There is a lot of chatter about accessibility and born accessible content these days, and for good reason. But what does it mean in practice for IPA's members and individual publishers? The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is due to have a seismic impact on that marketplace which will ripple out to markets around the world, whether we are ready for it or not. In much the same way that the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules have impacted internet use around the world, the EAA will impact any publisher wanting to sell digital content in the EU and its supply chain.
It is the mission of the IPA accessibility subcommittee to contribute to the production of accessible formats around the world. I have personally been supporting publishers to fine-tune their publishing process for a many years and can categorically say that no one intends to be inaccessible, or to publish in a way that excludes readers. It’s just that sometimes the accessible publishing knowledge base at any given publisher is loaded onto the shoulders of the person who has several other responsibilities and so accessibility gets sidelined. Over and over.
It’s time to put accessibility concerns at the heart of how we publish content. A lackadaisical approach to accessibility concerns is what has lead us to the current print famine that print disabled people find in the marketplace. It is estimated that only about 10% of content is accessible to print disabled readers — that is a person who cannot effectively read print because of a visual, physical, perceptual, development, cognitive, or learning disability. The Marrakesh Treaty, is designed to create a copyright exemption to facilitate the creation of accessible versions of books and now has 115 signatories including the 27 EU member states. It is the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) most successful treaty to date. What an achievement!
In addition to taking steps to educate staff and fine-tune workflows, IPA members can signal their commitment to publishing inclusively by signing the Accessible Books Consortium’s Charter for Accessible Publishing. The work of the ABC complements the Marrakesh Treaty and works on behalf of the IPA, WIPO, and the World Blind Union. There are currently 120 signatories to the ABC Charter representing publishers around the world.
Why not signal your organization’s commitment to inclusive publishing by signed the charter? Signing the charter shows consumers and consumer support organizations (like alternate format libraries for the print disabled) that you are on the accessible publishing journey. It is a clear signal that you are committed to rolling accessibility into your work, that you will designate and make space for a senior manager to be responsible for work in this area, and advocating for change in the supply chain, among other things.
There are people who think publishers aren’t serious about accessibility and the Marrakesh Treaty. Prove them wrong by signing the Charter for Accessible Publishing!