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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:

W3C Releases First Public Working Draft for Specification for Spoken Presentation in HTML

Announcement from the W3C:

“The Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group has published a First Public Working Draft of Specification for Spoken Presentation in HTML from the Pronunciation Task Force. This document is part of W3C work on pronunciation to provide normative specifications and best practices guidance so that text-to-speech (TTS) synthesis can properly pronounce HTML content.

This First Public Working Draft specification describes two possible technical approaches for author-controlled pronunciation of HTML content, using Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML).

Either approach will satisfy our accessibility requirements. However, we seek to establish a widely applicable approach. W3C is therefore seeking more input on these approaches, particularly from content authors and implementors who would convert the authoring techniques described into aural presentation. Please send comments by 18 June 2021.”

EPUB3 Working Group Requests Feedback on FXL Accessibility

The EPUB3 Working Group is investigating the gap in recommendations for the production of accessible fixed-layout content in EPUB. The accessibility guidelines for reflowable content are well-established, but the working group is hoping to produce similar documentation for fixed-layout, and would like to get feedback from the industry on methods that people have used, are interested in using, or challenges they have faced in producing high-quality fixed-layout content. They are particularly interested in use cases and examples where content creators have tried SVG, fixed layout with reflowable sections, or modern CSS (Grid/Flexbox).

Feel free to contact the chairs at group-epub-wg-chairs@w3.org, or Wendy Reid directly at wendy.reid@rakuten.com with questions or feedback.

Publishing, Accessibility, W3C Standards. Where Are We Going? (W)

Publishing Accessibility and W3C Standards opening slideIn our series of free weekly webinars  June 3rd saw a session focused on the future of the W3C, entitled Publishing, Accessibility, W3C Standards. Where Are We Going? The EPUB 3 standard can support accessibility to a degree never seen before. It’s already the most popular and most accessible publishing standard, but can we do better? Our speakers explored this theme during their webinar giving us an overview of what the publishing industry can expect from Publishing@W3C in the future.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar

Speakers

  • Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium—host and chair
  • Wendy Reid, Rakuten Kobo
  • Dave Cramer, Hachette Book Group
  • Tzviya Siegman, Wiley

Session Overview

Wendy Reid, Chair of the Publishing WG and Chair of the upcoming EPUB3 WG at W3C, opened this webinar by giving us an overview of the recent W3C survey conducted to understand how EPUB was being used within our industry. For publishers, EPUB is indeed the format of choice and it is very popular although , overall, it was concluded that publishers need it to do more. There is some misunderstanding about EPUB and better communication and spec improvements are needed to rectify this.

Dave Cramer, Chair of the former EPUB Community Group and Chair of the upcoming EPUB3 WG at W3C, gave us some background on how Publishing@W3C works and how we need to be using the W3C process as a tool to make improvements to our industry standards. The EPUB3 WG has seen 20 years of dedication to the EPUB spec but interoperability challenges, in particular, demand refinement and the new goals for the spec focus on these as well as other overdue alterations.

Tzviya Siegman, Chair of the Publishing WG and member of the W3C Advisory Board, discussed the EPUB accessibility spec—which she hopes will be a formal W3C recommendation by 2021. The EPUB Accessibility Taskforce is also working on a metadata project—The Accessibility Metadata Crosswalk, to identify gaps within the accessibility metadata in major industry standards.

Tzviya also discussed using DPUB ARIA and explained that if you use it correctly, how it can greatly enhance the reading experience for screen reader users. However, if used incorrectly the result can be quite the reverse so she suggests not using it unless competency levels are high.

WCAG Accessibility guidelines expect an update in Q4 2020 with several new success criteria to be included.

Wendy introduced us to the Audiobook specification which is on track to reach recommended status in Q3 2020, allowing for the creation of born accessible audiobooks and providing a mainstream standard for the creation of audiobook titles.

Our presenters gave us many resources and recommendations throughout the webinar and the Q & A at the end was most informative. Make sure you listen to some of the thought provoking questions and our panels expert thoughts on these topics.

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

Free Webinar: The Future of Accessible Publishing and Standards—Where Are We Going?

June 3rd, 2020

The DAISY Consortium has announced the launch of a series of free weekly webinars on accessible publishing and reading in response to the multiple challenges being faced by conferences around the world due to Coronavirus, as well as feedback from the wider DAISY community expressing interest in online training resources.

The EPUB 3 standard can support accessibility to a degree never seen before. It’s already the most popular and most accessible publishing standard, but can we do better?
This webinar will:

  • discuss where we currently are and some of the challenges we face
  • summarize what is planned in the near future and the impact it will have on accessible publishing
  • gaze into the crystal ball of publishing standards to explore where we might be headed longer term and what we might encounter along the path.

Date

June 3, 2020

Venue

Online via Zoom or via the DAISY YouTube channel afterwards

Learn More

Sign up for the June 3rd webinar

For information on the whole DAISY webinar series on offer you can register your interest on the Webinar Information Page

Free Webinar: Publishing, Accessibility, W3C Standards—Where Are We and How Did We Get Here?

May 6th, 2020

The DAISY Consortium has announced the launch of a series of free weekly webinars on accessible publishing and reading in response to the multiple challenges being faced by conferences around the world due to Coronavirus, as well as feedback from the wider DAISY community expressing interest in online training resources.

Behind the scenes of any technology you can find a significant amount of effort invested over many years has shaped where we are today. This session will reflect on the EPUB 3 journey to become the most popular and most accessible digital publishing standard in the world.

Date

May 6th, 2020 at 3pm UTC

Venue

Live online via Zoom or via the DAISY YouTube channel afterwards

Learn More

Sign up for the May 6th webinar

For information on the whole DAISY webinar series on offer you can register your interest on the Webinar Information Page

Accessibility Camp—A Moment of Study Between Experts

A collection of pink sticky notes being positioned on a boardThe LIA Foundation recently organized a day completely dedicated to the theme of accessibility for professionals in the publishing world and for content producers at the  Talent Garden Calabiana in Milan , as part of the MiCA project—Milan for Accessible Culture.

It was a day in which participants were able to meet experts from the world of digital accessibility to share knowledge, information and experiences—offering a moment of study, exchange and comparison on the subject of accessibility amongst professionals.

The first part of the day was dedicated to presentations from national and international experts who introduced and explored the dynamics and scenarios taking place at a global level.

Speakers included:

  • Cristina Mussinelli—The LIA Foundation
  • Antonio Cotroneo—The LIA Foundation
  • Avneesh Singh—The DAISY Consortium
  • Luc Audrain—Hachette Livre

The day began with a demo of a visually impaired user trying to buy and read an ebook which was great for setting the mood for the day.

Print impaired reader presenting to delegates with Gregorio Pellegrino assisting

 

Cristina Mussinelli from the LIA Foundation then introduced the workshop and explained the need to work together in order to comply with the new European legislative framework for accessibility: Marrakech Treaty and European Accessibility Act. The LIA Foundation has recently produced a white paper entitled: EBooks for All: Towards an Accessible Publishing Ecosystem

Avneesh Singh from The DAISY Consortium gave a keynote speech on publishing standards, including:

  • an introduction to EPUB 3.2
  • EPUBCheck—the prerequisite for adoption of EPUB 3.2 together with plans for further development
  • State of the art accessibility of EPUB 3—greatly reinforced by EPUB 3 Accessibility Conformance and Discovery specifications
  • information on EPUB 3.0.1 and EPUB accessibility specifications becoming ISO standards which will serve to further elevate EPUB and the EPUB Accessibility specification worldwide.

Luc Audrain, Head of Digitalization for Hachette Livre, rounded off the first part of the day with a keynote describing Hachette’s move to an EPUB 3 born accessible publishing workflow, without incurring additional cost. Luc’s drive has been a major factor in Hachette’s success made possible because he was the right person, in the right place, at the right time. It was great to see how just one person can bring about such a change.

 

Luc Audrain presents on EPUB 3 and workflows within Hachette Livre

 

During the second part of the Camp, three operational working groups were organized to explore specific topics in more detail:

  • How to make mathematics accessible in traditional production processes. This workshop also looked at other STEM materials.
  • Reading solutions: platforms and user experience
  • Discoverability and metadata : what do users want and what steps are needed to meet the deadlines set by the European Accessibility Act?

The LIA Foundation has also recently announced that the notable organizations, Associazione Italiana Dislessia (AID) and the Biblioteca Italiana per i Ciechi (Italian Library for the Blind) (BIC) have signed an agreement for the production and distribution of accessible copies of textbooks to blind and visual impaired students. The full press release of this announcement is available. The Foundation is busy setting up a Scientific Committee with many esteemed collaborators and we look forward to hearing about the plans and work of this group.

The History and Future of Audiobooks

Space Gray Iphone 6 and Red On-ear HeadphonesThis article was kindly submitted by Wendy Reid, Senior QA at Rakuten Kobo Inc and one of the co-chairs of the Publishing Working Group of the W3C. She is the editor of the audiobooks profile of Web Publications, the focus of this blog piece. Wendy recently presented on the new audiobook standard at the DPUB Summit in Paris.

When Thomas Edison recorded the first audiobook in 1877, he probably didn’t think of them as anything other than a way to sell more phonographs. In the 1930’s, when the Library of Congress and the AFB developed a program for talking books, audiobooks got their real start and reputation as a medium for reading accessibility. The talking books program was created to provide reading materials for wounded war veterans and people with visual disabilities, and the model would be recreated in other countries in the years that followed.

My first exposure to the world of audiobooks came in grade 10. My English teacher, a man well known for his coke-bottle glasses and sweater vests, popped a cassette tape into a player on his desk and played us a recording of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It was pretty good, certainly more interesting than reading the worn copy in my backpack or listening to my classmates stumble over Shakespeare’s peculiar use of English. However, it was a cassette in a time when I carried an iPod around in my school bag and feverishly downloaded MP3s from torrent sites. Audiobooks, though better than reading my school books, seemed antiquated. When I picked up an audiobook again at a summer data entry job, it was on a CD. I later discovered I could torrent them off music sites too, but my tiny 8gb iPhone 4s couldn’t handle more than one at a time, and I always seemed to lose track of my place.

Little did I know then that in a few years I would be working on audiobooks on the other side of the table. Instead of torrenting them I’d be working on an app to purchase, download, and listen to them all on my iPhone 6s. I would spend 6 months of my life listening almost exclusively to audiobooks, some I enjoyed, some I hated, many in languages I didn’t understand, all for the purpose of releasing a product. A product I inevitably use almost every week..

Last year the Publishing Working Group  at W3C started work on audiobooks. It had become apparent to us that there was a strong business need for standardization in the industry, especially as it was seeing a newfound popularity.

It would shock many people to know that audiobooks are produced without any sort of unifying specification at all.

Today, if a publisher wants to produce a new audiobook, they are responsible for a few things: they have to produce the audio files, cover, a track list, and any supplemental content that they want to include with the book (this can be things like graphs or photos). Once they have done that, they often send their files to either distributors or direct to retail. Each of those entities may or may not have a preferred “standard” they expect, and this can be very different depending on the requirements.

This fragmentation means that end users, depending on the platform they use (and they are almost always siloed to one), can get many different experiences.

Those reading platforms also have to factor in for a lot of data challenges, things like incorrect chapter lengths, missing track data, a missing or incorrect table of contents.

The Publishing Working Group looked at all of these problems, as well as use cases that we thought were underserved by the current implementation of audiobooks—specifically accessibility. Our specification, now a public working draft, addresses our four main classes of use case:

  • Listening—a user should be able to listen to their content without input or interruption
  • Portability—a user should be able to download, steam, or offline their content
  • Navigation—a user should be able to know when and where they are in their audiobook
  • Accessibility—regardless of ability, a user should able to enjoy their content

Listening

Our specification makes the possibility of seamless listening possible via the reading order section of the manifest. This provides instruction to reading systems or the web that as long as no other input is present, this is the order the content should be presented it. It does not preclude fast forwarding or rewinding, but if a user chooses to not interact with the listening medium, they get their content in order.

Portability

The audiobooks specification is designed for the web first, meaning that streaming was a major use case, but we also recognized the need for an offline distribution model where content could be downloaded and transported in a single piece. For that we have developed a packaging specification that addresses this problem. It means that content creators can bundle their content together into a single file, and users can download that file and enjoy their content wherever they choose to open it.

Navigation

The audiobooks specification has a specific provision for the Table of Contents. We allow content creators to create an HTML document for the table of contents which means they can create a rich document with the necessary structure of the book, and audio platforms can use it for display and information. That data can be used to help the user understand where they are in their audiobook at any time.

Accessibility

Audiobooks are often considered accessible by default—talking books were designed for the blind after all. However, print disabilities is a bigger classification than this and we needed to address all of the possible users for the specification. For that reason, the Audiobooks specification will be using the Synchronized Media specification to provide a method for content creators to sync audio and textual content for optimal experience. The specification also allows content creators to reference accessibility metadata within the manifest (on top of any ONIX they may use) to allow users to understand exactly what content they are receiving and if it meets their needs.

The audiobooks specification is moving towards recommendation status with the W3C, at this point in our process we are looking for feedback and implementation, so please reach out to us on our GitHub at https://github.com/w3c/wpub or to the editor at wendy.reid@rakuten.com (you can also reach me on twitter @wendy_a_reid if you are really keen).

Global Specifications for Accessible Publications

EPUB logoAccessible books were originally produced by organizations working for people with disabilities who are, of course, the accessibility experts. Publishers are now expected to produce accessible publications but they are not accessibility experts like the organizations working for people with disabilities.

They need accessibility specifications and guidelines to conform to and to refer to for guidance. At the same time, it is important to verify the accessibility claims of publishers, and this can only be done if there is a common accessibility specification.

We know that for efficient implementation of accessibility in publications we also need tools for checking accessibility and tools for accessible production throughout the supply chain. These tools need a common accessibility specification to which they can all conform to—what we don’t want is one tool that highlights one accessibility issue and other tools which highlight another.

We Need One Accessibility Specification that can be Adopted Worldwide.

Let us look at an example. Different countries in the world have different standards for electricity: the US has two strips 110V, Europe has two pin 220V, the UK has something different again,  and countries in Asia also have different standards. International travellers are used to the annoyance of making their appliances work with different electricity standards. It would have been so simple if we had one electric standard which was accepted around the world.

We should learn from this and we prevent any fragmentation of our accessibility standards for publications.

The digital publications market is borderless so it is much more easy to sell digital publications in different countries. EU publishers supply ebooks to different parts of the world and publications from other continents also supply their ebooks to Europe.If we have different accessibility standards, we would create a enormous amount of confusion for publishers, who are already struggling with different file formats for different ereaders. Imagine if they have to be congisant of different accessibility standards also?

Man scratching his head in confusion at a computer screen

The different areas of the publishing supply chain all need a point of reference for ensuring accessibility. What if a publisher produces accessible publication but:

  • the aggregator does not support accessibility
  • the retailer does not expose accessibility metadata and does not provide accessible user interface
  • the reading system does not support accessibility

If any link of this supply chain is not able to support accessibility, the person with disability will not be able to read the publication. Each and every element of the supply chain needs to conform to the same accessibility requirements.

Furthermore, this would result in a suboptimal reading experience for people with disabilities. People with disabilities especially senior citizens need additional guidance for using new technology like touch screen, smart phones etc., how can we expect them to make sure that their ereaders conform to different accessibility standards?

Image of man using an ereader to access content.

It is very important to have one international standard that provides a set of common requirements for conformance and highlighting violations.

Is there an Existing Standard that can be Adopted?

The good news is that there is an accessibility standard for publications which was created in 2017. The EPUB Accessibility Conformance and Discovery specifications:

  • Build on WCAG
  • Add publishing specific requirements and accessibility metadata requirements.
  • Designed at abstract level so that it can be used for publications in the format other than EPUB also.
  • Originally developed by International Digital Publishing Forum
  • Maintained by World Wide Web Consortium
  • Progressing towards becoming ISO Standard.

Are there Tools Available to Ensure Conformance to the EPUB Accessibility Standard?

Having a specification is great, but to ensure its implementation on the ground, we need conformance tools. It is impossible to imagine the implementation of accessibility throughout the supply chain without these tools:

  • Ace by DAISY (Accessibility Checker for EPUB)
  • DAISY Ace SMART (Simple Manual Accessibility Reporting Tool)
  • Ace plugin for Sigil
  • Ace at the backend of Born Accessible Checker

Are Big Publishers Using the EPUB Accessibility Conformance and Discovery Specifications?

Many publishers are either using the specification or in the process of up grading their workflows for implementing the specification. To name but a few: Pearson, U.S., Hachette Livre, France, Wiley, U.S., Macmillan Learning, U.S., Fondazione LIA, Italy, National library of Korea, Korea, Réseau Canopé, France, Kogan Page, U.K.

In conclusion:we have a international accessibility specification for ebooks, we have tools that conform to it, and we already have big publishers adopting the standard. We are in the beginning of a revolution.

We have a life time opportunity to achieve the era of born accessible publications.

This article was submitted by Avneesh Singh, COO of The DAISY Consortium and newly appointed board member of the W3C Advisory Board. It is based on a presentation given at the 2019 DPUB Summit in Paris.

Avneesh Singh Elected to W3C Advisory Board

Many congratulations to Avneesh Singh, Chief Operating Officer at the DAISY Consortium, who has been elected to the W3C Advisory Board alongside other esteemed candidates as reported in W3C’s announcement today.

The W3C Advisory Board  “provides ongoing guidance on issues of strategy, management, legal matters, process, and conflict resolution” within the W3C. DAISY is delighted that the board now have the benefit of Avneesh’s experience and expertise. His submission blog piece describes in full why he will be such an asset to this outstanding group of industry leaders.