Best Practices in Accessible Publishing for Publishers

Publishing Industry

There is an increasing need for publishing industries to shift perspectives towards accessibility. Why? 10% to 15% of the world population has print-disability of some form or the other. Sixty-one million in the United States alone have reported some form of physical disability. As a publisher, it is crucial to transform your business to serve these print-disabled communities. By publishing content that is ‘accessible,’ you as a publisher will foster reader inclusivity, increase your readership base, and grow your publication’s market potential.

The Legal Justification for Accessibility in Publishing

The legal guarantee for equal access for people with disabilities is in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794) and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Digital publications in the academic context are accessible to everyone are aligned with the spirit of these laws. 

In this section, we will show you the details of transforming your business towards publishing accessible content.

How to gear your publication towards accessibility?

In a generic sense, an accessible publication can offer flexibility in the reading experience. Not all readers can consume print publications the way the sighted audience do. There are partially-sighted, non-sighted, color-blind, those with neurological disorders and gross-motor disabilities. A publishing house needs to consider producing accessible outputs for these audiences, as well. The published content needs to be consumed by sighted and print-disabled equally alike. Accessibility can help publishers achieve that! The publishing materials to be inclusive and equitable for all.

Accessibility Elements for Publishers

Traditionally publishing houses prioritized content and appearance through their operational lifecycles. A publication aiming towards accessibility needs to consider elements of ‘structure and formats’ alongside traditional aspects of content and appearance. In essence, content, appearance, structure, and formats are the four core elements that differentiate and propel publications towards accessibility.

The core of publication remains to be content. But, publishing workflows can customize elements of appearance, structure, and formats uniquely to suit different readerships.

Appearance, for example, can be pliant: Larger text sizes for the partially blind, text-color palettes that accommodate the color-blind, typography, and layout styles that are readjusted for those with dyslexic or autistic challenges, these are few ways to customize the element of ‘appearance’ to meet the needs of different readerships.

The ‘structure’ of your publishing content can be a crucial differentiator, too. Adding appropriate technical tags to existing content can increase the metamorphic possibilities of published materials. Automated software and reading bots are programmed to identify HTML and XML tags. The element of ‘structure’ breaks the publishing content in importance and helps this automated software or bots recognize the document with greater detailing and relevance. The structural part also adds semanticity to the published materials. Content with a definitive structure in place is also suitably optimized for the web. Indeed, it is the ‘structural’ element that can truly make the publishing materials accessible for diverse readerships.

Formats also play a crucial role in making content malleable for different readers. The universal MS-Word format continues to dominate the market. The .doc and .docx format are inclusive for sighted and non-sighted alike. The Heading and paragraph tags, color-pallets, and other mutable options of MS-Word enable publishing teams to customize the content towards the four elements of accessibility with ease. MS-Word, by far, is the most simplistic and efficient format for producing accessible documents for purely textual content. However, there are limitations too! MS-Word is not yet fully capable of reproducing Binary Large Objects (BLOB), like images and multimedia files, in accessible formats. Publishers can make use of other formats, in that case. The PDF optimized for digital use, Digital Accessible Information Systems files (DAISY), e-Pubs, LaTex files, and HTML/XML-based e-books convert textual and BLOB content into marked-up files that can be smoothly synchronized with a range of accessibility products.

Adding elements of ‘appearance,’ ‘structure,’ and ‘formats’ to existing content improves the ‘accessibility’ features of the publications. Customizable font sizes, color-picking user interfaces, converting text-to-speech audios, and converting text-to-digital braille are a few of the many accessibility variants that publishers can include in their existing print-friendly offerings. Adopting a digital re-use policy by creating diverse publishing formats can help publishers efficiently achieve accessibility.

Accessibility Audit for Publishers

An accessibility audit is the first step in preparing your publishing business towards ‘accessibility.’

  • Who are your readers? Is it inclusive of non-sighted, color-blind, dyslexia, and autistic readers? Or is it only for the sighted readers?
  • Do your business offerings meet the content requirements of those who are print-impaired? 
  •  Are there customized, and unique offerings targeted to every stratum of your diverse readership groups?
  • Are you as a publisher committed and ready to take a transformational leap towards becoming ‘accessible’ at all?

As a publisher, it is essential to appraise your current business practices with the above four questions. Answers to these questions will help you understand the existing framework within which your publishing house operates. It will also provide a high-level strategy for changing your operational workflows to suit best practices of accessibility. 

Once decided, you can incorporate the manual processes of integrating accessibility elements into all your published materials. Even better would be to use accessibility solutions, like the ones offered by codemantra, to accelerate the change. 

It is a best practice to test the quality of all your accessible-friendly documents but getting them validated by real print-impaired users. The only way you know if your materials are genuinely accessible or not is by having them assessed by users of the target readership itself. Many accredited organizations and disability activists offer technical audit services to check the accessibility of published materials. You may want to use those services to get empirical feedback on the accessibility status of your documents.

By including ‘accessibility solutions,’ in your current offerings, your publishing business can extend its market reach and increase profitability, both at the same time. You will bring greater commercial viability and ethical difference by adopting accessibility approaches. 

As pioneers in the field of accessibility, we can transform your publishing workflow to make your content born-accessible and also remediate past publications. Learn how we can improve the accessibility of your publications.