In the trenches with accessible EPUB


Charles LaPierre currently co-chairs the accessibility task forces for both the W3C Digital Publishing Interest Group and the International Digital Publishing Forum’s new EPUB 3.1 specification, where he helped write the new Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Requirements along with the EPUB Accessibility Techniques document. He's written here about accessible EPUB to give you a glimpse of what you can expect from his ebookcraft 2017 talk.


With the recent approval of EPUB 3.1 as a recommended specification by the International Digital Publishing Forum, accessibility will no longer take a back seat. This new standard includes the first ever Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Requirements specification. Publishers are now scrambling to make their publications conform to these new accessibility requirements. Publishers are required to add accessibility metadata into publications to certify that their EPUB publications are accessible, and to indicate the certification authority and the level of conformance achieved.

Benetech currently works with a handful of publishers to ensure that publications meet EPUB 3.1 standards as part of the Benetech Born Accessible initiative. In addition to guaranteeing that publications conform to new accessibility requirements, Benetech works directly with publishers to help them go beyond the baseline requirements. Our work not only benefits publishers seeking to take a leadership position in terms of accessibility, but also helps consumers to recognize just how accessible publications really are. In the US, educational institutions at the K-12 and post-secondary levels are starting to demand that content be accessible — and that that accessibility be verified by an authorized third party. As a result, the pressure is on for publishers to adopt a born-accessible workflow.

It has been very interesting cracking open these publisher files and seeing just how accessible they are. As it turns out, most of the publisher files that Benetech reviews are reasonably compliant. In particular, structure and lists are handled well by most publishers. In contrast, we are noticing that images and tables are the primary areas that need a lot more accessibility work.

I encourage you to attend my session on March 23 to learn what it takes to comply with and even surpass the new accessibility requirements in order to set yourself apart from your competitors.

We encourage you to come to ebookcraft 2017 too! If you haven't already bought your ticket, you can register right here.