Accessibility for Publishers
Disability is widespread in varying degrees. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 1 billion people worldwide who have disabilities. This is equal to 15% of the world’s population. Wondering what the relevance of this WHO data is? It is tightly related to accessibility and why it is becoming the norm.
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Accessibility is the Law
This is the crucial starting point for most issues related to accessibility. Apart from humanitarian reasons, the law sets the playing field for accessibility.
The evolution of the laws concerning e-book accessibility started in the first law enacted in 1973. The US rehabilitation act of 1973 took the first steps toward making everyday life to Americans more accessible.
Two particular sections targeted making content accessible to all. The first is section 504. It states that no otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
The second is section 508 amended to the Rehabilitation Act in 1998, which dictates that Federal agencies make their electronic and information technology offerings accessible to people with disabilities. Any material published by or distributed to the Federal government must comply with these statutes. Websites and PDFs were the initial focus, but eBooks have a prominent place in this conversation.
Another mandate is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It broadens the accessibility mandate to non-governmental entities, such as corporations. In 2008, the ADA was amended to specify that the Act covers anyone participating in major life activities, and this includes reading. It is evident that the ADA covers digital publishing.
Accessibility Pioneers and Champions
Currently, technology giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Google have accessibility at the forefront of their products and services. They take action to eliminate barriers to provide access to all users, especially for persons with disabilities. It is essential to their growth and evolution as a company.
Since these tech giants took the lead, many companies in different fields of interest have followed through. In this digital era, the publishers or the content creators have already acknowledged the importance of accessibility.
Eye-opener for Publishers
Publishers and businesses have started to see that accessibility is not just beneficial for people with disabilities, but good for business too. It allows them to tap into markets not catered for at the beginning of the digital revolution.
For book publishers, for instance, technology and accessibility made it possible for them to include people with print disabilities in the scope of their market. It has become a business opportunity for them as their products (backlist included) will be able to reach those who were left behind by digital evolution.
Furthermore, these businesses start to recognize the positive impact accessibility brings to their brand. To be associated as accessibility advocate positively endorses their brand and gives them a competitive advantage. These publishers and businesses have already opened to these new horizons of possibilities. It may be true that incorporating accessibility may mean an increase in cost. However, the humanitarian value is priceless, and it is still much cheaper than to deal with a litigation case.
What is an Accessible eBook?
Before we dive deep, and to gain better comprehension, let us first define what an accessible eBook in the context of publishing and book reading is.
The accessibility of a eBook depends and varies from the individual’s requirements based on their capabilities, skills, and preferences. Generally, a completely accessible eBook is one that offers the maximum flexibility of user experience for all readers. Both users with and without disabilities can fully manipulate the content.
Why is Accessibility in an eBook Important?
There are countless reasons why accessibility is essential. To emphasize a few of them, below are the reasons why:
- Every human being is entitled to gain access to information. The right to access information is a fundamental human right. It is a moral and social imperative that everyone with a visual disability should have an equal right to access digital content like a sighted person.
- More than being a human right, it is legally mandated that everyone, including people with disabilities, have the right to all kinds of information access, both digital and not.
- Most importantly, digital accessibility means knowledge can be shared and passed on to a greater number of diverse people.
eBook Accessibility for All
How does everyone benefit from accessible eBook?
- Text with good color contrasts can help those with and without visual impairments to read content more clearly.
- Keyboard accessible controls benefit people both with dexterity impairments or malfunctioning devices.
- Captions for video presentations not only help persons who have hearing impairments, but they also help people who don’t speak English to learn the language.
- Technology can unlock a new vista of independence for millions of people with disabilities, which in turn unfurls many business opportunities. Web accessibility is about technical standards, web architecture, and design. The accessibility of websites covers much more than just access to the disabled. It’s about giving people unhindered access to a website from various devices, such as mobile phones and tablets.
- It is beneficial to people with a situational or temporary disability.
- It is advantageous for the elderly.
It Matters in the Business
From a business perspective, why is accessibility beneficial to the company or the publisher?
- Your products will be more commercialized. More people will be willing to buy, borrow, read, and experience your books. You will be extending the reach of your publishing efforts as accessible content improves the reading experience for all your customers. The longevity of your content will be increased as well because of the availability of the digital formats.
- It adds up to your ethical identity as a company. Your move towards accessibility will leave a life-changing impact on the lives of people with print disabilities. You would be able to give them hope to finish the highest possible degree of education and to attain decent and well-valued employment eventually.
- From the legal point of view, being an accessible publisher helps you meet the relevant legal obligations in your markets.
- Beyond these facts, the revenue, of course, is the one that has the heaviest bearing. Below are sample facts that display the revenue or the successes of producing e-books in publishing companies.
Where and How to Kick Off Accessible eBook?
After knowing the importance and benefits of accessibility, where and how to start is the vital question. This is the ultimate question each publishing company need not just to ask, but to fully grasp and understand how to implement correctly. Because just like any other advocacy and initiative, inadequate and improper implementation will only create a path for failure.
Below are some of the essential points to remember:
- Make sure to build a culture of accessibility across your business or your publication. Accessibility does not just happen in the production department of the publication. It is a culture that needs to be engraved in the minds and hearts of each person in the business. Starting from the bottom of the organization ladder up to the top executives, everyone must embrace the idea of accessibility.
- Emphasize the fact that accessibility is part of the entire business process. It is not an add-on or a fix made after creating the products. In developing books or converting books, accessibility must be put in mind right from the beginning of the process to the end. It is important to remember because the poor integration of accessibility from the start is harder to remediate.
- Provide training, workshops, and seminars across all departments. If possible, make sure that there is a trained accessibility expert in each department who will serve as a chief person for any accessibility-related concerns.
- Build a culture of empathy and not just sympathy. To start doing this, people in the organization must stay away from the mindset that accessibility is only for persons with disabilities. The moment people have this mindset, they are driven by sympathy. It is not at all true, for accessibility caters to all. Whereas, if they are to come from the perspective of empathy, they would always look at persons with disabilities as their equals and that these people just happened to have unique ways of processing the same information and privileges that non-disabled people enjoy.
- Understand the legal position in your market. There are different legal obligations in different countries. Before you begin, you will need to make sure that, at a minimum, that your policies are sufficient to keep you at the right side of the law.
- Perform an accessibility audit within your organization. It is one of the very first steps that the publishing company needs to do. Ultimately, to know where the company stands in terms of accessibility. It means auditing the process and production. Part of the audit is reviewing the culture and the people as well. This is to gauge how well accessibility can be accepted and implemented in the business. It will serve as the baseline to track the changes to be made and improved.
To wrap everything up, it is fair enough to say that incorporating accessibility in a eBook is not a very easy task. It’s not a piece of cake, but it is not also as hard as some people make it appear to be. Particular efforts are needed, but as they say, all things that are worth it are worth working hard for. The process, especially in the beginning, might feel a little tedious and challenging. Still, once you see the results, it will all make sense. Finally, what completes the process of making things accessible is when you start to see and realize the positive impact that your efforts have made to humanity and the world in general.
Accessibility is challenging because in the end, it is most fulfilling.