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Reflections on the 6th European eAccessibility Forum

BrailleNet, one of the long time supporters of the DAISY Consortium, organized the 6th European eAccessibility Forum which was held in Paris, France, on March 26, 2012. The topic this year was "Putting e-accessibility at the heart of information systems". Varju Luceno, the Director of Communications for the DAISY Consortium takes us through the proceedings.
The welcome address was delivered by Francoise Bretonneau, Universcience, and Dominique Burger, a wonderful host, DAISY supporter and energetic IAN President. This article will shed light on some panel discussions to give a feel for this year's conference.

Industrial Opportunities of e-Accessibility

e-Accessibility panel, from left to right, B. Ménard, R. Sinclair, A. Leblois Robert Sinclair, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft was one of the panelists on the "Industrial Opportunities of e-Accessibility" panel, led by Axel Leblois, the Executive Director of G3ict (Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs):

"Today, people are required to adapt to every piece of technology they encounter. It is becoming a significant challenge," Sinclair said. "The future lies in a new generation of technology that automatically adapts to a person's individual needs, preferences, and immediate surroundings, to create an optimal user experience."

He pointed out that unfortunately, misunderstanding about accessibility and inclusion still exists. Some people believe that accessibility hinders innovation. Sinclair stated that this kind of thinking needs to change. He also explained that accessibility is not a part of curriculum for designers and developers or business leaders.

“The time has come for accessibility to transcend its origin and become an internationally recognised profession", said Rob Sinclair. An 'International Society of Accessibility Professionals' should be established to create and maintain globally recognized educational resources. It is necessary to integrate accessibility into curricula, because right now it is still possible to get a university degree in a respected college without learning the main principles of inclusive design or accessibility. Some standards groups are struggling to address accessibility.

For all reasons mentioned above, it is important to train and certify international accessibility professionals who could mentor professionals in other industries and help them maintain their expertise. In addition, people receiving training can drive accessibility literacy across job functions in public and private sectors. Robert Sinclair emphasized the importance of collaboration in order to build and nurture a global community of experts and recognize organizations which implement accessibility well. With a strong global community, we can support the unique requirements of individual countries and share best practices.

Standards: A Foundation for eAccessibility

Since it was founded, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has devoted its efforts to ensuring that the Web is accessible for everyone. The W3C/WAI Standards have been adopted by numerous countries worldwide. Persons with disabilities often require non-standard devices and browsers. Making websites compliant to W3C/WAI recommendations benefits users with a wide range of applications and devices - including mobile devices.

Shadi Abou-Zahra (W3C/WAI) talked about Managing Website Accessibility Conformance including current developments in creating an internationally harmonized website accessibility evaluation methodology.

EPUB 3 as a Foundation for Inclusive Publishing

Markus Gylling presenting at the e-Accessibility Forum 2012 Markus Gylling, CTO for both the DAISY Consortium and the IDPF provided a brief overview of the potential of EPUB 3 format as a foundation for Inclusive Publishing. Some of the points made by Gylling were:

Publishers should follow the main principle – design for usability to satisfy all users. Sound authoring practices and basic HTML5 / WCAG 2.0 techniques may often be sufficient to create accessible digital content. Bitmap images should not be used to convey information. XHTML 5 elements should be used properly, and publishers need to pay attention to both structure and semantics. As a guideline, EPUB 3 semantic inflection should be utilized, where necessary. Scripted content needs extra attention, ARIA techniques should not be ignored. For academic textbooks especially, text-to-speech features should be included and Media Overlays added for a rich multimodal reading experience. In addition, EPUB 3 simplifies navigation.

"EPUB 3 Best Practices" is still a work in progress, with two installments published to date:

EPUB adoption timeline slide, Markus Gylling's presentation A condensed online checklist, accessible EPUB 3 reading system guidelines and an accessibility evaluation tool will be available in the future. New inclusive EPUB 3 authoring solutions are being created, including adding accessibility features to mainstream authoring tools. Interactive widgets and reusable libraries are also in the works. The main goal is to provide digital content creators with tools that enable inclusive publishing practices.

Gerald Schmidt from Pearson Education pointed out that educational publishers can adopt EPUB 3 or develop their own solutions – reinventions at significant cost. With EPUB 3 implementation accessibility features will significantly improve educational publications.

LIA (Libri Italiani Accessibili) Project

Christina Mussinelli from the Italian Publishers Association shared the findings of the LIA (Libri Italiani Accessibili) Project. Libri Italiani Accessibili is a biennial project which started in 2011, coordinated by Ediser, a service company owned by Associazione Italiana Editori (Italian Publishers Association), and funded by the Italian Ministry for Culture. Its aim is to provide a service capable of increasing the availability of digital publications which are accessible for people who are blind and visually impaired, in full respect of both authors' and publishers' rights, through the creation of an online catalogue of 3,000 titles. The guiding concept of the project is to make accessibility part of mainstream production and distribution workflows in the publishing industry. At the end of the first year of work, focused on several introductory studies, the format identified as the most suitable to achieve this objective is EPUB 3, in line with overall technological evolution, allowing publishers to adjust the way they produce their e-books, without radically changing processes.

In the testing phase, six Italian publishers provided LIA with EPUB files of the already available titles. Italian accessibility experts analyzed the files and tested them with different reading systems. The usability and the accessibility of common mainstream readers were also tested. It was once again confirmed that the whole publishing / distribution and reading ecosystem needs to be accessible to deliver a fully accessible reading experience. Christina Mussinelli can be contacted at c.mussinelli[at]360publishing[dot]it for additional information about the LIA project.

Further Reading and Links

The proceedings of this Forum will be posted online in late April. For the Forum G3ict and BrailleNet published the White Paper "Benefits and Costs of e-Accessibility", which is based on the previous Forum which was held March 28, 2011. A copy can be requested on the G3ict website.

Download the DAISY Planet March 2012 newsletter: http://www.daisy.org/planet-2012-03


Related Links:

Publication: Business Case Study: Costs and Benefits of Implementation of Dutch Webrichtlijnen. Download here.

Blog: A Brief History of eText: Part I and Part II.
Event: W4A 2012: 9th International Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility | April 16-17, 2012 | Lyon, France


Related Items:

• HumanWare's Trekker


• France: 6th European eAccessibility Forum to Place eAccessibility at the Core of Information Systems

• ITU Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Mainstreaming ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, August 2009

• G3ict presents at 4th European eAccessibility Forum: eAccessibility in Public Services in Europe, Paris, France

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