Quick Guide: Accessibility

Accessibility of textbooks and other instructional material has become an increasingly important part of publishing. A textbook being accessible or accessibility compliant means that it meets certain requirements set out by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), as well as standards by other organizations, to be usable for students with a variety of disabilities. The goal is to provide a fair learning experience for all students.

When ensuring a textbook and related instructional material are accessible, there are three entities at play: the author, the publisher, and the university accessibility office.

What Should the Author Do?

To ensure your book is compliant, there are a few things to keep in mind as you develop your content.

  • Ensure tables are created using the table tool in Microsoft Word, which allows screen readers to understand and properly read the data in the appropriate syntax.
  • Use numbered lists and bulleted lists appropriately. Numbered lists should be used for content that is ordered, such as procedural steps. Bulleted lists should be used for content that is unordered, such as a list of features.
  • Employ a logical structure to your headings. Main headings should be followed by subheadings, then by sub-subheadings, etc. When utilizing a word processing software’s automatic style functions, headings should not skip levels simply for design purposes.
  • Use character styles appropriately. Boldface and italic text may be read by a screen reader in a different tone (with strong or emphatic vocalizations) to signal to a student that emphasis was placed on the content. However, underlining is not easily interpreted by screen readers and should be avoided.

What Should the Publisher Do?

When a manuscript is received, Cognella will check to ensure the above guidelines were followed during development. In addition, Cognella will:

  • Choose accessible fonts and font sizes in the final interior design.
  • Use limited and high-contrast color profiles that are ADA compliant.
  • Work with the author to develop alt text for images, which will allow screen readers to describe images for those with vision impairment.
  • Work with university accessibility offices to provide necessary files.

What Should the University Accessibility Office Do?

If additional alterations are needed to make a book accessible for a student, the university accessibility office will assist. A student will need to purchase the book and then contact the accessibility office directly to make use of the service.

In these cases, the accessibility office will contact the publisher directly, who will provide a PDF of the text once they receive proof of purchase by the student. What the accessibility office does with the text varies depending on the student’s particular disability.

For More Information

For more information on accessibility requirements, some suggested resources include:

Accessibility Toolkit: https://opentextbc.ca/accessibilitytoolkit/

Accessible Publishing Best Practice Guidelines for Publishers: https://www.accessiblebooksconsortium.org/publishing/en/accessible_best_practice_guidelines_for_publishers.html

EPUB 3 Accessibility Guidelines: https://idpf.github.io/a11y-guidelines/

The AAP EPUB 3 Implementation Project: https://www.nfb.org/images/nfb/documents/html/aapepub3implementation.xhtml

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/

ADA Compliance for Colleges & Universities: https://www.rev.com/blog/ada-compliance-for-colleges-universities

Legal Obligations for Accessibility on Campus: http://udloncampus.cast.org/page/policy_legal

National Center for College Students with Disabilities: http://www.nccsdonline.org/