Accessible Publishing: Communicating with Conversion Houses

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Communicating with Conversion Houses & Ebook Producers

In order to be sustainable, born accessible publishing needs to involve the whole team. Everyone has a crucial role to play, and the people who produce the ebooks, whether they are working in a large conversion house, independent contractors, or even your printer, are no exception. No matter how accessible the book is, there are some final features that can only be added to the EPUB after conversion.

Below, we have included an accessibility checklist for ebook producers, as well as list of questions that publishers can ask to assess their accessibility readiness.

Accessibility Checklist for Conversion Houses & Ebook Producers

The below elements are great things to request for publishers’ EPUB files. They make it clear what you want, and ensure everyone is working toward the same goal.

Each item in this checklist links to a Best Practice recommendation in “Accessible Publishing Best Practices: Guidelines for Common EPUB Issues in Plain Language”, a document that the NNELS team wrote in 2019. The Best Practices offer guidance on how to achieve these recommendations, as well as provide explanations on their importance.

Assessing the Accessibility of Conversion Houses & Ebook Producers

Here are some questions publishers can ask to get an idea of their producer’s current accessibility practices. Their answers should give publishers a better understanding of what they know about accessibility, and have the capacity to implement.

Topic AreaQuestions
GeneralIn general, what accessibility features do you include in your books?
Do you produce ebooks in version EPUB 3?
Do you produce reflowable ebooks?
TestingDo you run accessibility checks on the files you produce?
For example, do you do any manual checks for accessibility, or use Ace by DAISY?
Images Do you add alt-text to images?
Do you attach an ARIA role of presentation to decorative images?
Do you wrap figures in figure tags rather than wrapping them in div containers? Using <figure> and <figcaption> tags allows the image and caption to be linked, which improves accessibility.
MetadataDo you add accessibility metadata to the OPF files of the EPUBs you produce?
Do you create a specific set of metadata for each book that you produce?
If we (the publisher) provided you with a set of metadata for the book, could you include it in the OPF file?
TitlesDo you amend the title tag of each document in the EPUB so that it carries the name of that section, not the filename or title of the book?
HeadingsDo you denote the headings at the start of sections with the semantic tags of <h1>, <h2>, etc?
Do you use a single heading for each section, so that the chapter number and title are encased in a single heading?
NavigationDo you reference every section in the navigation files, including front matter like the title page?
StyleDo you use semantic tags for style, such as <i> for italic and <b>for emphasis?
Do you differentiate between italic <i> and emphasis <em>, and bold <b> and strong <strong>?
Table of ContentsDo you add an internal table of contents to the book in a place that we specify (i.e., after the copyright page)?
Do you set the items in the table of contents up in a list, with active links to each section?
Semantic StructureDo you use semantic tags to uniquely identify content like sidebars, blockquotes, and citations?
TablesDo you build a header section for every table, with column titles encased in tags?
If a large table needs to be set as an image, do you link out to an accessible edition of the table?
Page List Do you use a structured page list for our navigation files? Do you include ARIA roles and labels in each page break to indicate the page number for assistive technology?
NotesDo you design footnotes and endnotes so that they can be read by simply clicking the number in the text?
Do you use a “Return to Text” link for each note, so readers can find their place back into the main narrative?
Title PageDo you retain the normal appearance of our title page without setting it as an image?

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