordinate activities that your teams may be able to take part in whilst self-isolating. See our GAAD resources page for ideas and activities.

Date

May 20th, 2021

Venue

Online

Learn More

Check out our Publishers Toolkit and 2021 Accessibility Quiz!

 

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

New Releases: Ace By DAISY

The DAISY Consortium are pleased to announce new releases for both versions of the Ace By DAISY EPUB accessibility checking tool: the Command Line Interface (CLI) and the Graphical User Interface (Ace App) versions 1.2.

These releases contains significant internal changes that address security issues, improve performance, and fix bugs at various levels of the project architecture. Crucially, DAISY Ace now uses the latest version of Deque’s Axe library.

There are also improvements for screen reader users including updated accessibility checks that match the latest W3C WCAG and ARIA specifications.

Both DAISY Ace CLI and  the desktop Ace App depend on a number of third-party code libraries, which are up to date. As usual with DAISY Ace App releases, the latest revision of the DAISY Knowledge Base is included.

For more information on Ace by DAISY visit the Ace resource pages.