The Accessible EPUB Eco-System Overview

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Definition of EPUB

The EPUB specification is a distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents which is maintained and managed by the Publishing@W3C. EPUB defines a means of representing, packaging and encoding structured and semantically enhanced content — including HTML5, CSS, SVG, images, and other resources — for distribution in a single-file format.
EPUB, widely adopted as the format for digital publications, has the ability to offer a mainstream format which is accessible for everyone.

EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Specification

The EPUB Accessibility specification is structured so that there is a set of universal high-level accessibility requirements for EPUB files. It is possible to produce an EPUB file which is not accessible at all so content providers are encouraged to take advantage of the accessibility features available within this specification as a baseline requirement for their publications.

EPUB Accessibility Techniques

A separate techniques document identifies specific practices and how they might be implemented within the various versions of EPUB. Advisory in nature, these techniques are intended to help authors create EPUB publications that conform to the EPUB Accessibility specification.

Ace by DAISY

Ace by DAISY, the free open source EPUB accessibility checking tool, has been created to assist in the evaluation of conformance to the EPUB Accessibility Specification.
Designed to assist content providers at any stage in their workflow, Ace by DAISY will make it easier to produce higher quality, more accessible EPUB content files by performing a variety of automated checks and producing a list of violations that need fixing and data visualizations to aid the manual inspection process. Ace, by DAISY can be usable as a standalone tool, or can be integrated into productions workflows and software.

SMART – Simple Manual Accessibility Reporting Tool

Designed to be used in conjunction with the Ace by DAISY the SMART tool provides manual checks to ensure conformance with EPUB and WCAG requirements. SMART is available to vendors and publishers via DAISY partners and it generates a consistent and clear report.

Acessibility Knowledge Base

The Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base provides best practices for creating accessible digital publications with a specific focus on EPUB. Easy to navigate, this directory can be used as a reference for any HTML-based format.

Conformance and Discovery

People and institutions that purchase published materials need to know about the accessibility before they purchase. Accessibility metadata defined in the EPUB Accessibility Conformance and Discovery Specification should be used with all born accessible materials. Specifically, “conformsTo” and “accessibilitySummary” are vital pieces of information needed to make a decision to purchase.

The gold standard is independent third-party certification, such as Global Certified Accessible. Vendors are beginning to show the accessibility metadata, as in this example on the VitalSource platform.

Global Certified Accessible

The Benetech GCA program helps publishers produce “born accessible” content by evaluating files and providing an in-depth report on compliance and recommendations for improved accessibility strategies. Individual features are scored, and files are given a pass / fail notification. Publisher workflows and practices are also crucial to certifications and once accredited a publisher is granted an annual subscription license to auto-certify titles produced via the successful workflow.

Accessibility Testing of EPUB 3 Reading Systems

The reading systems used for EPUB titles need to support accessibility. A protocol has been developed to test accessibility of EPUB 3 reading systems for a wide range of reading disabilities. The testing is conducted through a crowd sourced approach, to help reading systems developers in improving the accessibility of their products, and to help the universities, schools and end users by identifying the reading systems that work best for their accessibility needs. The fundamental target is that Reading systems should at least make the features listed in EPUB accessibility specs 1.0 accessible. The test results are published at www.epubtest.org/testsuite/accessibility/ and new testers are always welcome to sign up at https://inclusivepublishing.org/tre.