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4 Significant Ways We’re Raising the Bar for Accessibility Standards

2017 August 29
by George Kerscher

Publishing in the W3C is moving forward briskly since the combination of the IDPF into the W3C and there is much to report on, as well as opportunities for our community members to become more involved. Here are the things that have particularly grabbed our attention.

First, EPUB 3 spec maintenance and further developments are taking place in the EPUB Community Group, which is free for anybody to join. One area of interest is the development of “epubcheck” to support EPUB 3.1, which is the current recommendation. Epubcheck is an open source application that will examine an EPUB and determine if it is valid or not. For example that it has the required metadata, like a title. It will also run through the internal links to make sure the target is present, e.g. the link to chapters are good. Epubcheck will be a big win for the Born Accessible movement. If this work strikes the fancy of any Java coders, the group could use your help with development. Contact Charles or George for more information.

Second, the Web Publishing Working group is actively developing the next generation of publishing standards for the web and for offline reading. Yes, we’re talking about EPUB 4.  It may take several years for EPUB 4 to be a functioning standard, but it’s exciting to think of what is ahead, especially knowing that EPUB 3 is solidly in place to support publishing for a long time.

Third, accessibility in publishing at the W3C will be integrated into traditional WAI work. WCAG 2.1 is under development and is expected to become a recommendation in 2018. Publishing has been incorporated into the scope of WCAG, and some of the metadata developed for EPUB and standardized in schema.org are also in WCAG 2.1. The metadata is located in the optional conformance section, and the Accessibility Task force within the Publishing Community are quite happy to get this included at such a late date. For those interested, the link to the August draft is: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/

Last, but not least, there has been a shift of naming in the accessibility work. From the beginning, the term Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was used. The shift will be in referring to this as “Accessibility Guidelines” (AG) and the codename for this is “Silver.” Get it? (AG, silver, and the Atomic Number 47 my new favorite number, grin.)

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