Accessibility for Publishers: Practical Tips That Demonstrate it's Well Within Your Reach

a free report from Riverwinds Consulting and Cenveo Publisher Services

Accessibility is an approach to publishing and design that makes content available to all, including those with disabilities who use assistive technologies on the computer. The aim of accessible publishing is to make reading easier for users who have difficulties or disabilities including the blind, partially sighted, and people with learning disabilities. Making content accessible enables readers to experience content in the most efficient format and allows them to absorb the information in a better way. The term “accessibility” is used to address issues of content structure, format, and presentation.

The question of “why make the effort to have content accessible to readers with disabilities” still lingers. Of course, accessibility comes with a cost. However, publishing indeed benefits from embracing this essential initiative. When accessibility is well executed, it can expand readership and provide a higher-quality user experience for everyone. 

Let's look at an example comparing accessible alt text with alt text captured from a figure legend. Visual items such as images that are important to the content should include alternate-text descriptions (alt text), which allows users to understand visual information. Alt text descriptions should capture information that is not included in the caption or surrounding text, and convey meaningful information to the user from the visual item. Descriptive alt text is critical to understand the full meaning of an image for the visually impaired reader. The following image illustrates an example of accessible alt text that provides a more useful description for a visually impaired reader compared with alt text that simply repeats a figure legend.

In our latest report "Accessibility for Publishers: Practical Tips That Demonstrate it's Well Within Your Reach," we provide business cases that can be brought to leadership and stakeholders in a publishing organization. Download this free report and understand

  • how you can build the business case for accessibility in your publishing organization

  • emerging and compelling reasons for making content accessible

  • the key principles of accessibility

 

Happy Birthday Adobe PDF!

Adobe Acrobat turned 25 this month. For those of us who remember the pre-PDF days and what it was like sending that floppy disk to a colleague only to find out later it was gibberish when opened, we also might believe that the PDF is "sheer elegance in its simplicity."

Elegant? Yes!

Dr. John Warnock recognized that looks do matter and effective communication happens when an author's intended design, formatting, and images all combine to present an idea as originally intended. In 1990, Dr. Warnock launched his idea, The Camelot Project, in which anyone could capture documents from any application, send those documents anywhere, and even print those documents from any machine without compromising the integrity of the content. "Take that Apple IIc Plus!" Sincerely, Tandy 1000.

In August 1990, Dr. Warnock published a six-page white paper to support his Camelot idea and thus work commenced on the radical idea of a "portable document format."

PDF has been around for 25 years -- but what does it stand for? Here's what a few people had to say on the streets of Salt Lake CIty.

Simple? No.

Take a moment and think about how we take for granted all the complexity that exists behind the three clicks "Save As PDF." The following excerpt from Dr. Warnock's paper explains the inception of the PDF (née "Interchange PostScript"):

 

By redefining “moveto” and “lineto” very different things can happen. For example, if these operators are defined as follows:

/moveto
{exch writenumber writenumber (moveto) writestring}def
/lineto
{exch writenumber writenumber (lineto) writestring}def

then when the “poly” procedure is executed a file is written that has the following contents:
1.0 0.0 moveto
0.809 0.588 lineto
0.309 0.951 lineto
-0.309 0.951 lineto
-0.809 0.588 lineto
-1.0 0.0 lineto
-0.809 -0.588 lineto
-0.309 -0.951 lineto
0.309 -0.951 lineto
0.809 -0.588 lineto
1.0 0.0 lineto

In this example the new redefined “moveto” and “lineto” definitions don’t build a path. Instead they write out the coordinates they have been given and then write out the names of their own operations. The resulting file that is written by these new definitions draws the same polygon as the original file but only uses the “moveto” and “lineto” operators. Here, the execution of the PostScript file has allowed a derivative file to be generated. In some sense this derivative file is simpler and uses fewer operators than the original PostScript file but has the same net effect. We will call this operation of processing one PostScript file into another form of PostScript file “rebinding."

---The Camelot Project, J. Warnock

 

It took fewer than 3 years for Dr. Warnock's vision and diligent work by a brilliant production team to solve the problem and release the first iteration of Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format.

Creating PDFs in the early days was nowhere near as simple as it is today. I recall diligently writing down in my notebook all the steps required. I don't recall every step but I do remember the IT request to install three pieces of hefty and pricey software on my machine: Acrobat Exchange, Acrobat Distiller, and Acrobat Reader. Yes, in the early days Acrobat Reader had a price tag associated with it.

Software that changed the world.

Software that changed the world.

In today's mobile responsive world, the PDF can cause frustration on an iPhone (I'm guilty). Yet I would argue that no other document technology has as much ubiquitous influence across markets and demographics as the beautiful PDF (more to come).

 
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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

Rights & Permissions Service for Publishers

Copyright is far more than just a necessary evil to protect intellectual property from theft. Copyright furthers all creative interests by making the rich marketplace of ideas available to a wider audience. Resourceful rights and permissions management supports author content while maximizing the publisher’s budget.

Hiring one person to perform all the rights and permissions functions requires finding a pretty special person: an editorial specialist with enough copyright expertise to be an IP strategist, while being a skilled digital-image savvy photo researcher and database manager. That's why we offer R&P as a service for publishers.

Cenveo Publisher Services manages all aspects of text, image, and rich media content R&P. We assemble a team of project managers, assessment specialists, data entry staff, photo researchers, and permissions experts to support the management of R&P in your organization.

By identifying a rights strategy early, authors can stay on budget. Research and permissions runs alongside production cycles with clearly defined milestones. Targeted international expertise also allows a spectrum of pricing options. Contact us to learn how we can support R&P for your journals or books program.

 

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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

Revenue Growth in Education, Scholarly, and Trade Book Publishing

The Association of American Publishers shared revenue figures in its StatShot report. Revenue growth is up 4.9% for Q1 2017 compared with Q1 2016.

Both education and scholarly publishers experienced slight revenue bumps during the first quarter of 2017, compared with the first quarter of 2016.

Higher Education course materials wins the greatest growth award, reporting $92 million (24.3%) increase to $470.2 million in Q1 2017 compared with the Q1 2016. Revenues for Professional Publishing (business, medical, law, scientific and technical books) were up by $5 million (4.5%) to $119.5 million.

 
Comment

Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

Accessibility for Trade Book Publishers

The venerable world of trade books has had accessibility options since the early 19th Century invention of Braille. However, only in the digital age has it been possible to make all books accessible to the visually impaired.

Guest blog by John Parsons

In the 1820s, Charles Barbier and Louis Braille adapted a Napoleonic military code to meet the reading needs of the blind. Today’s familiar system of raised dot characters substitutes touch for vision, and is used widely for signage and of course books and other written material. By the 20th Century, Braille was supplemented with large print books and records. For popular books these tools became synonymous with trade book publishers’ efforts to connect with visually impaired readers.

However, these tools—particularly Braille—has significant drawbacks. Before the advent of digital workflows, producing a Braille or even a large print book involved a separate design and manufacturing process, not to mention subsequent supply chain and distribution issues. But that has changed with the digital publishing revolution.

All Books Are “Born Digital”

With notable exceptions, trade books published since the 1980s started out as digital files on a personal computer. Word processors captured not only the author’s keystrokes but, increasingly, their formatting choices. (In the typewriter era, unless you count backspacing and typing the underline key, italics and boldface were the province of the typographer.)

On the PC, creating a larger size headline or subhead, or a distinct caption, evolved from a manual step in WordStar or MacWrite to a global stylesheet formatting command. When these word processing files made their way to a desktop publishing program, all the 12-point body copy for a regular book could become 18-point type for a large print version—at a single command.

Other benefits of digital-first content included a relatively easy conversion from Roman text characters to Braille, although that did not solve the actual book manufacturing process.

What really made the digital revolution a boon to accessibility was the rise of HTML—and its publishing offspring, eBooks. Web or EPUB text content can be re-sized or fed into screen readers for the visually impaired, but that’s only the start. It can also contain standardized metadata that a publishing workflow can use to create more accessible versions of the book.

Workflow Challenges

Trade books tend to be straightforward when it comes to accessibility challenges, but there are caveats that publishers and their service providers must address. The simplest of course is a book that is almost entirely text, with no illustrations, sidebars, or other visual elements. In those cases, the stylesheet formatting done by the author and/or publisher can be used to create accessibility-related tags for elements like headlines and subheads, as well as manage the correct reading order for Section 508 compliance.

Where things start to get tricky is when a book includes illustrations, or even special typographic elements like footnotes. To be accessible, the former must include descriptive alt text, which is usually best provided by an author, illustrator, or subject matter expert. Increasingly, just as writers became accustomed to adding their own typographic formatting, they may also include formatted captions containing this valuable, alt text-friendly information.

For other visual elements, service providers must fill in the accessibility gaps that authors cannot easily provide. This may include a certain amount of redesign, such as placement of footnotes at the end, to ensure continuity of reading, and defining the logical flow of content and reading order for page elements like sidebars. Service providers also add semantic structuring, alt text image descriptions not included by the author, and simplification of complex elements like tables.

It’s All About Format

Book publishers are already well ahead of the curve when it comes to accessibility. As mentioned in a previous blog, the page-centric PDF format is problematic. Fortunately, except for print workflows, trade publishers do not use it for their end product. In most cases, books are also produced in EPUB format, which is a derivative of HTML. These formats are accessible by default, although they need to be enhanced to meet the requirements of WCAG 2.0 standards. The gap is small, however, and can be easily bridged by focusing on design, content structuring, and web hosting.

Book reading for the visually impaired is no longer restricted to the popular titles, and compensatory technology of past centuries. With the advent of digital publishing, and the workflows that support and enhance it, accessibility for all books is an achievable goal.

 


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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72