NISO/BISG 7th Annual Changing Standards Landscape: Reading for All: Accessibility in a Digital World


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  • Digital Content Manager at Benetech – a hi-tech nonprofit. I work specifically with Bookshare – the world’s largest library for people with print disabilities. Over 200 publishers worldwide Managing everything from acquisition to member issues Today I’m here to talk about something a little different: accessibility
  • -wheelchair ramps and self-opening doors -group of disabilities not often considered: print disabilities Print disabilities could include someone in a wheelchair since “print disabilities” include anything…..
  • Just how many people need some kind of help accessing print? According to the WHO Fortunately, many tools and technologies have been developed to bridge….. As a group called Assistive Technology
  • Software Hardware Programs But the basis for all these things is content – digital content – that follows standards that support accessibility
  • Imagine that all your friends are talking about the latest bestseller they just read. But you can't join in because the publisher didn't create a version you can use. You are out of luck until someone creates an accessible version - and by that time your friends are talking about a new “latest and greatest”. Doesn’t that sound frustrating?
  • But things are getting better. There are two open standard file formats that take accessibility seriously. DAISY talking books from the Daisy consortium and epub from the International Digital Publishering Forum.
  • Based on MP3 Based on XML Navigation allows interaction like a CD – jumping from track to track – rather than a cassette tape….
  • -as complete audio substitute for print material - 6 levels of navigation and embedded objects like images without navigation, like trying to find a single phrase on a cassette tape Choose your own amount of audio and text regulate reading speed without distortion Highlighted text
  • - open standard by IDPF - intended as a single format for in-house production use and sale - currently approved as a final Recommended Specification
  • HTML5, the latest version of the markup language used to create webpages, as support for precise layout and formatting (coffeetable or comic books) Glossary headings, sidebars - without navigation support, we're back to the cassette tape Beautiful coffeetable cookbook, but doesn’t prevent the underlying data being accessible your book should have the same meaning without any styling - accessible media content like image descriptions and close captioning for video
  • - perennial question: why not use PDF? - accessibility tools rely on underlying structure, top picture is what's under the pretty surface of a PDF: gibberish - underneath EPUB and DAISY is human-readable structure that tools can grab and use
  • - we're "living in interesting time" for accessibility. standards are converging to goal of one "gold standard" with accessibility baked in from the start Getting closer to goal as Benetech’s VP says “everything born digital is born accessible” - same convergence happening in tools. More and more people are using their ios and android device as AT. - at the same time the standards are changing, new accessibility challenges are popping up with the increase in interactive content (like online testing) and multimedia content being added to digital books.
  • And speaking of multimedia: - The most common kinds of non-text content are images and graphics. Consider the amount of information in these pictures. Now imagine you can't see the pictures. How do you get this information? You could ask the person sitting next to you, but what if they don't know? Fortunately there are several techniques being developed for making images accessible.
  • - I have examples of tactile graphics for anyone who wants to check them out after. - sonification most easily explained for graphs. It provides a sound that illustrates what the graph shows. For instance, (and I apologize for my singing) a sine wave makes the sound [] and a parabola would sound like [] - haptic technology uses tactile feedback like vibrations, much like tactile graphics but without the paper - 3D printing is the new kid on the block. You can now manipulate a model of a heart instead of.....
  • A lot of work on these challenges is being coordinated at the DIAGRAM Center. Questions we’re looking at include - What technique is best for what type of graphic? What is the best way to describe complex images? - Develop new tech and tools including POET - a tool designed to make crowd-sourced image description easier because we all know how hard it is to get the right people in the right place at the same time. - DIAGRAM also advocates for standards and best practices that address accessibility needs. A case in point is the ongoing discussion of the long description element (longdesc) used for image descriptions in HTML5.
  • - To quote Barbie, "Math is hard". Making digital math accessible is no exception.
  • - Today in most books, math equations and notations are presented as pictures. As I said earlier, content in pictures is inaccessible to people who can't see the pictures. - To a blind person using a screen reader, the excerpt below would be read as...
  • - Enter MathML - Mathematical markup Language from the W3C. It's a markup language based on XML that integrates mathematical formula into web pages and other digital materials. - If the page on the previous slide were done using MathML, it would be read
  • - The most obvious benefit of mathml is that it makes equations accessible at all! That's a really big first step. - Accurate rendering - you're not trying to fake math equations using the symbols on your keyboard - Voiced consistently. If you ask three people to read an equation, everyone will say it slightly differently which is very confusing to learners - step-by-step progression instead of having a narrative description that you can only listen to all at once - you can stop midflow – like a CD instead of cassette tape - bi-directional: if you are in the middle of a big equation and you forget where you are, you can step backwards - Math looks good and when read aloud, the meaning of the equation and the relationships between the parts is maintained - its not just a string of numbers and symbols that you need to already know how to interpret. - Is very important: Those three people you asked to read the equation just a minute ago? They might not have understood what they were reading and accidently said something wrong - and that's a real problem in something like math where if you’re a little wrong, you’re a lot wrong.
  • All these standards are great, but how can you find out what materials they have been applied to? How can you find materials that will work for you – whatever your needs are?
  • New support is emerging for accessibility metadata. This is metadata that tells users: Primary usage mode known as accessMode This is arguably the most important property in the accessibility metadata a novel might have only a textual mode, a cartoon purely visual, comics and manga may have textual and visual components to them, while videos typically have visual and auditory access modes.
  • This metadata is already in the wild. Here you can see a Google search for videos about the moon landing. Because accessibility metadata was specified, you can identify those videos that have closed captions. 6/27/2011 Digital Image and Graphics Resources for Accessible Materials
  • - Benetech is involved in one of the main programs in this field: LRMI, which is focused mainly on educational materials but the standards can be applied much more widely. 6/27/2011 Digital Image and Graphics Resources for Accessible Materials
  • The bottomline is that everyone benefits from accessibility. Just like people pushing baby strollers using the curb cutouts designed for wheelchair users, accessibility features are useful for people who aren't part of the disabled population. People with temporary disabilities can use them - when my dad had a detached retina last summer, he kept from going bonkers while recovering for 3 months by using the accessibility features of his Kindle like enlarging print and having some books read aloud. If you watch TV while on treadmill in the gym or watch videos on a noisy train ride and use the closed captions? You’re benefiting from the standards and work initially done to meet accessibility requirements. - Not everyone absorbs information the same way. You might find reading a description works better for you than studying a diagram - or it might be the other way around. Accessibility standards give you these options to tailor your digital materials to suit your needs. - And last, but certainly not least, accessibility gives you a bigger audience. That 15-20% of the US that has a language-based disability? They would love to buy or borrow digital materials that they can fully enjoy. By following accessibility standards, libraries and publishers get more patrons and those patrons get to read more. If that's not a win-win situation, I don't know what is.
  • Here’s list of links to the groups and standards I mentioned. The bottom half is a list of sources for more information about the new EPUB3 standard and guidance for implementing it accessibly.
  • Here’s how to get in touch with me. I’m happy to answer questions now or via email. I’ll be around afterward if you want to check out the tactile graphics and see a demo of a DAISY book.
  • NISO/BISG 7th Annual Changing Standards Landscape: Reading for All: Accessibility in a Digital World

    1. 1. Page 1 Reading for All: Accessibility in a Digital World NISO/BISG Changing Standards Landscape Forum June 28, 2013
    2. 2. Page 2 What Is Accessibility?
    3. 3. Page 3 Who Needs Print Accessibility? 30 million Americans with print disabilities 15-20% of US population has a language-based disability 285 million people with vision impairment worldwide ~5% of digital books are made accessible
    4. 4. Page 4 What is Assistive Technology? Software screen readers • JAWS, VoiceOver specialized reading tools • ReadHear, Read2Go Hardware braille note takers specialized media players iPad many more Service Programs  Bookshare  Learning Ally  NLS  many more
    5. 5. Page 5 Imagine....
    6. 6. Page 6 Accessible Digital Books
    7. 7. Page 7 DAISY Talking Books Digital Accessible Information SYstem (ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2005) A DAISY book is a set of digital files that include:  one or more digital audio files  a marked up file containing the text  a synchronization file to relate the text file with the audio  a navigation control file Allows flexibility in the mix of text and audio used
    8. 8. Page 8 Benefits of DAISY  Designed for accessibility from the start  Highly structured content  Full navigation including bookmarking  Flexible for multiple use modes  Supports multi-modal reading
    9. 9. Page 9 EPUB 3 from the International Digital Publishing Forum
    10. 10. Page 10 Benefits of EPUB 3  Leverages HTML5  More support for semantic structure  Better navigation control  Better separation of content and style  Support for accessible media content  Includes MathML
    11. 11. Page 11 Why not use PDF? PDF is not really accessible: EPUB and DAISY are accessible:
    12. 12. Page 12 The Future  DAISY and EPUB standards are converging  More “mainstreaming” of accessibility  More interactive content  More non-text and multimedia content
    13. 13. Page 13 Images
    14. 14. Page 14 How is an Image Made Accessible? Provide a different mode of access to visual information contained in an image, e.g.:  Text/audio description  Tactile graphic  Sonification  Haptic graphic  3D printing
    15. 15. Page 15 DIAGRAM Center  Accessible image research  New technology and tools  Standards and best practices
    16. 16. Page 16 Math Problems
    17. 17. Page 17 Math Currently equations are rendered as pictures:
    18. 18. Page 18 MathML Mathematical Markup Language  developed by W3C  based on XML  included in HTML5
    19. 19. Page 19 Benefits of MathML  accurate digital rendering of equations  equations voiced logically and consistently  allows step-by-step progression  supports bi-directional navigation  retains presentation and meaning  does not rely on knowledge of narrator Learn more at
    20. 20. Page 20 Discovering Accessibility
    21. 21. Page 21 Accessibility Metadata Metadata that tells users:  primary usage mode of content  additional accessibility features (e.g., braille or alt text)  if content poses any physiological hazards (e.g., flashing) Helps users find content that works for them
    22. 22. Page 22 Metadata in Action: Educational Videos
    23. 23. Page 23 Metadata Development Learning Resources Metadata Initiative (LRMI) a subset of led by Association of Education Publishers and Creative Commons Other efforts around accessibility metadata Dublin Core Accessibility Access for All (ISO 24751, IMS Global), EDItEUR/ONIX Learn more at
    24. 24. Page 24 Accessibility Helps Everyone  People with “temporary disabilities” can use accessible materials  People with different learning style have choices  Accessibility means a bigger audience for publishers, booksellers and libraries
    25. 25. Page 25 For More Information DIAGRAM Center DAISY Consortium International Digital Publishing Forum Accessibility Metadata EPUB3 Guidelines: EPUB 3 Accessibility Guidelines Top 10 Tips for Accessible Content W3C’s Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) Accessible EPUB 3 by Matt Garish (O'Reilly)
    26. 26. Page 26 Thank You! Suzy Haines Digital Content Manager Bookshare - a Benetech Initiative