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6th European eAccessibility Forum
Putting eAccessibility at the core of information systems

26/03/2012, 9:00 - 18:00
Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, Paris

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Printable version

Producing accessible school ebooks with ePub 3.0

Gerald Schmidt (London)
Pearson Education

Speaker's information

photo Schmidt

Gerald SCHMIDT is a specialist of implementing accessibility in e-production. Gerald has been working in educational publishing, first at ProQuest in Cambridge and then at the Open University in Milton Keynes. He joined Pearson Education in London in 2011.



Warning : The summaries of this conference have been prepared by BrailleNet who accept any responsibility for them. But presentation materials provided for download (full-papers or slides) have been provided by the authors themselves. They contain more details, more links than the following summary. Please also see the video for the full presentation.

His presentation will focus on accessible, reflowable ebooks with special emphasis on ePub 3 (including the media overlays it inherits from DAISY). He will address questions related to publications designed for  the younger readership at school and college. Another aspect will be about creating ePub ebooks that run in browsers (mobile or otherwise) – using open source software and automation wherever possible.

If I had to choose three defining characteristics of digital textbooks for schools, they would be complex page layouts, embedded rich media and interactivity. This unusually broad range of requirements has led educational publishers to develop proprietary solutions, typically using Adobe Flash. There are standards, of course, but initiatives such as SCORM help publishers integrate with learning management systems, not create the ebook experience itself. With ePub 3.0, publishers have a viable alternative based on open standards for the first time.

There is broad agreement that more accessible digital content is better digital content for all, and by bringing together current web technologies and core features of DAISY, ePub 3.0 allows us to make accessibility an integral part of our educational ebook titles. The timing is fortuitous: publishers are already looking for alternatives to Adobe Flash; the rush to produce bespoke book apps for mobile devices has slowed somewhat; and the IDPF has announced an early build of Readium, a much-needed reference implementation of ePub 3.0.

From a production perspective, the ePub 3.0 family of standards and associated tools helps publishers treat accessibility barriers as bugs. Automated tests run as part of nightly builds cannot determine if a figure description is appropriate, but they can ensure that a figure description is present and not too short to be meaningful. A failed build is a powerful reminder to the team that a product is not yet ready to go out.

There is considerable overlap between functionality formerly reserved for assistive software and requirements shared by all. Media overlays, for example, are very close to ‘read to me’ features built into ebooks for school audiences. Publishers have the choice of adopting the ePub Media Overlays specification or reinventing it at significant cost.

Similarly, reflowable text not only allows learners to increase the font size, but also allows publishers to target mobile devices with much smaller screens. Even where the finished product is not distributed as an ePub ebook through one of the major channels, publishers have every reason to make ePub 3.0 the container format of choice for accessible digital book content.




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