Writing and publishing for everyone; Not just the 90%

Authors need to consider accessibility when creating materials and choosing a publisher, but how can they this when it is such a misunderstood word?

Accessibility, in regard to publishing, means making content available in alternative formats for individuals with visual impairment or learning disabilities.

People may conjure up Braille as making content accessible to people with disabilities or learning issues. Publishing, however, has progressed so much farther than this. Using such technical standards as ePub3, HTML5, alt text, and other specific initiatives, publishers can make their content accessible to a growing audience.

There are many benefits to ensuring content is accessible. When content is “born accessible,” all readers enjoy a cleaner experience. Second, digital content becomes more discoverable in the Alexa or Google or voice search era. The third benefit is being compliant with a growing list of funder and government mandates. The final reason to be accessible is that it is the right thing to do. By most accounts, the group that falls under the categories of visually impaired AND learning disabilities is significant, perhaps 10% of the total population and growing. Who would not want to serve that market along with the other readers?

But isn’t this really a publisher’s issue? How does that affect you as an author? It does, in several ways. The most important is when you are seeking and choosing a publisher. For some content providers, this is engrained in their DNA. They get it and they do it well. For others, accessibility is not on their radar screen. And it has consequences. Just ask Beyoncé.

As you consider book publishers, ask some basic questions about accessibility and see if you get ready answers or blank stares.

The second way authors can help is in the creation of materials, especially visuals. As someone that is color deficient, I am amazed when I see a bar graph where the authors choose red and green as their two-color segments; the only colors I cannot tell apart! Also, many authors write photo captions like simple labels. Consider that some people may only be able to read the caption and not see the photo. Give a more complete description of the photo.

Here is a full report on accessibility and publishing that I authored if you wish to dive in, as well as a short video that breaks the topic down.

So, when you are creating your content and choosing a publisher, consider 100% of your audience. It’s the right thing to do.


John BondJohn Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He has been in scholarly publishing for over 25 years. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. His newest book is the new edition of You Can Write and Publish a Book: Essential Information on How to Get Your Book Published, Second Edition. He is the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” Contact him at jbond@riverwindsconsulting.com.