Articles archive (page 2)

Articles archive

EPUB Accessibility 101 (W)

EPUB Accessibility 101 Title Slide

EPUB Accessibility 101 Title SlideIn our series of free weekly webinars October 6th saw a session focused on EPUB Accessibility. Our speakers showed everyone what happens under the hood of an EPUB file to support accessibility and managed to demystify some of the technicalities surrounding EPUB.

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Full Video of the Webinar


  • Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium—host and chair
  • Rachel Comerford, Macmillan Learning
  • Tzviya Siegman, J. Wiley and Sons

Session Overview

What is EPUB? The Basics

Rachel Comerford took us through some of the “acronym soup” that makes up an EPUB file, namely:

  • Mimetype – which tells the reading system being used that this is an EPUB file
  • META-INF – which points to the file and allows the reading system to find it
  • OEPS-OPS – containing the content and everything needed to display that content (including the CSS which describes how the book should look)

What is EPUB? Focus on HTML

The text of an EPUB publication is written in HyperText Mark-Up Language (HTML) and Tzviya Siegman explained to us the importance for accessibility of the native semantic elements that can be conveyed within the HTML. Every element in the HTML mark-up contains a meaning and greatly assists with content navigation and order of reading layout.

What is EPUB? Focus on DPUB-ARIA and epub:type

Sometimes content is more complex than the available HTML elements can cope with and Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) provide another way of applying semantic meaning to content i.e. it describes a content component to the reader. DPUB-ARIA specifically maps to the epub:type vocabulary for EPUB content.

Navigating EPUBS

Rachel explained that all EPUB packages contain a navigation document (within the OPF file) from which the Table of Contents (TOC) is generated. The TOC is crucial for accessibility and together with headings, it generally echoes the familiar structure of printed content.

Links are also valuable for accessibility and it’s important to choose a reading system that exposes internal and external links to the reader.

The Value of EPUB Metadata

Also found in the OPF file, EPUB metadata provides information about the accessibility features and potential limitations of the content. Rachel urged us all to make as much use of metadata features as possible, not least via The Accessibility Summary section where the publisher can provide specific information for readers in a non-technical way. See the slide deck attached to this overview for a terrific example of this type of summary provided by Macmillan Learning.

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

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DAISY Information Sharing Day

Photo of a mobile phone showing "DAISY Information Sharing Day Thursday Oct 14th"

Photo of a mobile phone showing "DAISY Information Sharing Day Thursday Oct 14th"On Thursday October 14th we will be hosting a free information sharing day via Zoom, bringing you updates on a broad range of projects and activities from DAISY and our member organizations. We’ve divided the session into 3 parts to enable easy access to the topics you find of most interest.

You only need to register once for free to attend any part of the webinar.

Part A: Update on DAISY Projects

Starting at 1200 Universal Time (500 PDT, 800 EDT, 1300 BST, 1400 CEST)


Maarten Verboom, President of the DAISY Consortium

DAISY Projects highlights

Update on various projects driven by the DAISY Consortium.

Avneesh Singh, DAISY Consortium

DAISY Pipeline case study

How NLB is leveraging the DAISY Pipeline for production of accessible content.

Jostein Austvik Jacobsen, NLB

DAISY reading experience in your Browser!

What if your favorite DAISY full text full audio or EPUB Media Overlays titles start working on your favorite browser? This will be a game changer not only for making reading more convenient but will also empower the reach of accessible reading to parts of the world which cannot invest in reading solutions due to resource constraints. This presentation will provide a glimpse of the research being done in this direction.

Marisa DeMeglio, DAISY Consortium

Responding to COVID with DAISY Online Training

Dipendra Manocha, DAISY Consortium

Preparing for the revolution in born accessible publishing in Europe

Reporting on the first year of the DAISY European Inclusive Publishing initiative.

Thomas Kahlisch, dzb

Improving access to music braille

Update on the achievements of the DAISY Braille Music project in 2021, and next steps.

Sarah Morley Wilkins, Project Manager, DAISY Consortium

Part B: Updates from DAISY Members

Starting at 1300 Universal Time (600 PDT, 900 EDT, 1400 BST, 1500 CEST)

DAISY in Egypt

This cooperation initiative raises awareness of the challenges encountered by persons with print disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic situation, promotes the provision of accessible publications such as DAISY as well as encourage the acceleration of Egyptian Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.

Hiroshi Kawamura, ATDO, Japan

Digital braille innovations

Two major braille libraries share will experiences and plans as they expand digital braille reading options for their users.

John Brown, NLS, USA, Dave Williams and Paul Porter, RNIB, UK

Voice Assistants and DAISY Online

Connecting Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to DAISY Online.

Daniel Ainasoja, Pratsam, Finland

Sign language video in digital publications

How Kenyan education content organization eKitabu is creating early grade reading materials for deaf readers.

Georgine Auma, Digital Literacy Trust, Kenya

Leveraging Machine Learning with Page AI

Bookshare’s latest developments in advanced artificial intelligence for better book conversion.

Brad Turner, Benetech, USA

Part C: Accessible Mainstream Publishing

Starting at 1400 Universal Time (700 PDT, 1000 EDT, 1500 BST, 1600 CEST)

The born accessible movement has been gaining momentum in different parts of the world. We will share information how the DAISY Consortium, members and partners are accelerating the global movement towards publish, discover, buy and borrow accessible publications.

We will highlight the new standards and guidelines raising the bar for accessibility that are aligned with the EU Accessibility Directive, facilitating search and discovery, and will also provide a glimpse of the near future plans. And we will share how a DAISY led initiative helps developers improve their eBook reading systems for people with print disabilities, and guides consumers and institutional purchasers to select the solutions that meet their accessibility requirements.

Avneesh Singh, George Kerscher, Richard Orme, DAISY Consortium; Charles LaPierre, Benetech, USA; Erin Kirchner-Lucas, RedShelf, USA; Gregorio Pellegrino, Fondazione LIA; Stacy Ray, VitalSource, USA

Register now to attend any part of this webinar.

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User Experience Guide for Displaying Accessibility Metadata

Logo the the publishing community group

W3C publishing community group logoThe Publishing Community Group at W3C has announced the release of the report, A User Experience Guide for Accessibility Metadata this week and we welcome this additional resource for the publishing industry. Written and designed to be used by all areas of the publishing workflow at any technical level, this guide neatly explains the absolute need for accessibility metadata and why it is so important for readers who may have accessibility requirements. Gregorio Pellegrino (The LIA Foundation) , co-editor of the guide makes the point:

On one hand more and more digital publications are published natively accessible, on the other hand more and more local legislations require to inform the user about the accessibility features of publishing products (before buying or borrowing an ebook). For this reason it becomes more and more strategic to show the accessibility metadata: the risk is that each platform displays the information in a different way. These documents are meant to be a starting point to offer the end user the information in a user-friendly and consistent way across different vendors.

Carefully differentiating between the metadata that you might find within an EPUB package and the metadata that accompanies the book, the ONIX, the guide gives clear examples and technical instructions for both, helping the metadata provider standardize their approach.

Metadata found either inside a digital publication or in the corresponding external record may have important accessibility information that will help end users find and determine if this publication can meet their specific accessibility needs.

The report has 2 parts: Principles and Techniques which will be of enormous help to distributors and libraries alike as they endeavour to make accessible content discoverable as well as readers themselves as they search for content that suits their requirements. We are excited to see how accessibility metadata within the industry improves as these guidelines are adopted.

Charles La Pierre (Benetech), co-editor of this report comments:

Over four years ago the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Requirements for EPUB Publications specification was created, and now we close the loop on the ability to “discover” these conformant EPUBs. The release of this guide marks an important milestone in the discovery of certified accessible books, and I am thrilled be a part of this effort to aid libraries and bookstores on how to display this very technical information in a user-friendly way.

Staff at The DAISY Consortium were integral to the development of these guidelines with Avneesh Singh, DAISY COO, leading the accessibility task force. Congratulations to everyone involved in the development of the guidelines!


The following links will take you to the report and other resources which we recommend:

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Ways People with Print Disabilities Read (W)

Title slide for Ways People with Print Disabilities Read webinar

Title slide for Ways People with Print Disabilities Read webinar

In our series of free weekly webinars September 22nd saw a session focused on user experience and how people with print disabilities read and the common challenges people encounter. 

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar


  • Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium—host and chair
  • Joseph Polizzotto, Wake Technical Community College
  • Robin Spinks, RNIB
  • Amy Salmon, Accessibility Expert

Session Overview

Richard Orme introduced the session and explained that today we would be concentrating on 3 types of print disability: learning difficulties, low vision and blindness.

Reading with Learning Disabilities

Joseph Polizzotto is an accessibility technologist with many years of experience assisting learners and staff in education. This has given him a unique insight into what it is like to read with a print disability, with the following comments typical of students with learning disabilities:

  • “I spend over 6 hours to read one chapter.”​
  • “I don’t remember anything that I have read.”​
  • “I totally missed the word *not* and inferred the opposite meaning of the author.”​
  • “I have to work much harder than others.”​
  • “I know a lot more than I can demonstrate.”​

A learning disability is a neuro-developmental condition that interferes with learning basic skills such as reading, writing or math and it is key for students to be able to develop reading strategies to cope with the challenges of learning.

Reading strategies are at the core of coping

Strategies such as question asking (SQ3R method), note taking, colour coding and creating patterns within the text all serve to simplify the task.

In addition to these Joseph highlighted some other techniques which encourage learning and retention of information for students:

  • Memorization to help with long term storage of information (apps like Quizlet have flashcard tools)
  • Mind Mapping also help with retention and breaks information down into well organized chunks
  • Screen Masking helps to avoid the distraction that surrounding text can create
  • Text Adjustments help provide the optimum environment (font, text size, line spacing)
  • Read Aloud helps learners stay focused and this is particularly useful with complex content
  • Audio using human narration

Reading with Low Vision

Robin Spinks is an accessibility expert and reader with low vision. Common challenges that people with low vision encounter include:

  • Focusing on text (acuity)​
  • Reduced contrast sensitivity​
  • Glare (photo sensitivity/photophobia)​
  • Reduced field of vision​
  • Sensitivity to movement​
  • Perceptual differences​
  • Visual fatigue and changing vision​
  • Contextual factors​

He presented a very revealing set of images giving us a glimpse which emulate what is like to read with a variety of conditions (cataracts, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration).

Readers with low vision may wish to take advantage of the following features to improve the reading experience:

  • Adjust font size​
  • Choice of fonts​
  • Color modifications​
  • Line spacing adjustments​
  • Read aloud or Speak Screen ​
  • Combining strategies for low vision reading

combining these with some of the more specific usability features available with particular platforms

Reading without Vision

Amy Salmon is an accessibility expert and legally blind. She began her presentation by explaining that many readers who are legally blind are not necessarily completely without all vision.

Many readers without functional vision choose to read with a screen reader. These are software applications that convert information typically conveyed on screen into audio using text to speech, and many screen readers also support braille displays.

In a recorded video George Kerscher gave us a demo of the NVDA screen reader on the Thorium ebook reader, showing some of the basic controls which allow access to content and navigation within the document.

Refreshable braille displays can be used in conjunction with a screen reader to show braille characters typically using an electro-mechanical device to raise pins creating braille cells creating letters and words.

In order to make sure that content can be properly navigated by a screen reader and refreshable braille display its essential that digital content is correctly structured and includes:

  • Table of Contents​
  • Headings​
  • Descriptive images and links​
  • Tables which are correctly formatted​
  • Lists​
  • Video with audio descriptive/transcript​
  • Metadata including document language​

Inclusion of these elements vastly improves the reading experience for people without vision.

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

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The Essentials for Accessible Publishing in 2021 (W)

opening slide: The Essentials for Accessible Publishing in 2021

open slide: The Essentials for Accessible Publishing in 2021In our series of free DAISY webinars July 21st saw a session focused on The Essentials for Accessible Publishing in 2021. This webinar was held in partnership with the UK Publishers Association, Accessibility Action Group (AAG) in place of their annual in person seminar at The London Book fair.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar


  • Stacy Scott (RNIB), chair of the PA Accessibility Action Group—guest host.
  • Dr Agata Mrva-Montoya (Sydney University Press)
  • Laura Brady (House of Anansi)
  • Richard Orme (DAISY)
  • Graham Bell (EDItEUR)
  • Daniella Levy-Pinto (NNELS)

Session Overview

In keeping with previous AAG seminars this webinar promised to be a quick fire journey through this huge topic with lots of speakers, experts in their fields and plenty of take homes for our delegates. Stacy Scott introduced the topic and our first speaker Dr. Agata Mrva-Montoya briefly explained the areas that would be covered.

Advocacy and Policy

Agata briefly took us through the results of an insightful survey conducted in Australia this year,  encouraging us to ensure that in-house advocacy is in place accompanied by a clear and thorough accessibility policy so that “publishers can produce born accessible publications themselves”. Her presentation included an extremely useful overview of how to put together and effective accessibility policy and areas that should be taken into account. Publishers shouldn’t forget that this policy together with their overall approach to accessibility requires regular review and should be cognisant of technical standards and provisions for procurement.

 Content Workflows

Laura Brady gave us a tour of the various workflow routes to accessible EPUB, emphasising the need for culture change in-house to effect these workflow options and stressing that “buy-in throughout the chain is key to the successful production of accessible content.” Lots of useful resources and options to consider including, WordToEPUB, InDesign workflows and XML workflows (the head of the workflow food chain).

Tools and Solutions

Richard Orme continued Laura’s workflow presentation with a look at post-export tools for validation and conformance checking of content. In particular he highlighted EPUBCheck, Ace by DAISY, Ace SMART, The Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base and the Inclusive Publishing hub, urging everyone to take a look at the latter and sign up for the inclusive publishing newsletter at the very least!

Accessibility Metadata

Graham Bell gave us a clear overview of why it is so important to include accessibility metadata at all stages of content production. “If you optimize the accessibility of your books, then your book metadata should reflect that.” he focused on the 3 types of metadata that should be included: metadata included in web pages, metadata included within the EPUB package and accessibility metadata about the book which is embedded in the ONIX. All three serve quite different purposes and should be considered.

Consumer Testing and Feedback

Daniella Levy-Pinto impressed upon us the importance of testing content, using the tools that Richard spoke about and via manual testing using testers with lived experience. It is a necessary and vital part of your content workflow and must take into account the various types of assistive technology that may be used in order to access published works. “Assistive Technology provides opportunities for print disabled readers to access content and its important for publishers to understand this technology and to test their content with it.” Talking us through the testing process, Daniella showed us how an accessibility testing process with user feedback improves awareness and communication amongst employees, consumers and other end users.

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

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Memories of Garth Conboy – A True Giant in Digital Publishing

Photo of Garth Conboy

By George Kerscher
Photo of Garth Conboy
I had the great pleasure of knowing Garth Conboy for more than twenty years. We first met in 1999 when the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) organized meetings to work on a new digital publishing standard. We continued to work on these standards for the next 22 years together, until his passing on June 29, 2021. Garth was integral in every aspect of the Open Ebook Publication Structure (OEB) which evolved into today’s EPUB Standard. He co-chaired the development of almost all the specifications at the OEBF, the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), and most recently the W3C, where he was a master at building consensus. I can recall him saying, “Cave early and often.”

On the organization side, Garth held a Board seat for many years. Most recently, he was nominated by the IDPF Board as Chairman where I, as President, relied on him enormously to lead the Board activities. He was a driving force, and I knew I could count on him in every aspect of organizational leadership. He never let any of us down.

On the accessibility front, Garth was always committed to ensuring persons with disabilities would be able to benefit from the standards we developed. At his behest, Google joined the DAISY Consortium as a Friend, and always found time for our many questions. Garth’s unwavering support for DAISY and our mission was immensely important and we received a Google Impact Challenge grant from the charitable arm of Google. In 2019, Garth organized for Google to host the DAISY Consortium’s Board meeting, and leaders in the libraries serving persons with disabilities from all over the world found him to be a gracious host.

Garth had a magical personality that manifested itself in standards working group sessions, in Board meetings, and over dinner with a good bottle of wine. This magical personality wove together friendliness, humor, and rock-solid strategic and technical thinking. This giant of a man will be sorely missed in the digital publishing arena, and in our personal lives. We do have our memories, and he will remain a giant of a friend in my memory forever.

Garth Conboy Obituary on Dignity Memorial

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2021: Overview and Event Report

#GAAD icon

#GAAD iconGlobal Accessibility Awareness Day 2021  (#GAAD) took place on May 20 this year and received huge attention across industries and, we are thrilled to note, the publishing industry and affiliated organisations celebrated this event more than ever. We are still hearing about wonderful events that took place towards the end of May and we’ve highlighted a few of them in this report.

GAAD Awareness Building

GAAD Articles & Events with an Education Focus

Many organizations took the opportunity to focus on elearning as part of their GAAD celebrations; something which has become increasingly important for many of us over the last year. Here are a few that we have selected:

GAAD Articles for Technical Audiences

Case Studies and Experience Posts

Inclusive Design Awareness

There were a number of events and articles aimed at increasing awareness about inclusive design and the impact that this can have on the reader:

These are just a few of the fantastic events that took place throughout the day and we hope to be able to build on our resources and advice for next year. There was a huge effort worldwide from many digital organizations and we’d welcome feedback on news and information from other sources that may be of interest to our readers.

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2021

GAAD logo

Resources, Event Planning and Awareness Building

GAAD logoGAAD takes place on May 20 this year and we’d like to encourage all our members to take part so that we can build awareness and play our part to increase the accessibility of digital content to people with print disabilities, particularly during this challenging time when many of us are working from home. If your organization has an accessibility advocate then this is their chance to build awareness and co-ordinate activities that your teams may be able to take part in whilst self-isolating.

How do you want to celebrate GAAD this year? We’ve put together a few ideas to get you started and we would love to hear from you about any activities or events that you are planning.

Awareness Building

You can easily do this from your home office so long as you and your team are online and communicating

  • Put together a blog piece in advance of GAAD. This will help to raise awareness amongst your colleagues about what GAAD is all about. We have resources and tools that you can include in your post to spark interest and encourage questions! A good place to start is our Introduction to Inclusive Publishing.
  • Alternatively, you are welcome to cross-post any of the interesting articles that we have published on Inclusive Publishing during the last year. Contact us if you need help finding the correct piece for your newsletter.
  • Think about updating your accessibility statement in time for GAAD. Have a look at the work of ASPIRE which is all about increasing the effectiveness of your organizational accessibility statement
  • Hold an online social event to promote your support of accessible publishing. Set up a “party” online to discuss awareness issues and next steps for your company when you return to the workplace. (Zoom offers the most accessible online conferencing experience we have found).

User Experience

GAAD is a great chance to find out for yourself what it’s like to be a print disabled reader. You can put together all manner of sessions to focus on this but here are a few ideas:

  • Go mouseless for an hour—unplug your mouse and only use your keyboard (tab/shift tab, arrow keys, enter and spacebar) to navigate and interact with content.
  • Experience reading using assistive technology – try 10 minutes with a screen reader for example
  • You may wish to set up a UX session so that your colleagues can experience accessibility features such as Voice Over.
  • Try your hand at writing image descriptions—collect a few images from the content that you publish together with some contextual information. See how your colleagues fare in writing alt text! This could be a fun challenge that would be easy or organise for those of you working from home.


Encourage your colleagues to watch one of our free webinars available on the DAISY YouTube channel. We have many different sessions available already and lots more planned for the future so this would be a terrific time to ask your co-workers to choose something new and interesting. If you host a discussion following a webinar viewing you could initiate some interesting debate which we would love to hear about.

Other Events We’ve Heard About

There are some amazing events already being planned to celebrate GAAD 2021 and we encourage you to check out a few on our events pages as well as the full list on the GAAD listings.

You may also be interested in the publisher’s toolkit that we promote on inclusive publishing in celebration of GAAD. Feel free to send us your comments and additions to this publishing resource.

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Exploring Reading App Accessibility (W)

Exploring Reading App Accessibility title slide

Exploring Reading App Accessibility title slideOur webinar on April 21, 2021, was focused on the accessibility of reading apps from a variety of different perspectives, with tips and demonstrations to show our audience the practicalities of various systems.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar


  • Richard Orme, DAISY Consortium—host and chair
  • Daniella Levy-Pinto, NNELS
  • Robin Spinks, RNIB
  • Melissa Castilloux, tester at NNELS
  • George Kerscher, DAISY Consortium

Session Overview

George Kerscher gave us a brief resume of the session highlighting the need for apps to support access by eyes, ears and fingers depending on the perceptual requirements of readers and the type of reading they are engaged in (leisure, academic etc).

Reading Requirements

For Everyone

Some features benefit all readers and these include:

  • Remembering where you left off when the book is reopened
  • A Navigable Table of Contents
  • Access to the real full text (for text-to-speech, font customization and scaling) rather than it just being an image
  • Go To Page feature
  • Easy navigation throughout

For Readers who are Blind

Daniella Levy-Pinto which features are also important for readers who are blind who user use a variety of apps depending on the type of content they are accessing and in which format. A continuous reading experience is helpful when reading for pleasure but a more academic environment may require additional flexibility for moving around within the content. In particular, these features are a requirement for blind readers:

  • Read Out Loud that includes a pause button to retain the current position
  • Review Text – the app should work with screen readers that read out the text and other elements
  • Heading Navigation – the app should list headings and allow them to be selected
  • Read Image Descriptions should be read automatically
  • Movement within Tables
  • Navigation using links and page references

For Readers who have Low Vision

Robin Spinks highlighted important reading requirements for readers with low vision for whom there are many challenges such as being able to focus on the text, glare from text, visual fatigue and a sensitivity to movement. Readers with low vision may want:

  • To be able to adjust the font size and weight
  • Having a good choice of fonts
  • Color and contrast modifications
  • Line spacing adjustments
  • Read aloud option

For Readers who have Dyslexia

Melissa Castilloux talked to us about the needs of dyslexic readers and explained that for these users, learning to automate reading is indeed a skill and the constant demand to de-code content results in reduced time actually interacting with the text as was intended. Features that are helpful in this situation include:

  • Different levels of navigation
  • All buttons and links should be correctly labelled
  • Read aloud feature can ease the need to constantly de-code text
  • Ability to change column widths and line spacing aids concentration
  • Colour and contrast modification impact the reading experience for dyslexic readers

Melissa gave a brief demo of the Microsoft Word Immersive Reader function which offers an incredibly flexible reading experience.

George impressed upon us that there are many reading apps and that being able to tell readers about what features are available, is crucial. Testing of these apps is difficult when you consider the number of combinations of operating systems, reading apps, assistive technologies and formats but it is important that we impart this information to readers.

The User Experience

The Blind User Experience

Daniella explained that a good UX for blind readers is one where are the included features are accessible. Barriers to this include:

  • Buttons and links which are not properly labelled result in difficulties performing basic functions with a screen reader
  • Apps that are cluttered, with no headings to separate sections make it difficult for the reader to orient themselves within the app
  • Apps that do not include useful keyboard controls or the ability to use a common swipe gesture hinder interaction

The Low Vision User Experience

Robin urged us to think about how a book might be able to be customized for the reader allowing:

  • Bigger text together with reflow options
  • Ability to switch color theme
  • Ability to increase line spacing
  • Ability to change the font
  • Read Aloud

The User Experience for People with Learning Difficulties

Melissa explained that all features within a reading app should offer full flexibility to the reader in terms of accessibility. Her demo of the app “BookReader” showed a great example of flexibility although all reading apps do have some limitations and in this case it was the read aloud feature that could do with some improvement.

Testing Reading Apps

The formalised process of testing reading apps benefits many of us including developers, schools, libraries and anyone who enjoys the additional benefits of reading digital content. Both DAISY and NNELS offer testing and reporting via and Through a process of testing and feedback, the whole publishing and reading ecosystem benefits and steadily improves.

Related Resources

Discover the other webinars we’re running!

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Word Document Accessibility Part 2 (W)

Word Document Accessibility Part 2 opening slide

Word Document Accessibility Part 2 opening slide
In our series of free weekly webinars April 7th saw our second session focused on Word document accessibility – part two to the previous webinar, Word Document Accessibility 101, delivered on March 10th.

This page contains:

Full Video of the Webinar


  • Erin Williams, Microsoft: host and chair
  • Prashant Verma, The DAISY Consortium
  • Richard Orme, The DAISY Consortium

Session Overview

Following on from the previous session on word document accessibility which looked at the fundamentals, Erin Williams introduced us to the webinar session and explained that by popular demand, this webinar is back to look at “Beyond the Basics of Word Document Accessibility”.

Richard Orme gave an overview of what can be expected from today’s webinar in this continued discussion. This was an extremely practical webinar, full of demos and practical examples so it is advised to review the recording for the full experience!

Top Tips for Checking Alt Text

Prashant reminded us that in order for a document to be accessible it is crucial that alt text is provided for all the images within that word document. Checking that this in place can be a time-consuming process but we have discovered that you can do this via the search feature:

  • Open search with Ctrl F
  • enter the search term: ^g
  • Cancel the dialogue box
  • Use Ctrl PgUp and PgDn to navigate between images

Magically Apply Headings​

If there is no heading structure in your document (which is fundamental to navigation and, therefore, accessibility) you can:​

  • Select one of your “pseudo headings”
  • Select your Home tab and the editing area here​​
  • Choose the Select button
  • Choose Select All Text With Similar Formatting
  • Apply the chosen heading style

You can change the look of the headings if you require but you will have applied a heading structure for each level of headings within the document.  Design and structure are separate from each other and, again, this is fully demonstrated within the recording of the webinar presentation.

Use Power Search and Replace​ to Clean Up

Accessibility of your document can be greatly improved by clearing up the following using the search and replace feature:

  • Remove empty headings and paragraphs​ and use paragraph and line spacing instead which is far more accessible​
  • Remove extra spaces
  • Also, remove Tabs, manual line breaks etc. if you can

By cleaning up the document, using the find and replace tool, navigation and document structure are greatly improved. If more white space is required to make the document more visually appealing then it is suggested that you make use of the para and line spacing features that are provided by Word (rather than manually inserting them). This helps to create a document that is desirable for everyone.

Turning the Tables

Richard Orme looked at how to deal with multiple headings for rows and columns within a table which can often be very challenging in terms of accessibility. Many tables look perfectly fine but Prashant showed us how table features need to be attended to so that screen readers can access information. Many issues have easy fixes – eg. putting the heading of the table above / below / outside the table and not in a row within the table. This eases navigation of the rows and columns for screen readers. It’s so important to think about how a screen reader is going to convey tabular information to a user – simple and straightforward design is essential

Alt Text for tables should be handled specifically – right-click on your table to view table properties including alt text and a table description. As screen readers will read out the contents of your table, the alt text can be used as an option to provide additional useful information for the reader. Likewise, do not rely on the alt text to make an inaccessible table accessible.

Accessible Textboxes

Creating textboxes that work for everyone is vital. If text boxes are created using the regular word feature they are inserted as a floating shape which is inaccessible to assistive technology, making it impossible to determine where they appear in the reading order. There are alternative ways of doing this that do indeed work, by using the borders and shading tools as demonstrated by our presenters.

Charting the Way Forward

Charts present unique challenges to accessibility and it is advisable to consider alternative methods of presentation if at all possible. If a chart is the best way forward then we suggest:

  • Convert charts to images so that you can insert alt text or longer descriptions that describe the image.
  • Add alt text which is reliable (many screen readers don’t automatically announce alt text in charts so this causes an immediate problem). Very often charts require a much longer description so that numerical data etc. can be conveyed correctly (it may be useful to refer to our webinar on long descriptions and how to manage these).

A practical example using a chart created in MS Excel and then inserted into the word document was shown – a very visual representation of data.

Filenames and Templates

Both of our presenters asked the questions:

  • Do Filenames matter? What do filenames have to do with accessibility  – they aren’t even part of the document itself. The filename needs to be descriptive so that readers can understand what is inside the file. It is also best not to have any spaces in the filename so that the document can convert easily into other formats – an underline or dash is better here. The MS tool Power Toys has a renaming feature to make this easy for you.
  • Are templates a good or bad thing? If templates are tested for a11y they are a good thing. You can make your own templates using the accessibility guides from the Microsoft Office Templates store or you can look for accessible templates: File > New and type “accessible templates” in the Search for online templates box

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