Accessible Publishing – The Philosophy and the Process

Accessible publishing aims to make reading easier or even possible for those who have difficulty doing so. This group includes people who are blind or visually impaired, people with learning disabilities, and people who are learning another language. Accessible publishing also gives people the choice to read in various formats, using whichever format suits them best, including allowing them to read fastest or allow them to absorb the information in a better way.

People with print disabilities can find traditional publications difficult or impossible to read. By being an inclusive publisher, companies can make a positive difference to their customers, meet legal requirements which are becoming an important financial consideration because of costly litigation, and expand their market share by taking the necessary steps to include as many people as possible with their offerings. This means building accessibility into content from the very beginning, in addition to making previously published digital work accessible retroactively.

See the resource Introduction to Inclusive Publishing by Inclusive Publishing, which is part of the DAISY Consortium, to understand the terminology and concepts involved in mainstream accessibility.

Most new publications are now being designed for digital distribution and consumption, to be read on smartphones, tablets, computers, e-readers, and more. Even legacy publishers such as traditional paper newspaper and magazine publishers are having to supply digital and accessible products to remain viable. It is just good business to make sure that all potential customers, including people with print disabilities, can achieve the best possible reading experience to suit their individual needs.

Retrofitting as it were, adding accessibility to an existing digital file is somewhat like adding accessibility ramps to an old building – it will do the job but can be expensive, time-consuming and never as good as if it were part of the original design. Building accessibility into the process of publishing makes it part of the content integrally and fundamentally.

There are many tools available for developers and content providers to create a great accessible experience. The EPUB 3 format is becoming an industry standard, and the Ace by DAISY EPUB accessibility checking tool is available at no charge. To understand exactly what is meant by the term “Accessible Publication”, the website Inclusive Publishing offers guidelines to follow to create an accessible publication, including these features:

  • Readable with assistive technologies.

  • The text should fit all screen sizes.

  • Adjustable text font, colour, font size and line spacing.

  • Navigable by chapter, section, page, sentence and more.

  • Options to skip footnotes, sidebars, producer notes, and page numbers when reading with text-to-speech.

  • Work with different input methods e.g. keyboard, mouse, and touch.

  • Contain image captions and text descriptions for charts and graphs.

  • Videos should be captioned or accompanied by a text transcript.

  • Readable on multiple platforms and devices such as computers, mobile phones, tablets, refreshable braille and digital book readers.

  • Page numbers should match the print version of the same book.