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All About EPUB 3 and the Born Accessible Movement

2018 December 31
by George Kerscher and Charles LaPierre

All About EPUB 3 and the Born Accessible Movement


Over the past year, the EPUB 3 Community Group has been working on harmonizing the features of the various versions of EPUB 3. The goal was to produce a backward compatible version – for example, a conforming EPUB 3.01 would also conform to the EPUB 3.2 – which will be launched in the first quarter of 2019. To support the launch of EPUB 3.2, EpubCheck needed to be updated, and the DAISY Consortium received the contract to perform this work. Once the software is released, there will be a promotion to move everyone to that version of the specification, with the understanding that EPUB 3.0 and EPUB 3.01 are perfectly acceptable, and publishers do not need to change their publishing processes to create valid EPUB 3.

2018 has also seen a major collaboration between publishers, the standards community, and the leaders in the Disability Service Offices (DSO) community around Born Accessible EPUB. The rank-and-file face the never-ending task of tagging PDFs (the myth of Sisyphus comes to mind here), and it was clear that the DSO community needed to understand the depth of the transition to Born Accessible EPUB. The collaboration targeted the Accessing Higher Ground conference in November; a track on EPUB was offered and EPUB advocates literally descended on the conference. Eleven of the thirty-nine presentations were on the transition to Born Accessible EPUB. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive with many DSO people stating that they never really understood the difference between EPUB and PDF. The DIAGRAM Center has been asked to produce a series of follow-up training materials for higher education.

Speaking of Born Accessible, the Accessibility Checker for EPUB (Ace by DAISY), which is free and open source, has received huge acceptance in the publishing industry. For instance, a major publisher now requires every title they distribute to pass Ace. In addition, they require all subcontractors to use Ace before they return a publication for ingestion. DIAGRAM provided technical guidance and early prototype design, testing and feedback of Ace including a new beta version of Ace which is even easier to use. Publishers are being encouraged to place accessibility metadata in their EPUB files, such as the conformance and accessibility summary. Global Certified Accessible by Benetech, which uses Ace as part of its program, is also taking hold with educational publishers. The addition of accessibility metadata will make it easier for people to find and purchase an accessible publication over a publication with an unknown accessibility rating. We love seeing accessibility as a competitive factor. Please encourage the purchase of Born Accessible EPUB!



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