Accessible ePubs

What is an accessible ebook?

An accessible ebook is a digital book whose content can be modified using assistive technologies to meet the distinct reading needs of blind and visually impaired people (e.g. screen readers and video enhancer software). Creating an accessible ebook means making your content accessible to anyone.

European Accessibility Act and deadlines in Italy

The European Accessibility Act is a directive that aims to ensure full accessibility to certain products and services by removing barriers created by divergent accessibility rules in Member States. All ebooks published must comply with the accessibility requirements needed for people with visual disabilities, and to improve the reading experience of all users. All ebooks must meet specific requirements. To know more, you can refer to the accessibility webinar that we presented recently, which we mention in the next paragraph.

What are the accessibility requirements?

The W3C (World Wide Web Council) has created the WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) that defines accessibility requirements for content, websites, and ebooks. Find out more about the  accessibility guidelines. The guidelines are based on four main principles, for which an epub must be:

  1. Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive For example, must have text instead of images or the ability to manage text/background contrast and font size.
  2. Operable - User interface components and navigation must be operable. For example, all features are available on the keyboard, the index is well-detailed, and there are anchor points to facilitate content fruition. Visual elements that can cause sudden attacks (photosensitive epilepsy) should also be avoided. Protections must be in line with technical accessibility requests - they must not hinder content usage (eg. DRM).
  3. Understandable - Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.  For example, metadata must be perfectly aligned and consistent to ensure optimal understanding of the text - get to know more about the great power of metadata; language recognition settings must be in place as well as expanded descriptions for acronyms, initials, or abbreviations.
  4. Robust - Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.  The ebook must ensure maximum compatibility with current and future programs, including assistive technologies. This principle is purely "technical" and reflects appropriate programmatic measures. The reader must be able to enjoy the ebook content across multiple sensory channels (sight, hearing, touch), and must be able to interact easily with the ebook. Content must have a simple and sequential structure and must stay away from technological innovations such as browser evolution, etc.

Why is it important to talk about it now?

Deadlines apart, we strongly believe in this project: it is never too early to be inclusive! Discover how to create an accessible ePub with Write.

Validating and publishing an accessible ebook

Our catalogue-management and publishing platform embed all the necessary features to allow independent publishers and authors to publish their own accessible ebooks.

You can analyze each uploaded ebook and check if it is in line with the accessibility standards provided by the WCAG 2.0, and published by W3C. Our system creates a detailed report showing any critical issues found, such as what metadata needs revision, and the accessibility features available in the ePublication. 

Validation is performed using the ACE software (Accessibility Checker for ePub) provided by the DAISY Consortium, according to W3C standards.

Legend for reading ACE analysis and violation types

WCAG 2.0 - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

These are a set of recommendations published by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) for making web content and ebooks more accessible to people with disabilities.

There are three levels of conformance for each guideline:

A - is the minimum level; type A requirements must be complied with.

AA - is the average level. Content will have a greater degree of accessibility and will be easier to access. Some assistive technologies require ebooks with this level of validation.

AAA - is the maximum level. Here guidelines can be ignored and often do not relate directly to ebooks but are mainly relevant to web content.

The full documentation of the WCAG can be found here (available only in Italian, to date).

EPUB - Internal epub code errors, not reported by Epubcheck as they relate exclusively to the accessibility guidelines. Those errors are often reported in the WCAG 2.0 section.

BEST PRACTICE - Recommendations for better usability of ebooks with assistive technologies. Conformance is recommended but not mandatory.

Severity of violation 

It is recommended to correct all detected violations and it is necessary to correct at least those marked as “Critical” and “Serious”.

Ebooks exported for publication are supplemented with metadata indicating their accessibility features, according to the Onix standard, and appropriately organized by Informazioni Editoriali's catalogs.

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