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Inspiring Words from Industry Leaders: Interview with Dr Alicia Wise

Dr Alicia Wise, subject of this interviewInclusive Publishing has embarked on a series of interviews with industry leaders and their approach to accessibility. Dr Alicia Wise has been active in championing accessibility and inclusive publishing for nearly 20 years in roles crossing academia and publishing.  These include Jisc, Publishers Licensing Society, Publishers Association, Accessible Books Consortium, and most recently Elsevier.

There are many organisations who are available to help publishers on their accessibility journeys.  …..it is better for all if our industry works to shared standards for inclusive publishing.

Why is inclusive publishing important to you and to publishing organisations? 

I’m motivated by my incredible brother who has dyslexia, and really struggles to read printed text.  Despite this he is a successful artist and businessman, and as he loves story-telling he’s currently working on an illustrated children’s book.  For publishing organisations, inclusive publishing is important because it expands your potential market and offers the potential to delight and engage a wider audience.

Do you have a top tip for others new to accessibility?

Perfection is the enemy of the good.  Don’t feel you need to make all your books perfectly accessible in one step.  Get started on the journey, and keep this end goal in sight.

What do you wish you knew about accessibility 5 or 10 years ago?

I wish I had understood how very difficult it can be to engage supply chain partners, and particularly book retailers, in adopting accessible web practices.  If more were to do so, accessible books would be more easily discoverable by people who would like to buy them.

What do you think the biggest game changer for inclusive publishing will be in the next few years? 

More publishers using the EPUB format for their digital publishing, and more publishers including information about the accessibility features of their products in their marketing materials.

For those still on the fence, why should they consider accessibility? 

Do you sell any books to organisations – businesses, libraries, schools, universities? If so, you’ll increasingly find requirements for book accessibility in tender documents so it is smart business to get on the front foot by embracing inclusive publishing.  Do you sell books to millennials? Well, you are in luck: many of the features and functions that will make your books more accessible will make your books more usable by these customers.

How have good inclusive publishing practices influenced the majority of readers?

By making digital texts more usable for all.

Why should companies consider publishing a policy on inclusive publishing?

This is a gentle way to get started and can be a really terrific way to engage employees: discuss and plan steps you’ll take as an organisation to be more diverse and inclusive in your publishing practices.

Do you have any final thoughts on accessibility or inclusive publishing practices you would like to share?

There are many organisations who are available to help publishers on their accessibility journeys.  Inclusive Publishing is linked with all of these, and is a terrific source of insight on best practice.  Please don’t feel you need to reinvent the wheel – in fact it is better for all if our industry works to shared standards for inclusive publishing.

Inspiring Words from Industry Leaders: Interview with Hugo Setzer, The International Publishers Association

Photograph of Hugo Setzer, subject of this interviewInclusive Publishing has embarked on a series of interviews with industry leaders and their approach to accessibility. Hugo Setzer, CEO of Manual Moderno, a leading publishing house in Mexico City, is also Vice-President of the International Publishers Association and is personally committed to accessible publishing and to building awareness throughout the industry.

If you are serious about inclusive publishing, making it public and having a policy is the first step. It will allow you to inform and align forces within the company and to keep your commitment.

Why is inclusive publishing important to you and your organization?

First, I am convinced it is the right thing to do. For two years in a row our company has been included in the list of the Best Workplaces for Diversity and Inclusion in Mexico (Great Place to Work, Mexico) and we are convinced inclusion is not only important for our people, but for our customers as well. In addition, the International Publishers Association, where I am currently serving as Vice-President, fully supports and promotes accessible publishing. Our President, Michiel Kolman, is on the board of the Accessible Books Consortium.

Do you have a top tip for others new to accessibility?

Get started. Confucius said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Stay consistent and, as Huw Alexander from SAGE says, don’t worry about failing once in a while, you will. Learn from others.

What do you wish you knew about accessibility 5 or 10 years ago?

I would have liked to be more aware about the importance of accessible publishing for persons with a visual disability. A colleague in my company, who is blind, had her family read out her textbooks in college for her so that she was able to major in communications. There were no accessible books available at the time.

What do you think will be the biggest game changer for inclusive publishing in the next few years?

I think technology for one thing, but I am also confident the landscape will change dramatically. Today less than 10% of publications are available in accessible formats. With all the efforts from so many publishers around the world, I am sure that number will show a sharp increase in the very near future.

For those still on the fence, why should they consider accessibility?

As mentioned, it is the right thing to do. But I am convinced it also makes perfect business sense. We have expanded our potential customer base and by improving the accessibility of our content, we are able to produce better e-books as well.

How have good inclusive publishing practices influenced the majority of your readers?

As we are only starting this journey, that is something we don’t know yet, but we expect it will have a positive impact. As consumers, we no longer just buy the cheapest product, we also want to make sure the company which produces it is aware and socially responsible.

Why should companies consider publishing a policy on Inclusive Publishing?

If you are serious about inclusive publishing, making it public and having a policy is the first step. It will allow you to inform and align forces within the company and to keep your commitment.

Can you sum up your attitude towards inclusive publishing in one sentence?

Inclusive publishing is the right thing to do.

Do you have any final thoughts on accessibility or inclusive publishing practices you would like to share?

Don’t try to do everything immediately. Choose the titles which are best suited for inclusive publishing. In our company, for example, we have some profusely illustrated medical textbooks, which are not the best candidates for making them accessible, but there are many others that are.

Inspiring Words from Industry Leaders: Interview with George Kerscher, The DAISY Consortium

Photograph of George KerscherInclusive Publishing has embarked on a series of interviews with industry leaders and their approach to accessibility. George Kerscher began his IT innovations in 1987 and coined the term “print disabled”.  He is dedicated to developing technologies that make information not only accessible, but also fully functional in the hands of persons who are blind or who have a print disability. He believes properly designed digitally published materials and web pages can make information accessible to all people.  George is an advocate for semantically rich content which can be used effectively by everybody.

As Chief Innovations Officer of the DAISY Consortium, Senior Advisor, Global Literacy to Benetech, and member of Publishing Groups in the W3C, Kerscher is a recognized international leader in document access.  In addition, he chairs the DAISY/NISO Standards committee and the Steering Council of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), and also serves on the Advisory Board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

I ask all of my staff to use a screen reader, put a towel over their screen and send me an email! This involves them getting to their desktop, launching an app or email program, writing that email and then sending it. Suddenly it all clicks!

Accessibility in publishing has improved significantly in the last 30 years, can you give us a practical example of what it was like before?

When I first got involved in accessible publishing there was no accessibility within mainstream published printed content.  Not until initiatives that utilize chop & scan, source file conversions and recordings for libraries for the blind did progress begin concerning the accessibility of a wider range of printed content. Before this time, it was only libraries serving the blind that selected key publications to be made available. People just wanted more and a wider range of materials to be available. However, it was still sitting in the hands of specialist organizations that were completely separate from those who published the information; that had to change; it had to integrate with the mainstream flow of published materials.

Significant change for digital publishing materials really began in 2000 although this was hampered by DRM preventing technology working with assistive materials. Jim Fruchterman and I wrote the article The Soundproof Book in 2002 which really helped raise awareness of these issues. The DRM problem was eventually solved as it became accepted that content on screen could be exposed to assistive technology and the accessibility of the content could be evaluated.

With the introduction of the iPad and Steve Jobs’ commitment to EPUB we witnessed a turning point for accessibility in digital content. Features such as VoiceOver meant that much more material could be accessed on iBooks.

With the arrival of EPUB 3 in 2011, DAISY endorsed it as their file format of choice. They halted development of the DAISY standard and began the transition to EPUB. Together with reading system evaluations, which still take place today, EPUB provides the best option for accessibility in the mainstream.

What has been the most impactful change in accessibility to help bring us here?

The turning point for me was when publishing and technology accepted that assistive technology cannot be blocked. This was the game changer. You cannot stop people from accessing content.

Are there any questions you regularly encounter which you wish people knew by now?

People often say that they don’t see where EPUB is used as they don’t realise that ibooks, Google, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple etc. are all using EPUB as their primary format. It’s behind the scenes. This can be frustrating and publishers still provide pdfs and readers accept pdfs without realising that the user experience from re-flowable EPUB is far superior. We need to make that transition – we need to make sure readers are requesting born accessible EPUBs and that publishers are offering them. I think we are in an in-between phase at the moment – after all, pdf has been around for 25 years. But EPUB is based on modern web technology and this is where all of the accessibility advances are being made.

What would be the single most important piece of advice you could give to a publishing colleague who is new to accessibility?

Use Ace by DAISY! That’s clearly the first thing they need to do! They should also try to understand how assistive technology is used. I ask all of my staff to use a screen reader, put a towel over their screen and send me an email! This involves them getting to their desktop, launching an app or email program, writing that email and then sending it. Suddenly it all clicks! Navigating through their computer and apps has to be fast and efficient and in their visual world it is easy to take in an entire panorama. In an audio space everything is sequential and your screen reader presents one piece of information at a time until you yourself have built a mental model.  The same thing applies to the reading experience and when everything is laid out correctly then content becomes a joy to read.

What do you think will be the biggest game changer for inclusive publishing in the next couple of years?

I think that the further adoption of EPUB by even the small publishers and the inclusion of accessibility metadata within purchasing systems will be the next game changer. A good accessibility rating and conformance to accessibility standards is going to become a pre-requisite in the education space and useful purchasing choices will be made on accessibility criteria.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for publishers, and how might they overcome it?

I think that publishers are finding the production of accessible mainstream content for text only content fairly straightforward. The challenge will come in adding more interactivity in education materials. Trying to present the essence of a visualisation is going to be difficult and experts will have to write meaningful summaries for everyone working with that visualisation but especially if the student is disabled. The supplemental information provided with visualisations is crucial to a contextual understanding of the interactive material.

Do you have any final thoughts on accessibility or inclusive publishing practices you would like to share?

I have a concern about university presses who are still very ingrained within the print paradigm. I’d like to see a move towards EPUB and online publishing but the “publish or perish” ethos is still adhered to within this space. Journal publishers may be able to lead the way on this as the data that is included in their articles appears online but convincing academics that a move towards digital publishing is essential is going to be difficult.

I really feel that we’ve passed the “tipping point” and that the publishing industry understands the necessity of accessibility. They understand that they have a commitment to making information available to the public. The route of both words, publishing and public is the same after all!

Our thanks to George for his time.