How to incorporate accessibility throughout the publishing process

Digital AccessibilityIn his recent webinar, “Making Textbooks Accessible to Students With Disabilities”, Robert Martinengo, Publisher Outreach Specialist for the CAMI project at AMAC Accessibility, said that the issue of accessibility is even more important when it comes to digital products.

“The ability to navigate through a digital textbook is a critical component of accessibility,” he said. “Navigation is enabled by consistent and rational use of tags throughout the text.”

In addition to effective navigation, accessible manuscripts should also include these four elements, said Martinengo:

  1. Logical reading order and flow of content
  2. Consistent hierarchy and naming of chapters, sections, and headings
  3. Consistent semantic tagging of call-outs, sidebars, and other block elements
  4. Descriptive text for images (“alt text”) that provides essential information not included in the image caption or main text

All of these elements can be incorporated by the author during the writing process, he said, and then checked for quality and effectiveness during the editing process to promote accessibility.

One thing to keep in mind, however, said Martinengo, is that sometimes those efforts do not survive the production process. Here are eight ways he said accessibility can get lost in the publishing process:

  1. Content can be rearranged on the printed or digital page
  2. Reading order can be changed to fit the layout
  3. Tags can be lost on import to composition system
  4. Content hierarchy may not be maintained during composition
  5. Editorial revisions may not be tagged consistently
  6. “Alt” text may not be imported or accurately associated with images
  7. Images may be added or replaced during production
  8. Content may be encrypted by the distributor (“DRM”), impacting accessibility efforts

Accessibility-minded authors should check the digital output for accessibility and work with their publisher to remediate issues before distribution. Martinengo also advises that authors incorporate language into their contracts that reflects the “provision and preservation of accessible elements” and then pair the manuscript with an “accessibility manifest” that lists the accessible elements to increase the chances of their survival throughout the publishing process.

Watch the full webinar recording in the TAA Presentations on Demand library.


Eric SchmiederEric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.