It is estimated that only around 8% of books available to buy in French book shops are available somewhere in an accessible format (Braille, audio, large print, etc.). Today, producing mainstream digital books that are born accessible is very much in the experimental phase. In the absence of born accessible publications, organisations such as educational charities and university support services are involved in producing accessible adaptations. Since 2010 the copyright exception in France has made it easier for accredited organisations such as BrailleNet to request source files from publishers. However, the lack of accessible books available to the print-disabled is still very alarming and this is primarily down to economical, legal and technical issues.

The OPALINe project (“Outils pour l’accessibilité des livres numériques“, or tools for the production of accessible digital books) is a technical response to this problem. Funded by the French Banque Publique d’Investissement (BPI) to the tune of €450,000 (for a total budget of €1,000,000), the project brings together five organisations:

  • BrailleNet (projet lead who will be involved in all phases of the project)
  • Inria (France’s national research body for computing, and in particular the AlMaNaCh department specialised in automated language processing);
  • ERDLab (a non-profit organisation responsible for promoting the EPUB format in Europe);
  • FeniXX (a company that digitises and sells 20th century publications that are no longer available in print).

The project will set out to develop a suite of tools designed to improve productivity, including:

  • In partnership with Inria, a component to automatically enrich and markup digital books to speed up certain adaptation tasks;
  • A platform for collaborative adaptation which will allow several people to work on a single title at the same time;
  • A tool for Braille transcription (digital and print) with full support for French Braille code;
  • With EDRLab, tools to support auditing and quality assurance for accessibile digital books;
  • With EDRLab, reading apps for mobile and PC.