Aller au contenu principal
Published on2 June 2023

Accessibility is becoming a major component in digital publishing, as it facilitates reading for perceptually impaired individuals and thus prevents their social marginalization.

The lack of accessible books and magazines affects more often people with perceptual impairments such as dyslexia. According to the World Health Organization, 1.3 billion people worldwide suffer from some form of visual impairment. 188.5 million of these individuals are mildly visually impaired, 217 million are moderately or severely visually impaired, while 36 million are blind.

A book is defined as accessible when it can be read by anyone wishing to access the content of a work, whatever their perceptual difficulties.

In order to speed up the adoption of accessibility standards by book publishers, the European Union adopted in 2019 a directive making it mandatory for all books sold on its territory to be accessible by 2025. Specifically, publishers whose books do not meet these standards will no longer be able to sell them on European territory under penalty of severe fines.  All EU member states must implement this law at national level, to decide on the penalties they will apply in the event of non-compliance with accessibility standards. In France, for example, the sale of a book not complying with WCAG 2.0 AA standards could result in a fine of several thousand euros.

It is thus crucial for the book industry to start integrating accessibility standards now. For publishers, book accessibility can be broken down into two key principles:

  • Production of accessible ebooks
  • Documentation of accessibility metadata, enabling booksellers and lending solutions to identify accessible content

A shared responsibility

However, book accessibility is not solely the responsibility of publishers: it involves the entire book chain, from the publisher to the final reading device, via distributors, bookshops and lending solutions. It’s a shared responsibility, and one to which every player in the book industry must contribute.

Inputting accessibility metadata

Just as bibliographic and commercial metadata enable books to be listed in the right sections of bookstores and lending solutions, accessibility metadata enables the latter to automatically identify a book’s level of accessibility and classify it in the appropriate categories so that readers can easily find it and know whether it will meet their needs. A book whose file is accessible, but which does not include accessibility metadata, is not accessible, as its discoverability by readers will be nonexistent.

Where to begin?

Whether you are a publisher, bookseller or developer of a reading application, if you want to include accessibility into your working practices, we strongly advise you to start by contacting experts in ebook accessibility. Not only will they be able to assess the requirements necessary to achieve this in relation to your current processes, but they will also be able to provide you with a clear and detailed procedure.

De Marque can help you in this process, from the production to the marketing of your titles. Here are just a few of the initiatives we’ve undertaken in recent years to meet the needs of our partners and readers:

  • 2020
    • With the help of NNELS (National Network for Equitable Library Service), audit of our EPUB conversion service to produce files meeting WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards. Subsequently, production of reference documents for publishers wishing to better understand the stakes of accessibility or adapt their own production workflow.
  • 2021
    • Evolution of our digital warehouse to enable documentation of accessibility metadata by publishers
    • Addition of specialized fonts to our Aldiko reading application (iOS and Android)
    • Participation in the writing and recording of short videos produced on ANEL’s initiative
    • Enrollment in the Benetech and eBOUND pilot project, enabling the Saint-Jean publisher catalog to obtain Benetech GCA certification.
  • 2022
    • Integration of text-to-speech in our reading application Aldiko
    • Accessibility metadata displayed in online booksellers and lending solutions
  • 2023
    • Automated extraction and documentation of accessibility metadata from publishers’ EPUB files

Contact our team of experts