TOC – Accessible Publishing Practices

Can you afford not to consider accessible publishing practices?, presented by Dave Gunn, Royal National Institute of Blind People. Dave commented on how TOC last year had no mention of disabilities and was appreciative of the discussions already happening this year.  More info on accessible publishing here:  rnib.org.uk/ebookguidance

Dave provided an overview of accessibility and discussion on how people with disabilities can/cannot access eBooks.   The following notes are my own interpretation of Dave’s presentation and my best attempts were made to ensure accuracy.

If this was just down to morals, we’d all be doing this already.  What is happening is the justification of the business end/challenges of making books accessible.  What are the benfits, risks, ROI, etc. for businesses?

3 reasons

  1. It makes business sense
  2. It makes business sense
  3. It makes business sense

1. It makes business sense – Sales – the audience is a minority audience.  However, there are more people with disabilities globally than the total print sales for the Twilight and the Harry Potter series combined.  The disposable income of this group is enormous.

Who benefits from accessible ebooks?

Those with cognitive disabilities, those with physical or neurological issues, and those with sight loss. 1/6 of the global population now are over 50 and most print impaired disabilities are age related. This population will grow significantly by 2025.

Usability benefits happen outside the minority such as curb cuts for people with bikes, strollers, buggies, etc.  TV/Film captioning in loud sports bars.  Speech recognition in phones, cars to change stations or call people. Web design – if you design it for accessibility, it makes it easier to navigate for everyone. The audience for usability is everyone.

2.  It makes business sense – Legally.  Laws are different everywhere, but he offered some generalizations on the effective use of technologies to legally support a disability.  Keyboard accessible software, eye tracking, text to speech and highlighting, large print customization, braille (and electronic braille).  Assistive technology has done some amazing things and has offered remarkable developments, but these could present financial and reputational risks to companies.

3.  It makes business sense – it’s not difficult. Tips for incorporating accessible access:

  • Keep text as text.  it is no longer text when you represent it as a graphic.  The devices developed to read/interpret the text won’t work with graphics/images. Don’t do the first letter of a chapter/paragraph in a graphic followed up by text, this confuses the screen reader as well. (i.e. Slaughter with a large S image, reads as laughter)
  • Allow users to customize the text.  The more you try to lock down your content for the best presentation, the more problems for accessibility.
  • Enable text to speech. comments from users:  “it might sound robotic to you, but it allows me to read books I would otherwise only dram about reading,”  “i can enjoy discussions with friends about books we are reading”
  • Check layout at a range of sizes.
  • Structure your content.
  • Provide alternate text for images and embedded media.  You can still create books that are beautiful and offer enhanced features, just provide alternate text for these features.
  • Check the reading order (which way a screen reader will read the text based on the chunks/sections of the document).  Make sure to tag the text boxes in the correct order.
  • Test your ebook for accessibility.  Learn how to use the accessibility features on your devices.

rnib.org.uk/ebookguidance – guidelines and documents here for more information.

One thought on “TOC – Accessible Publishing Practices”

  1. While it is good that they publish some guidelines for accessible ebooks, I am saddened to see that their solution for mathematical equations in content (quite common in textbooks) is to provide alternative text. Now that MathML support is part of EPUB 3, publishers can do a lot more to make mathematics accessible.

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