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December 2017: Access to Books and Reading-Finding Solutions Together

BrailleNet, Arald and Enssib organized a professional day on December 7th, 2017 entitled: Access to Books and Reading for People with Disabilities. This day was intended for all book professionals: publishers, producers of adapted books, librarians, developers of web solutions for online libraries and bookstores, developers of digital reading applications, t

eachers and students of the book trades. With workshops and demonstrations on the programme, attendees enjoyed a lively and interactive forum for discussion.

http://www.braillenet.org/acces-livres-journee-trouver-solutions-ensemble/

Photograph of panel at the Braillenet conference on December 7th

When: December 7th, 2017

Venue: Villeurbanne, France

When: 09:00 – 17:00

 

 

 


Introducing ACE: Accessibility Checker for EPUB

Photograph of 4 ace playing cardsThis was a guest post for EPUBSecrets by Romain Deltour, lead developer of the Ace software tool, and re-posted here with the kind permission of Laura Brady, editor of EPUBSecrets.

The mission of ebook developers and publishers is a pretty darn cool and noble one, if you ask me: crafting pure information, pure knowledge, so that it can be readable by everyone. Yes, Everyone. As Billy Gregory playfully put it on Twitter in 2015, “when UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as Some Users’ Experience, or… #SUX?”. If some people are left out, SUX. Well, we don’t want that in our EPUBs! The alternative is of course truly inclusive publishing, where content is accessible to all.

“When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as Some Users’ Experience, or… #SUX?”

Producing accessible ebooks, however, comes with its own challenges. Sometimes, accessibility is just underestimated and dashed off. Other times, goodwill may be damped down by perceived technical complexity. In any case, it is — sadly — far too easy to let some inaccessible content slip through a production workflow.

Wouldn’t it be useful to have some tools to help spot the most obvious accessibility errors, so that you can more easily work your way towards inclusive publishing? That’s the idea behind Ace, an accessibility checker for EPUB developed by the DAISY Consortium and currently in public beta testing.

Ace, in a nutshell

Ace is an open source tool that can help with evaluating conformance to the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 specification. Ace actually does two things: it runs some automated checks (and will report obvious accessibility violations), and it also extracts some data that can be used in a later manual inspection process.

Ace is usable as a command line tool, or can be integrated in larger software via a Javascript or HTTP API. Ace can create reports both in a machine-readable format (JSON-LD), or as a human-friendly HTML document.

“Ace is an open source tool that can help with evaluating conformance to the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 specification.”

Automated checks

When it comes to automated checking, it is very important to understand that a tool can only detect a limited set of accessibility requirements. Steve Faulkner, W3C HTML editor and well-known accessibility expert, for instance recently mentioned the figure of 30% of WCAG 2.0 criteria being able to be automatically verified. Trying to report more can result in a report riddled with false-positives and bloated information, which can be counter-productive.

In Ace, we’re trying to adopt a conservative approach and only report true and confirmed violations. Under the hood, to check an EPUB’s HTML content documents, Ace notably relies on aXe, a high-quality Web accessibility checker by Deque Systems. On top of these WCAG-related checks, Ace also runs a few EPUB-specific checks, for instance to check the presence of accessibility metadata. When a violation is found, Ace will point to DAISY’s accessible publishing knowledge base (curated by Matt Garrish).

Data extraction

In addition to the automated checks, Ace extracts some data that is intended to be useful for manual accessibility inspection. For instance, Ace can report the outline computed from the HTML headings (HTML elements h1 to h6) alongside the ToC from the Navigation Document, so that a person can check that they are consistent. Ace also extracts the list of the EPUB’s images and graphics along with their associated accessibility descriptions, and renders them in a consolidated table for easier review.

Again, automated checks cannot give the full picture, and by extracting relevant data Ace intends to prepare for the later stages in the process.

When to use Ace?

Fixing inaccessible content can be a costly operation. Imagine that you’re building a house: would you consider piercing the windows after having raised the walls and decorated with wallpaper, or would you rather consider it at build time? The example may sound trite, but it’s really what is at stake for accessibility. The well-known mantra “test early, test often” totally applies. The sooner you identify an issue, the easier and cheaper it is to fix. Accessibility testing doesn’t have to be put off to the QA stages down the line; it is a sane practice to also test during development.

What’s the plan, and how can I help?

Ace is currently in beta testing phase, and we’re eager to get feedback from technical experts in ebook production. Please be aware it may have some rough edges and …erm… bugs too (wouldn’t life be a bit bland without them?). We’re also looking forward to any usability suggestions or feature requests (on both Ace or the knowledge base). Feel more than welcome to use our issue tracker, or the beta testing feedback form.

We intend to release version 1.0 later this year. There’s already a bunch of improvements on our radar, including better configurability, more EPUB-specific rules, basic support for EPUB 2, localization, integration with EpubCheck,… Stay tuned! For news on Ace release updates (as well as all areas related to accessibility and publishing), don’t hesitate to sign up to the Inclusive Publishing newsletter, and follow @InclusivePub on Twitter.


Romain Deltour is a software developer and accessibility expert for the DAISY Consortium, and is a firm believer in the Web’s potential to enable a truly inclusive publishing ecosystem. When he’s not coding or attending W3C conference calls, he can usually be seen playing with one of his three lovely kids. Sometimes, they happen to enjoy the conference calls too…but shh!
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Announcing Ace Beta Release

Announcing the First Beta Release of Ace, by DAISY, the Accessibility Checker for EPUB.

The DAISY Consortium are delighted to announce the first beta release of their new open source software tool – Ace – an accessibility conformance checking tool for EPUB 3 publications. This new tool will provide clarity for the publishing industry where accessibility can mean many things to many people. Based on the requirements specified in the new EPUB Accessibility Conformance and Discovery Specification 1.0, Ace has been designed to check packaged or unpackaged EPUB 3 files at any point in the publishing workflow process.

Specifically, Ace:

  • runs automated accessibility tests on EPUB content documents
  • extracts the publications metadata, and checks accessibility-related metadata
  • separates various document outlines (the Navigation Documents, ToC, the HTML etc) for side-by-side comparison
  • presents all the EPUB’s images and graphics and their associated accessibility descriptions in a consolidated table, for easier review
  • consolidates the various content features to facilitate human-driven accessibility audits
  • can be run as a command line tool, or integrated as a Javascript node module, or driven by an HTTP API

Reports on conformance can be output at all stages of the publishing process as user friendly HTML documents or machine readable JSON-LD data. This type of early feedback is particularly helpful with future conformance issues and for training in-house employees to include accessibility within their workflows. Third party suppliers can be required to implement Ace checking on EPUB files and provide reports for their publishers. The appropriate metadata will be available for content providers to announce their subsequent conformance.

This beta release is actively seeking feedback from technical experts in the publishing industry who are happy engaging with EPUB3 code and working through a command line interface.

Please note, this early release tool is testing the examination and content presentation processes, and through feedback the tool will be refined with a second round of beta testing, with a final mainstream release scheduled towards the end of the year.

Technical experts can get involved with the Ace Getting Started Guide.

For more news and information all areas related to accessibility and publishing, including Ace release updates, sign up to the Inclusive Publishing mailing list, and follow @InclusivePub on Twitter.

 

Publishing Markup Mysteries: Bill Kasdorf’s Take

In his Apex Content Solutions blog post, Bill Kasdorf clears up confusion around publishing markup mysteries. He admits that some people may find the concept or “markup” confusing. Let’s take a look at two of his examples below.

Isn’t EPUB just a form of XML?

Well, yes and no. The content documents in an EPUB are XML—the words you’re reading on your ereader or phone. But EPUB itself is a file format. It’s a package that contains lots of components that make up a publication. Not just the content documents, but the images and media and other features that together comprise a given publication, the CSS stylesheets and fonts that govern how they look, and metadata and navigation files that make it all work. All this good stuff is gathered up in a systematic package called an EPUB.

Because its current packaging is a .zip file, an EPUB looks like—and is—a single file. Which leads people to think it’s just a file like an XML file. Nope. It’s way more than that.

HTML is not the same as XML. Except when it is.

Those XML content documents in an EPUB aren’t just any XML. They’re XML using a very specific vocabulary: HTML5. Or, to say that the other way around, they’re HTML5 using XML syntax. That’s often referred to as XHTML; but it’s not the old XHTML 1.1 of a few years back.

If you want to learn more about markup for publishers, go read the Apex Content Solutions blog.

The Future of Accessible Publishing: EPUB 3

The Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) has launched its re-branded “ABC Global Book Service” (formerly TIGAR Service) that enables libraries for the blind in different countries to exchange books in accessible formats. At the same time, ABC also encourages the production of “born accessible” books.

Accessible EPUB 3 is the “gold standard” in the publishing industry for the production of accessible digital books as publishers can:

  • use the accessibility features of the EPUB 3 standard for the production of digital publications;
  • include descriptions of the accessibility features of their products in the information they provide to retailers and others in the book supply chain.

If its accessibility features are used correctly, EPUB 3 allows for the creation of an electronic file that can be used to produce accessible digital books in various formats, for example:

  • an audio book with a synthesized voice (text-to-speech);
  • embossed braille; or
  • electronic braille (braille read on a computer or a portable device).

More information is available on the ABC website.