e-Publication accessibility

Andrew Arch - AGIMO
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Recently the Australian Security Research Centre hosted an information sharing session on “i-documents & other e-publications”. It included information on a range of e-publishing trends including the use of EPUB and various other formats and their application in the government context. I spoke about accessibility and e-publications, and how the principles of accessible information apply to all e-publications.

Using the four principles from WCAG 2.0 – Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust – I stressed that accessibility can deliver better usability for everyone, including people with situational requirements. Our 2010 “Study into Accessibility of the Portable Document Format for People with a Disability” highlighted that the design of a PDF file (or any e-publication) by the author to incorporate accessibility features was of primary importance in delivering accessible publications. The key factors include:

  1. Ensuring the documents are semantically structured with proper headings, lists, etc
  2. Adding ‘alternative text’ to images and describing key images appropriately in the document
  3. Making sure graphs, diagrams and other visual elements include patterns or other cues in addition to colour
  4. Taking care with contrast to ensure the information is highly readable
  5. Writing for the reader to be sure your information can be understood
  6. Not publishing as images of text – scanned materials need to be converted back to true digital text (via OCR)

All this advice applies to any e-publication format – PDF, Word, EPUB and HTML. In addition, in order to minimise the impact of additional findings from the PDF Study, the Web Guide in parallel with the Human Rights Commission advice recommends publishing in alternative formats to give readers choice and maximise their access to a format that works for them. The issue of procurement was also discussed – making sure that any outsourced document layout and publishing includes the requirement for accessible e-publication formats. Agencies should be considering this now as part of their NTS Phase 2 procurement reviews. My presentation concluded by noting that convergence is occurring in the publishing world as well with media, communications and ICT, and that accessibility is becoming more mainstream all the time. The EPUB format preferred by many book publishers is converging with DAISY, the standard for accessible audio books, which will lead to more accessible publications being the norm and will provide another accessible format option for government publishing in the future. We would be interested to know what agencies are using any of these additional e-publication formats and what your experiences have been.

Presentation Slides


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Comments (1)

I know this post is old, but at the ALRC we're starting to experiment with producing reports in EPUB format, and it's proving much trickier and time-consuming than I had anticipated. If any other agencies are publishing in the EPUB format, I'd love to hear how they are doing it.

I'm also questioning whether there's any real value-add in producing EPUBs, given the resources required and the fact that all our publications are already available from our website in html and PDF? Would welcome thoughts on this.

(PS. We have just published one of our smaller summary reports as a 'Kindle edition' on Amazon, as a trial. I mainly was interested in the greater exposure afforded by the global shopfront for those reports that deal with international issues. But I found that converting even a shorter - 50pp - publication to Amazon's .mobi file format was very difficult.)

Last updated: 01 August 2016