Born Accessible Publishing icon. Born Accessible Publishing

The digital revolution and ongoing advances in technology have made it possible to get more content, in more ways, to more people. At the same time, they have also given publishers and content creators a new digital imperative—if content is “born digital,” it can—and should—be “born accessible.”


This could truly be a golden age of access to books and information for people with print disabilities—such as people who are blind or are dyslexic. There are millions of readers that can’t access a print book because of blindness or low vision, mobility impairments or severe learning disabilities. For them, eBook technology promises a new world of opportunity. In fact, for the first time in history, people with print disabilities may be able to purchase and fully utilize an entire world of newly published books, instantly upon publication.

Below are a few resources to help publishers and the myriad of other new, digital content creators understand the basics of how to make content born accessible. These resources highlight the challenges that images, interactivity, math equations and other complex features pose, but also demonstrate how they can be addressed. Working together, we know that accessibility can become a critical component in the creation of all content. For more information visit Benetech’s


Quick Start Guide to Accessible Publishing

The BISG Quick Start Guide to Accessible Publishing offers publishers a brief introduction to accessible publishing, advantages of accessible publishing and how to create accessible digital content.  The guide was produced by the BISG Content Structure Committee’s Accessible Publishing Working Group which is chaired by Robin Seaman, Director of Content Acquisition at Benetech.  The guide is available as an accessible EPUB3 file. You can learn more about it as well as download it on the BISG website.

Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB 3 Files

Accessible images are part of a larger context of ebook accessibility overall. These tips provide guidance to publishers and other content creators as new standards emerge that make accessibility for these materials easier and easier to achieve.


The Accessible Image Sample Book, created by the DIAGRAM Content Working Group, is a free online resource that shows you what some of the many options are for creating accessible versions of  various types of digital images from maps to bar charts.  Each chapter shows a different image in context of the book it came from, along with helpful tips and the code used to provide the accessible image in a digital book. You can download the EPUB version or read it online. Want to learn more? Watch and/or listen to the Accessible Image Sample Book webinar.


Best Practices for Authoring Extended Descriptions in EPUB

Images and diagrams are essential for careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. However, these crucial sources of information are not accessible to people with visual disabilities. The alt text attribute is frequently used to provide a summary of an image, but it is not sufficient for describing complex images. Adding extended image descriptions is key to providing this additional information and done accessibly is essential.


Reading Math is essential for students with disabilities for making progress in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. With help from the DIAGRAM community we developed some best practices regarding the use of MathML which could enable users to read Math in wider range of EPUB reading environments.


Diagrammar: A Framework for Making Images and Graphics Accessible

The Diagrammar, formerly known as the “Content Model,” defines a data model for image description metadata. It provides a structured, standard way for image description data to be modeled, including multiple different types of descriptions for each image, teacher annotations, and pointers to tactile graphic files. The ability of the Diagrammar to hold information about a variety of image alternatives is a critical and revolutionary acknowledgment of the breadth of alternatives that new technology has made possible.


Image Guidelines for EPUB 3

These guidelines from the DIAGRAM Center’s Standards Working Group provide mark up best practices for images within EPUB 3 files as new standards emerge that make accessibility for these materials easier and easier to achieve.


HTML Standards and Longdesc

The Standards Working Group at the DIAGRAM Center strives to make it easier to create, use, discover, and interact with accessible images by effectively advocating for ebook standards that support image accessibility. To this end, the Working Group interacts closely with standards organizations and reports on the latest recommendations in accessible image standards.


DTB Authoring & Reading Tools

One of the first research efforts performed by the Center has been a comparison of DAISY Talking Books (DTB) and e-book hardware and software.  The tables in the section present the features and functional testing results for the devices or applications in the following categories:

You can view the entire set of matrices on one page or view them individually by following the appropriate category links.  As this research continues, the tables in this section will be updated accordingly.


Image Description Metadata for Accessibility

This working paper, Potential Use of Image Description Metadata for Accessibility (click here for Word version), originally published in March 2011, outlines the current barriers and opportunities for providing image description within publishing tools, technologies, and production processes. Ongoing discussion with standards groups, Adobe and other tool developers is exploring the feasibility of extending support for alt text and longdesc within image formats and authoring tools. In April 2012, an Addendum to the report was produced, covering relevant developments over the past year, including the release of DIAGRAM-sponsored tools for image description and the content model for image description metadata. In May 2013, a further Addendum was published, including a detailed summary of latest developments, including the status of @longdesc vs aria-describedat vs epub:describedat.


Publisher Interviews on Image Accessibility Practices

During Year 3 of the DIAGRAM Center project we conducted interviews with targeted publishers to discover current practices and challenges surrounding image accessibility in order to provide guidance for ongoing DIAGRAM activities. These interviews delved into existing and planned digital publishing processes and are intended to help us better understand the changes necessary for adequately supporting accessible images and graphic content. The in-depth interviews were conducted by NCAM’s Bryan Gould and Larry Goldberg from June 2012 through April 2013, with three mainstream publishers and one publisher of accessible instructional materials. The responses from these highly cooperative publishers have already begun to guide DIAGRAM’s work, and many answers echo what we’ve learned from our close working relationships with many publishers, from our advisory board and from attendance at numerous conferences throughout the year. Results from the publisher interviews about image accessibility practices are available by following this link.

Ideas that work.The DIAGRAM Center is a Benetech initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (Cooperative Agreement #H327B100001). Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the U.S. Department of Education.


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