Results from the SIDPT questionnaire on inclusive publishing

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Supporting Inclusive Digital Publishing through Training (SIDPT) is a strategic partnership co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The aim of the SIDPT strategic partnership is to promote the creation and distribution of accessible publications by providing practical training material for professionals working in the publishing ecosystem.  

The learning material will be developed by three non-profit partners: BrailleNet (France), Dedicon (The Netherlands) and Johannes Kepler Universität Linz (Austria. All content will be freely available in English, French, Dutch and German from late 2021 on an online platform, Inclusive Publishing in Practice.  

In order to better understand the needs of publishing professionals intervening in different stages in the book production process, a short questionnaire was circulated from March to April 2020. The full report in English is available in Word, PDF and EPUB3:

Summary of Findings 

The survey revealed that accessibility is on the radar in the publishing sector in France, The Netherlands, Austria and the handful of other countries represented in the 89 responses. Not all publishers, however, are sufficiently equipped to meet their obligations.  

Digital publishing 

Of the 89 respondents, 79 indicated that their organisations offer digital publications. PDF continues to be the dominant format, but significant numbers of organisations are beginning to offer titles in EPUB. Almost half are in EPUB2 which, unlike EPUB3, is not capable of accommodating full accessibility features.  

Findings confirm that publishers work with a myriad of propriety and custom tools for the production of their publications. Regardless of the technical environment, however, most publications pass through mainstream solutions such as Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign at some point in the process. 

When it comes to embedding accessibility requirements into existing workflows, the results are promising; there are a number of tasks which have the potential to improve accessibility that publishing professionals are already familiar with. These include structuring texts through the application of stylesheets, ensuring that footnotes, endnotes, indexes and glossaries are programmatically implemented, and ensuring that fonts and layouts are responsive. Indeed, of the 45 respondents that report not yet having recognised accessibility measures in place, many are already completing tasks that, if implemented correctly, could directly impact the accessibility of their titles.  

Accessibility awareness 

While the business case for “inclusive publishing” or “accessible publishing” appears to be widely accepted by those who are familiar with these concepts, over 30% of all respondents claimed to have not yet taken steps to integrate accessibility measures into their workflows, and 23% indicated they were not sure how to go about doing this. As much as 18% of respondents claimed not to be familiar with the terms “inclusive publishing” or “accessible publishing” and several respondents expressed a fear that following accessibility requirements might compromise the quality of their publications. 

Over 50% of respondents consider accessibility to be a social and moral responsibility, and over 40% consider that meeting accessibility requirements brings about quality improvements for all users of digital products. Only 3% felt there would be no benefit to providing accessible digital publications. 

15% of respondents benefit from an individual or team tasked with overseeing accessibility and 11% require that service providers and freelancers comply with accessibility requirements. 6% run accessibility checks before publication. 

Only a handful of publishers have received some form of accessibility training, and these are mostly respondents intervening towards the end of the book production phase. 

Topics for learning material 

Publishers are clear on what learning material they would like to see developed as part of the project; there is an unequivocal need for best practices, practical examples and implementationsCore topics such as graphic and layout considerations, providing text alternatives to images, implementing a rich navigation, running quality assurance tests and understanding accessibility guidelines came out as the most popular topics. Material around creating accessible interactive components and question types, however, appears to be less in demand across the board, but of particular interest to the educational publishing sector. 

Implications for the Inclusive Publishing in Practice platform 

Learning material

The content will primarily focus on best practices and practical information as requested by the survey respondentsAll material will take account of the current legal and technical framework and advocate the creation of born accessible publications in EPUB3. 

Given the fact that as many as 16 respondents claim not to be familiar with the terms accessible publishing and inclusive publishing, the platform will provide background information and context to ensure that these concepts are both tangible and achievable 

Building on findings that indicate that organisations are already familiar with some of the tasks associated with improving accessibilitythe platform will provide instructional and practical material that will leverage these capabilities in widely-used applications such as Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign 

Given that only a limited number of respondents indicated that they run quality control for accessibility compliancy, the platform will ensure learners are given practical material to support checks and quality management. 

Training

Recognising that accessibility is the responsibility of all members of the organisation – and not only those who intervene at the end of the production process – the learning material will be geared towards professionals working across all areas of expertise, including design, management and editorial. 

While developing content, project partners will need to take into account the fact that the awareness, knowledge and skills associated with inclusive publishing are relatively developed in some publishers and entirely absent from othersInstructional materials will be designed to support the different stages of learning by providing learning materials that raisawareness, create new knowledge and build skills 

To help learners put new knowledge and skills into practice, the platform will provide activities for on the job trainingThese activities will aim to be software agnostic where possible, since findings show that publishers use a wide variety of software packages. It will, however, be necessary to address specific processes in some of the core software environments used across the sector, namely Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign. 

Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union