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Accessibility Camp

October 25th, 2019

Just announced: The LIA Foundation in Italy are organizing an Accessibility Camp on October 25th in MIlan. More details to follow—watch this space!

Date

October 25, 2019

Venue

Milan

EBooks for All: Towards an Accessible Publishing Ecosystem

Front cover image of the new whitepaper from LIAEBooks for All: A New Whitepaper Publication from The LIA Foundation in Italy

New legislative framework, the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty and the recently approved European Directive on the accessibility requirements for products and services (European Accessibility Act), invites the entire digital publishing industry to become accessible to people with disabilities.  The standards used to create, distribute and describe accessible content to end users are available and it seems the right time to start discussing on how to implement an Accessible Digital Publishing Ecosystem.

This whitepaper aims to be an agile manual, providing an overview of the different areas of focus for everyone in the book supply chain: content producers, aggregators and digital distributors, Books in Print Catalogues, online bookstores and platforms, developers of reading solutions. It identifies the role each person should play in the accessible ecosystem, describes the critical elements to be considered and provides the relevant references to the international standard accessibility specifications or guidelines to be followed.

The paper consists of 3 chapters including:

  • The new legislative framework
  • An accessible digital publishing ecosystem
  • Metadata standards for accessibility
  • And more!

To access this new publication please visit: https://www.fondazionelia.org/en/e-books-all-towards-accessible-publishing-ecosystem

Sunset of EPUB 2 Approaches in Italy

Glorious sunset in Rome with the silhouette of St Peter's Basilica dominating the skylineThe specifications of the EPUB 2, as defined by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) date back to 2007. For several years, however, EPUB 3 has been available and in the next months we will be presented with the new updated version—EPUB 3.2., defined by the W3C, after the integration with the IDPF.

Version 2 of EPUB has more or less become obsolete and ha snot been updated or supported since 2014: the W3C therefore invites content producers to move on to new versions, as all their efforts will now focus on EPUB 3 and the development of new specifications like Web Publications. This means that new versions of software for creating EPUBs, control software (EPUBCheck) and reading software (ereader and app) will no longer support EPUB 2.

The Italian market, like many other international markets, still produces most of their new ebook titles in the EPUB 2 format; content producers do not feel the need to switch to the new format. As Dave Cramer, co-chair of the EPUB 3 Community Group, says: EPUB 2 is “Good Enough” (http://epubsecrets.com/good-enough-a-meditation-on-the-past-present-and-future-of-epub.php). Why change to EPUB 3 just for the sake of it?

Furthermore, publishers have been distracted by the  ‘exotic’ functions (multimedia, interactivity, animations, fixed layout, etc.) that are badly supported by digital reading solutions and haven’t focused on EPUB 3 core features.

On February 28th Fondazione LIA and the Italian Publishers Association organized a training course on EPUB 3, with the pressing title “The sunset of the EPUB 2 is approaching” for Italian publishers. Participants came from various sized publishers representing different market segments—trade, academic, education.

According to Gregorio Pellegrino, Chief Accessibility Officer of Fondazione LIA, and lecturer of the course “This course launched the transition of Italian publishers to EPUB 3. A further step forward for born accessible publishing in Italy”.

The course explained how good  a format EPUB 3 is for text-based content (e.g. fiction and non-fiction for the trade market) currently published in EPUB 2: better typography, better content semantics, alignment to the modern standards of the Open Web Platform, and, of course, better accessibility.

To better understand the transition from EPUB 2 to EPUB 3, Luc Audrain Head of Digitalization at Hachette Livre France, made a testimony presenting his experience on the topic, offering interesting advice to delegates on how to deal with suppliers, how to consider the new format not just as an extra job, but as a new opportunity to reach for more users.

This article was kindly submitted by Gregorio Pellegrino, Chief Accessibility Officer of Fondazione LIA.

Inspiring Words from Industry Leaders: Interview with Cristina Mussinelli, The LIA Foundation

Head shot of Cristina Mussinelli, subject of this interview pieceInclusive Publishing has embarked on a series of interviews with industry leaders and their approach to accessibility. Cristina Mussinelli has championed inclusive publishing throughout much of her career and the work of the LIA Foundation has radically changed the way that mainstream accessibility is approached by publishers in Italy and abroad.

Producing accessible files means producing well-structured, high-quality publications that any reader can enjoy.

Please share with us the major achievements of the LIA Foundation to date

Firstly, we are very proud of the LIA catalogue which now hosts over 20.000 born accessible e-books produced by 73 Italian publishing imprints using mainstream production process and which are  also distributed in the most important online retail outlets. Our hope is to add more and more publishers to this continually growing list so that we can, in the near future, offer print impaired people a complete catalogue of all new ebooks published in the Italian trade market.

In November 2017 we reached a great milestone. After many years of fruitful collaboration, Fondazione LIA – Libri Italiani Accessibili and the Italian Blind and Partially Sighted Union decided to strengthen their partnership with UICI becoming an institutional participant and electing the UICI president as the Fondazione LIA president. This collaboration confirms that if the publishing world and the organizations representing people with visual impairments work closely together, actions, projects and outcomes can be incredibly fruitful and effective.

Last, but not least, we are witnessing a growing interest towards accessibility from content producers, software houses and many others who are involved in the book supply chain. We will be working with them to make sure that accessibility is central in everyone’s publishing strategy.

Can you sum up the Foundation’s attitude towards inclusive publishing in one sentence.

I would like my catalogue to be everybody’s catalogue.  I’d like to be able to choose just like everybody. I don’t want to be limited to specially made books but to be free to read like anybody else.

Mario Barbuto, President of the Italian Blind Union and now also of Fondazione LIA.

How has the work of the LIA Foundation affected the accessibility of mainstream publishing in Italy?

LIA has created an innovative service increasing the availability of mainstream accessible fiction and nonfiction titles in digital format (e-books) for blind and visually impaired readers.

To reach this target, LIA put in place true cultural change in the way accessibility is approached by Italian publishers. Accessibility is now considered integral to publishing production processes and is no longer thought of as an add-on feature. The LIA project has resulted in the production of accessible mainstream files with appropriate metadata attached being much higher on the agenda for publishers. 

LIA has been a true revolution for more than 362,000 blind and 1,5 million visually impaired Italians who proved to be strong readers according to a 2011 survey carried out by LIA prior to the implementation of its mainstream accessibility model. Reading an average of 9 books every year,  visually impaired readers consume three times more titles than the average domestic reader.

Do you have a top tip for publishers who are new to accessibility?

Just to not be afraid and to start the journey towards accessibility. Changing workflows and production habits, even slightly, can produce astonishing results. It is also worth mentioning that accessibility means quality. Producing accessible files means producing well-structured, high-quality publications that any reader can enjoy. The real question is: why a publisher shouldn’t produce accessible files? Why would they not take advantage of the potential on offer from accessible content?

The LIA Foundation is focusing heavily on training at the moment – how will this complement the work that the project has already completed?

As the first LIA project completed it was clear that our team had developed a particular and very specialised know-how about accessible digital publishing, assistive technologies and everything in between. As many companies and institutions publish corporate documents, we decided to address their need to provide this content to blind and partially sighted users. The publishing world has been and will always be our core focus but we think that every content provider should embrace accessibility.

The goal of LIA is to promote access for visually impaired readers to editorial products from traditional publishers as well as content providers in general, thus allowing them to choose how, when and, above all, what to read.

Nowadays we offer tailor made training and consultancy services to publishing houses, public and private companies, in Italy and abroad, who are interested in producing accessible content. We provide assesments on current publications, we offer training courses based on their actual workflows and production tools and we provide guidance and help-desk responses in the follow-up phase.  For instance – we will soon start an ad hoc training program for the Banca d’Italia, the central bank of the Republic of Italy and we are also organizing an in-house training course for Italian publishers specializing in medical publications so that they can create “born accessible” publications and set up an accessible reading platform.

What do you think will be the biggest game changer for inclusive publishing in the next few years?
The Marrakesh Treaty and the European Accessibility Act will foster the adoption of inclusive publishing strategies for sure. The move from EPUB 2 to EPUB 3 will also be pivotal. Why not move now?

What is on the events calendar for the LIA Foundation over the next year?

Next year is going to be a fun one. We are planning a calendar of events for all the members of the book supply chain, starting from the reader. Through a project funded by Fondazione Cariplo, we’ll organize training courses for blind and visually impaired readers about accessibile digital publishing.

We are also organizing an Accessibility Camp, in Milan, in the spring for publishers, developers and print impaired readers where to share best practice and define common strategies and projects to implement.

overhead shot of a reading in the dark event with readers on stage and a large audience able to listen and watch via a screen.

© Gianni Peresson

Throughout the year we are planning to organize some highly engaging Reading in the Dark events as well,  through which Fondazione LIA make participants aware of issues such as accessibility and the socio-cultural inclusion  of people with visual impairments. During a reading in the dark the author reads a passage from the book and the blind reader continues reading with the e-book in the LIA Foundation catalog through different modes: magnifying the characters, using the Braille display or the text to speech functionality of tablets and smartphones. Antonio Manzini, author of Orfani Bianchi had this to say about Reading in the Dark:

I’ve been to the Lia Foundation Reading in the Dark. There were two boys reading. Their voices resounded in that huge room and gave life to the characters, the dialogues, the descriptions. We were able to see trenches, Africa, we saw the music and jealousy and a single Romanian carer in a ruthless Rome. They read as Gods, and they did it with the soul and with the hands, because those two boys did not see. And they gave us a breathtaking view.

Details of all of these events will be available via Inclusive Publishing.

Fondazione LIA and the Italian Blind and Partially Sighted Union Join Forces

Logo for the LIA FoundationAfter many years of fruitful collaboration, Fondazione LIA – Libri Italiani Accessibili (Accessible Italian Books) and the Italian Blind and Partially Sighted Union have decided to strengthen their partnership with the UICI becoming an institutional participant of the Italian LIA Foundation which promotes book and reading through research on digital accessibility, awareness-raising events, training courses and consultancy activities.

This represents a further step forward for Fondazione LIA, which was started in 2011 as a project carried out by AIE, the trade association of Italian Publishers, and later became a Foundation in 2014. Since the beginning, LIA was conceived to increase access to publishing for the almost two million visually impaired people living in Italy. In fact, its main goal was to create a national catalogue of accessible e-books – an initiative made possible thanks to funding from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism for the development of the LIA digital platform. The catalogue has grown even since and today it features more than 20 thousand accessible digital e-books available on the website www.libriitalianiaccessibili.it, and more than 400 titles, mainly new ones,  are added every month.

LIA shows that if associations representing people with disabilities, publishers and institutions work together, actions and results can be much more effective. Technologies today offer opportunities that were unthinkable to us even a few years ago. It would be a shame not to catch them.

For full details of this important announcement read the recent edition of the DAISY Planet Newsletter published on April 4th 2018.