The Importance of Being Accessible - Accessible Digital Books

Yesterday marked #GAAD, or Global Accessibility Awareness Day - an annual day for talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion and people with different disabilities. How can the book industry help?

For decades, the only available books to people with print disabilities were either a limited number of large-print books for those with low vision, or Braille editions for people with more severe visual impairments. With the advent and mass-market distribution of ereading technology and epub-format books, a lot more books had the potential to be available to those with print disabilities. 

However, even now, less than 5 percent of books currently published each year are accessible to readers with print disabilities. 

It’s critical that epubs are produced with accessibility features that work with assistive reading technologies: scalable text, alternative text for images, and a navigable table of contents as three examples. The production and testing skill sets required to produce these books to accessible, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) A, AA, or AAA standards can be prohibitive for publishers, despite the recognized need for accessible materials. 

The LPG is thrilled to announce a project launching later this summer designed to bridge the gap between Canadian literary presses and readers with print disabilities, releasing a collection of 600+ accessible ebooks for purchase on All Lit Up and on member websites, and for borrowing through the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) and the Centre for Equitable Library Access. Says Sarah J. of Cormorant Books: “Our whole team believes in the work being done here. Accessibility is hugely important to us, so we appreciate the opportunity this project has provided.” The project is made possible thanks to funding from Canada Book Fund’s Accessible Digital Books initiative. 

Watch this space, and LPG and All Lit Up’s social channels, for more information on this exciting initiative. The Literary Press Group aims to help build capacity for the production of accessible ebooks in all of its members to continue to bring Canadian literary books to this under-served group of readers.