Looking to the future – Making Publishing Accessible for all
In line with our value to celebrate and impact greater inclusion and diversity in every conversation we have and to learn how we too can have an impact on making the publishing industry a more inclusive place, the Inspired team have attended a few seminars this year which have addressed the concerns around written, printed and digital content and the plans for making this content accessible for all. One third of the population has challenges when it comes to accessing published content, which is a huge market to be losing, and for those with print disabilities who are able to reach these titles but are unable to find ways to read them in the traditional sense due to visual or cognitive impairments who need read aloud versions or struggle with colours, fonts, spacing of words etc, authors and publishers are missing out on having accessible content that everyone can engage with as they would like. This blog will detail our key takeaways and how it is more important than ever to have accessibility built into the content for those with print disabilities.
Publishers need to properly consider this at the very start of the product development process, which means making content ‘Born Accessible’ as oppose to implementing accessibility further down the line to ensure that the content is as inclusive as possible and users with print disabilities are able to engage with the content straight away. Some key improvements to implement include:
- Adding in detailed description for images to be described
- Audio needs to be trans-scripted – you will have seen more transcriptions on social media platforms this year.
- You need to consider the issue around colour contrasts and principles suggest that designs and texts disappear when a device is put it into night mode.
- Making content easier to navigate by ensuring content is structured correctly and clearly, or applying more headings, subheadings or lists for example.
- Ensuring content is available in a range of different formats
Why is this so important?
With technology enabling us to make lasting change and this affect a third of the population who are living with an audio or visual disability, it is super important but also it makes no commercial sense to ignore and not cater for this market. With Publishers looking for alternative revenue streams and ways to reach market, this could make a huge impact from a revenue point of view as by making an accessible title, you produce a better title for everyone, and a better title means really showcasing your work and content!
Where can publishers start?
There are practical solutions for authors and publishers that already exist to add accessibility. Some of the solutions that have been born out of these conversations are to use audio and braille and third-party solutions such as using external vendors can be commissioned to verify if accessibility is in the content. Another solution is Epub which is a page navigation tool which is used to improve the workflow. There is now an accessibility checker in the footnote on Microsoft Word as well as a navigation view which benefits everyone. However, the biggest challenge for publishers to make content accessible is with alt texts* and images. It is a needed feature and it is clear that accessibility in Word processes needs time and attention to deliver this. It is worth noting that Read Aloud has been commonly used to decode text and images. You can download a number of free read aloud apps direct from your phone in the app store, or you can download the Google Chrome Read Aloud Text to Speech Voice Reader for your browser here.
All the events and seminars we have attended since April this year agreed that we have a major duty in publishing to make an accessible version of content. It shouldn’t be an afterthought and needs to be at the top of the agenda and implemented right at the start of the product development strategy. The principles are around structure and content: if these basic principles are in place, with the use of the right tools it is possible to make a publication accessible automatically engaging a potential 33% larger readership. Publishers need to educate and engage authors to think about structure when they are writing their book in order to allow this accessibility.
New legislation is coming in 2025 so you need to act now!
The European Accessibility act comes into place from the end of June 2025 which will affect all products ranging from ereaders to computers to payment terminals and services. It aims to break down barriers and make life accessible for all. So, this should definitely be on your agendas as any content that is published from June 2025 should be accessible on publication. Authors and publishers in the EU and who sell into the EU will need to comply with this rule from this date onwards. Currently, Amazon has a huge backlist that requires regular checks as there is still a huge number of titles that need conversion. You can read more about The European Accessibility act here.
Groups like, PAAG (Publishing Accessibility Action Group), a not-for-profit organisation, offers solutions to move forward and serve the needs of users with print disabilities. “Our objective is to make our content accessible to all and to aid others in this endeavour.”
PAAG is funded and supported by the UK Association for Accessible Formats – read more here.
They have noticed how there is a boundary between the writer and the person trying to consume it and their goal is to make the workflow accessible to support this process across all types of publishing. They have introduced the PAAG Charter which a few publishers have now signed up to as well as some supply chain organisations such as Inspired Search & Selection. By signing up you are making a commitment to raise awareness on making content, products and services accessible and ensuring your commitment to publish products that are accessible.
We still have a long way to go in ensuring all content is accessible by continually learning, making modifications and providing different formats and ways of producing content, the publishing industry is getting one step closer to becoming conscious, committed and inclusive.
* Alt text also known as Alternative Text is a descriptive text that describes what is in an image on a page.
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