DCL Learning Series
Accessible Publishing: Remediation and Planning
Hello. Welcome to the DCL Learning Series. We're gonna give everyone just another minute to join. I wanted to take a moment to welcome you. Thanks for taking a little bit of time out of your day. I see a few folks coming on. Hi, Bob. Hi, Jay. Welcome, Sue, Stephen. Hello, Ken. It's so nice to see everyone joining us today. Oh, it's 12 o'clock and I would like to say "Hello" again and welcome to the DCL Learning Series. Today's webinar is titled "Accessible Publishing: Remediation and Planning." My name is Marianne Calilhanna and I'm the Vice President of Marketing at Data Conversion Laboratory and I'll be your moderator today.
A couple of quick things before we begin, we are recording this webinar and it will be available in the on-demand webinar section of the DCL website at dataconversionlaboratory.com. This webinar also features our friends at Maverick Publishing Specialists. Maverick provides strategic consulting and operational outsourced services for the publishing industry. And before we jump into it, I'd just like to provide a real quick introduction to Data Conversion Laboratory, or DCL, as we are also known. Our mission is to structure the world's content. Content can unlock new opportunities for monetization and innovation when it has a foundation of rich structure and metadata. DCL's services and solutions are all about converting, structuring, and enriching content. We are one of the leading providers of XML conversion services, DITA conversion, structured product labeling or SPL conversion, and S1000D conversion. And that's how many of you probably think of us.
So, this slide lists a number of practice areas in which we also specialize. And the big takeaway that I hope you learn from this is that if you have complex content and data, metadata, challenges, we can help. And now I'm delighted to introduce Nigel Thompson with Maverick Publishing Services and he's going to tell us a little bit about Maverick. Nigel.
Thanks, Marianne, and Maverick Publishing Specialists were founded in 2008, provides strategic consulting and operational outsourced services, outsourcing services for the publishing industry. We supply customized project-based or interim services that can be tailored to our individual customers' needs. Today, Maverick has a network of more than 200 consultants and technical development resources worldwide with clients and support offices across EMEA, North America, and Asia Pacific. We're organized across six service areas: business strategy, marketing support, technology and content, sales support, publisher relations, and societies and associations. Our customers includes larger commercial publishers, specialists, and small- to medium-sized publishing companies, not-for-profit organizations as well as service providers, intermediaries, and agents.
Maverick senior consultants also specialize in providing senior management level consultancy and advice for all areas of general publishing and ePublishing strategy. This includes print to electronic content transformation, Emerging Business Model Analysis, digital technology markets and customer developments, and, of course, accessibility. We also assist with mergers and acquisitions from both the investor and investee standpoint.
Thanks, Nigel. Also, a reminder, while we do have our friends at Maverick here today, take this as an opportunity to ask us anything. You can submit your questions at any point via the questions dialog box in your little GoToWebinar window. So, if you're here today, it's likely you know our panelists personally or have seen them speak at an industry event back when we did those things in real life. Lettie Conrad is a product R&D associate with Maverick and brings 20 years' experience in scholarly publishing to her diverse portfolio of product research and development projects. She is dedicated to helping information organizations, cultivating user centered, standards-compliant approach to digital publishing and academic programs.
While she aspires to master her backyard organic gardening, her professional expertise lies in optimizing user engagement for content discovery, and access of academic content on various platforms. Previously Lettie played a key role in establishing the product management program at Sage Publishing, based in her home office in southern California. With two cats sleeping at her feet, Lettie is North American Editor for Learned Publishing, a chef with SSP's Scholarly Kitchen Blog, and Information Science PhD candidate at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.
Mark Gross is President and Founder of DCL. He established Data Conversion Laboratory 39 years ago, and is a recognized authority on XML, XML implementation, and digital transformations. Mark's experience and leadership focuses on developing and delivering technology-driven solutions. Under his direction, DCL uses the latest innovations in artificial intelligence, including machine learning and natural language processing to help businesses structure data for modern – and content; data and content – for modern technologies and platforms. Welcome, Lettie and Mark.
Over to you, Lettie.
Excellent; thank you, Marianne, and thank you to DCL for working with us. On this session, we're really excited, Mark and I, to team up to share our expertise in this area. I'm gonna kick us off by talking a little bit about what accessibility is. I see a lot of friends in the room. Some of you experts in this topic, beyond my skills. So I know that will be repetitive for some, but I know there are some who are using this as a chance to get to know the topics. So we'll start with some level setting definition, and then we'll go into talking a bit about the laws and legislation that mandate accessibility and what compliance looks like at a legal level.
We'll talk a bit about the win-win benefits in addition to accessibility conformance. There are many benefits to publishers and the remediation and planning work that we're going to talk about. So we'll talk a bit about those benefits, we're gonna breeze through some of the basic accessibility standards that publishers need to think about. And then we'll talk about solutions to getting there, what roadmaps to accessibility look like. And then really unpacking what remediation work we can both, DCL and Maverick, work together toward and tactical planning to make that a regular iterative part of your development cycle. Then Mark and I each have some case studies to share and we'll leave time for questions at the end. So, let me dive in here to our first topic, and just to look a bit at the big picture of accessibility, what do we mean by accessibility?
Essentially, accessibility is a provider's ability to ensure equity of access. That is access to content, products and services that should be available and should be possible to everyone, regardless of mental or physical capability. And I really like this image here from the IISC, which I think underscores the fact that the practice of accessibility is not about providing the exact same identical product or service to everyone but instead providing a product that has the capacity to allow access and allow interaction by all members of your user community. For publishers, obviously, that's our readers, our authors, our editors, reviewers, customers, and stakeholders of all kinds, and those will vary, of course, by case study. But we care about this topic, because depending on your market sector, anywhere between 10 to 30% of your users are grappling with some sort of cognitive or physical disability. In the US, 57 million Americans currently are living with disabilities.
For example, almost 20 million of those have difficulty lifting or grasping. And so, fine motor controls in keyboards or mouse interactions will be a challenge. Eight million have a vision impairment. So these are our factors around color, screen resolution, magnification. We need to think about color blindness, hearing impairments, of course. Almost eight million have hearing impairments in the US, and so they might rely on transcripts or other forms of text interaction. In short, the accessibility guidelines that we're going to be talking about really address both the usability or navigability of your web products or your web properties, but also the readability of the content that you're hosting there. So we're gonna unpack both of those as we go.
And Lettie, what I like about this particular image is that it shows that when you say "leveling the playing field," it doesn't mean it's going to be the same playing field for everybody; it's just providing a way for everyone to, to get to the same place, but it's a new image of leveling the playing field, I think.
Yeah, and it really hits home, because I think this can speak to content providers of all kinds. Service providers of all kinds. It really cuts across, you know, whether you're providing education or the resources that make that happen. So, yeah, really good point. So, moving onto what accessibility means in the publishing context, really we're talking about developing a strategy toward accessible publishing. In practical terms, this is instilling our publishing strategies with empathy, and that means embracing the wide range of information experiences and our user communities.
Researchers, learners and other stakeholders will need us to consider those with vision impairments. As I mentioned, low vision, blindness, color blindness, mobility and dexterity limitations, auditory considerations. That's both deaf as well as hard of hearing. Language, and a host of other cognitive issues, learning disabilities, for instance. Compliance with web accessibility and content accessibility standards get us a long way toward covering those spaces, but I also advocate that publishers consider the broader user experience of various disabilities and various touch points throughout our organizations. So it's not just the published content. Of course, that's very important. That's going to be a focus of some of the remediation work that we're talking about today. But we're also talking about the platforms, the mobile apps, other devices that you may provide your communities to access your content.
We're also talking about touch points in the publishing cycle, right? The author submission process, the editor review process, the publishing workflow upstream of publication as an important one for accessibility as well. And then there's accessibility considerations around the customer experiences: invoicing, usage reporting. Are we considering the needs of customers with disabilities when it comes to those points of service, and customer service encounters?
So this may all seem a bit overwhelming; I think you may have come today maybe hoping it was just a quick checklist of a few content-related items, and those are vitally important, but I do want to advocate that publishers think broadly. An accessible publishing strategy is often best served by empowering a group, a cross-functional task force, or perhaps a department. But a team of people who can act as a governance body, who can act as a bit of a clearinghouse for those requests and needs that come from the disabled user community in order to meet their needs at the proper touch points to our products. Mark, anything you wanted to add there?
I think, you know, all these things are – and we're going through it a little further – but it's computers and automation that have really given us opportunity to go into these things. I mean, there wasn't, you know, if you look at it 100 years ago and there was Braille, but there wasn't really anything you could do to get everybody together, but taking advantage of technology has really allowed us the things that could never be done before, and really, really level the playing field in meaningful ways.
Yeah. Indeed. So, um, I do also want, in that sort of vision of the cross-functional task force, I don't want to forget about bringing in our chief counsel and those who can advise on the legislative aspects. So, Mark, over to you to share a bit on that front.
OK, I'll say I'm not an expert on the legalities either. And this is not intended as an overall treatise on the legalities of the ADA, and I just want to touch on a few points that really made differences, I think, over the last few years. And this certainly doesn't start with 1974; it already started before that. I mean, many of you, most of you know the Helen Keller story, and really, before that, there wasn't really much attention paid to people with disabilities, but it was that point, and then that really led to a lot of things.
But our story begins, I think, in 1974, with the creation of something called the Kurzweil Reading Machine. Kurzweil, Ray Kurzweil, is one of my big heroes, because he really developed, he’s like the modern day Thomas Edison with tremendous things that he's done, and I just want to queue up a video. The Kurzweil Reading Machine was one of the first real attempts, it was a commercial attempt at getting something that could read a piece of paper. And, and this, this little clip over here is when Stevie Wonder first gets a sense of what this is like. And I just, I think it's a great clip because it really shows the excitement that was there back in 1974, and you want to roll that, Marianne?
Yes, I'm gonna roll that, and I just want to mention if you are on phone audio, you might have some issues hearing this. So you can jump on to your computer audio. Or you can watch this in the recording, as well.
[Stevie Wonder, in archive footage]
It actually started in '75, when there was this thing on the news about this man who had come up with a way that would enable a blind person to be able to read. I said, this is crazy. This is impossible. I gotta meet this person. Obviously, it was a life-changer, I mean, for me, it was really, really kinda big, you know. But however big it was, it didn't matter, because, listen, for the first time a blind person would be able to read his or her private information. It was an amazing experience.
[Narrator, in archive footage]
The current cost of 10 to 20 thousand dollars makes the machine practical only for libraries, institutions, or rehabilitation centers.
OK, thank you, Marianne. So, I think that the two-second glimpse of Stevie Wonder when he first hears this is priceless. And I think that really lays out what was going on. So, in 1974, it was 10 to 20 thousand dollars. OCR machines now, free software, are available, and it really all started with that. And the reason OCR was invented was really to be able to provide a means for people who are visually disabled to read documents. And that led, and there were other things going on, but in 1998 the Rehabilitation Act of '73, which really dealt with a lot of other things, finally brought in the electronic and information technology and making that accessible, was really part of that. It wasn't just other kind of physical plants and being able to get into a building, but information was so important that it had to be leveled out. And we'll go to the next slide.
Yeah. And there was a string of things would happen going forward from there. The NEMAS standard, so, like I said before, that technology is really what's made this possible, and taking advantage of technology is what's letting us move forward. So, like, reading is one thing, but, like, textbooks, it's not just reading a text. We've got lots of things going on over there. So in 2005 there was something called the NEMAS standard which was a standard, it was an XML standard, the legend tag material, but it was made for instructional material and that became a standard that was used in many educational institutions. And became, and there are laws around that in many states requiring educational institutions to provide materials for the visually impaired that, that's readable by a computer.
And the NEMAS standard really defines what you tag material as so that computer reading machines can, can actually take that and provide and read it, literally read it to a user. Two-thousand eight was accessibility standards and web content to standardize that. And then in 2011, there were standards that followed to a lot on how eBooks needed to work at an EPUB standard. On the one, it allows eBooks to be created. But once an eBook is created to those standards, it's also going to be readable by a reading machine. So making your materials accessible using these XML standards allowed, allowed for more and more material to become available. Next slide, please.
So, so, here's Stevie Wonder back in what, he brought it up in the Grammy awards in 2016, and the famous quote on what this means is, that really says it all: we need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability. And there are, you know, as Lettie mentioned, there are many kinds of disabilities that nearly all of them, really the same kind of materials, work for all of them. We'll see a little bit more detail later on, but that's really – going to the next picture, 2017, this is something we came – I just picked up on a few weeks ago but with everybody walking around wearing masks all over the place, that points to another disability people have. People who are hard of hearing are dependent on being able to see people's lips move.
So this device, which was originally, it was FDA cleared in 2017, and the purpose of it was to, I think it was to allow practitioners in physical therapy and places like that to be able for their patients to be able to see their lips moving in a clinical setting, suddenly became very important worldwide. So this is not something you would have thought of as being a disability until this came up. And, you know, this will bring you up to today, to COVID and everything else. And I think, just, I knew we talked about the legality of them. Really, I’m not gonna talk too much at all about it much, but part of the, part of the reason we do this, is, because it's a good thing to do, And it's good for business, and you know, you increase your market share. Because people who normally wouldn't have been able to read this material are now able to.
But there's also laws on this, and, and, uh, just recently, Beyoncé was sued for her website. The website was not accessible to visually impaired people. And this is not, this is not a sole instance. I had a list of about 100 organizations that have gotten sued over the last 10 years for various kinds of violations. So, I think the usual, I mean, there's not been that much, so far in very large, in very large – usually the remediation is not to pay a lot of money; remediation is to put together a plan, to make their websites and their material available in a form that would fit with an Act, and there's other things going on this year that will shift things.
They say that this COVID, this COVID situation is not only changing things that wouldn't have changed otherwise, but it is making them a lot go a lot faster. Things that are taking 10 or 15 years are happening immediately. So, I think schools with virtual learning, that is a movement already going on for a few years, but this is now moving very quickly and, and the materials are there. And you do have those issues on what happens with visually impaired people who are going to be online using online learning, working at home. OK, so I had a list of about 100, but there were 10,000 and ADA lawsuits filed in federal courts alone. I'm not sure how many of those are computer related. Those also include not being able to get into a movie theater, but there are thousands that were and that's pushing things along, of course.
And I think Europe is really a little bit ahead of the United States in many of these things. And there's the Directive 2019/882, which was, 2019 was the first year it was put in. But it's got some pretty serious requirements on, on, on what needs to be accessible, and I think there's, I had a note about that, that, actually, any website published on or after September 23rd of 2018, so that's not that long. Any website after that must be compliant with these requirements by the 23rd of September 2020, which is a month from now. So, you know, there'll be, there's legal teeth in the United States. There is legal teeth now in Europe and I think we're going to see activity in, going in that direction. Over to you, Lettie.
Yeah. I wonder before we leave the legislative space, just another point that comes to mind is the indirect risks that many publishers run: those who are licensing to academic libraries. Many universities, there's – actually I can dig it up if anybody's interested – there is a running list of the universities, in the US, anyway, who have had either ADA or related lawsuits or complaints, and many of them are related to database access. So database and content providers are, part of this, are complicit in this process. And the more we can work with our library partners to reach those accessibility standards, with better safeguarding that market sector and those relationships.
Right. That's a very good point of materials. The laws are different in different states, but, like, in higher ed, a student who wants materials, who is visually disabled or otherwise disabled, wants material, the university must provide it and that could be, if it's on a one-on-one basis without thinking about it in advance, that could come at great cost.
Yeah, there's a lot that can go on there.
Yeah, definitely. But there are benefits, there are some win-wins and one example that I like to share is the, the one that actually came about in the 1940s. The city of Kalamazoo, Michigan was the first to experiment with curved or lowered sidewalk curbs specifically to address the needs, access needs of disabled veterans in their city. And they were looking at folks who were using canes, walkers, wheelchairs, et cetera. The same innovation rolled out across the US. In the following decades and we basically over time have learned that these curved or cut curbs offer benefits to multiple citizens, not, not just disabled folks, but parents pushing baby strollers and travelers with suitcases or shopping carts. Or any number, suitcase, or, um, skateboards, that's the word I'm looking for. Skateboards and bicycles and others.
So there's this unexpected ripple effect, and that furthered this rollout of curves that you now see all over the place. And it's one example of the ways in which, working toward the greater good of access, where we are paying attention to the empathetic needs, of, of our disabled readers, actually will benefit all readers. And in the publishing space, there are a number of examples. There's a lot of talk about diversity and inclusion right now. So by ensuring your products and services are accessible, you are ticking that box as well. You are increasing the engagement with a broader, wider group of users and welcoming a more inclusive community.
This also, as Mark mentioned, increases usage. So again, in the academic kind of market sector that many publishers operate in, the wider your user base, the grade of your page views, the greater your downloads, and other sort of performance metrics, citations, et cetera. Discoverability, of course, as many of you on the call know, one of my favorite topics and also a clear win, several functions, several requirements of accessibility compliance that ensure easy access for disabled users are also expected in content architecture, metadata modeling, and, and other factors that contribute to high quality indexing, and specific, specifically, search engine optimization regulations. So, an easier time searching for everyone, essentially, as we improve the searchability of our content.
Similarly, implementing accessibility standards improve, improves navigability for everyone. Keyboard controls come to mind. I think, we could also use, always use a few shortcuts in our life, right, not just those who are dealing with physical or cognitive disabilities. And let me remind you, we are all only temporarily able, right? Just the passage of time will decrease our vision or our hearing, and we will become, perhaps, greater champions of accessibility. But on the publisher side, rich content meets accessibility standards, but it meets all kinds of needs for our end users, in engaging with our content searching. And, and certainly for publishers looking to repurpose content, the extensibility of rich, well-marked-up content can then be repurposed easily. So there's many, many benefits in the publisher space. And I don't know, Mark, if you have others that you would add to that list?
I think in general, we're really dealing with that. You really open up the market, and in many ways, your term of temporarily abled. I mean, it's, like, you know, if you've ever, you know, broken an arm or something, you suddenly realize how difficult it is to do things, and then you get better. You appreciate it for a while, but, but it's – making things easier to use in general affects everyone. So, as it becomes, it's going to become more and more important. As the technology develops, we have different ways of using technology. Like, you know, we were sort of talking about text so far, but what about pictures, what about, about video, all those other things. So, so it all needs to be considered, and the more we consider, the better off we are.
Agreed. Yeah, I know you mentioned multimedia, Mark, and I think that's a really critical one when it comes to that win-win. Who doesn't love a transcript alongside their video, right? Easy to search and find the spot that you wanted to cite or you want to clip.
Our ability to put text behind those images, whether moving or still, is a really clear win for everyone. It increases the search ability, findability, and that interoperability factor certainly from the publisher perspective and a good PR message, which is why we want to work with you toward meeting the standards. So in my work at, at Maverick, one of the offerings is this program where we can work together to, to assess where you are currently with accessibility and where, where the gaps are, where, what we can do to meet those. And really, the top three things that I would say every publisher needs to pay attention to when it comes to standards would be the PDF UA standard, which was formerly a NISO – ISO standard, sorry – and now, it's rolled in to the WCAG, or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, for manuscript publishers and others who are using EPUB. EPUB 3 ticks so many boxes. In fact, I would encourage all publishers to consider EPUB 3 as a way of transforming your current content and quickly meeting accessibility standards.
So again, for WCAG, for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, 2.0 is the current standard set and there are a host of really easy-to-use materials around understanding what is included in 2.0, validating the fact that WCAG is achieving what it set out to do, which is to try to really get its arms around and be the sort of super set of all of the various national, regional, or institutional policies or legislative mandates. So when you comply with WCAG 2.0, you are ticking many, many boxes when it comes to ADA, when it comes to EPUB, when it comes to meeting a number of different standards.
The WCAG and EPUB checklists that I mentioned here are among some of the diagnostic tools that publishers can use to audit their current level of accessibility themselves. Many of these are free or low-cost tools. There's also developer tools that you can download; I've included the, the W3C's list there. I suggest, for instance, that marketers do things like download a text-to-speech app. I particularly like Pericles from Firefox. You put that browser plugin and run it across your webpages, and you will immediately get a sense of where you might need to rearrange your headers, or what content is missing from images. You'll get a really quick sense of what experiencing your website is like, for those with vision impairments in particular.
I encourage designers and developers to put an auditing plugin right alongside their developer tools. You can, as you are working on new CSS or a new interface design, you can run something like the WAVE, or the WebAIM app, across your page, and get a sense of "What else do I need to do in order to be compliant with, with the WCAG standards?" And I've included that URL again. I encourage you to take a look at those tools, but no matter what your position in the publishing house, I encourage everyone to read up and become versed in what accessibility compliance means. I've included a couple of resources here that I think are very easy to read. The ACRL white paper from last year sheds light, especially, as I mentioned, the academic library market. So, that's a really important one for those publishers who are who are operating there heavily.
Also from a library perspective, my friend Stephanie Rosen has an OA book out a couple of years ago. I believe this one's from the University of Michigan Press, and she's basically looking at how libraries and publishers can come together to meet these standards and make it easier on, on each other. We shouldn't be operating in silos. So this is just rich with really good information that can help you get busy with meeting accessibility standards right away. Mark, anything to add on those details?
You know, there's a lot of – I mean the standards have been moving fast and furious. They feel like they're going slowly when you're working on them. But, I mean, the standards are pretty much, therefore, what you're saying, and I think I was thinking, as you were talking, really would have been a good idea to have a little demo of what those reading apps look like. Because really, I don't think most people have actually experienced it, and you could see what, you can see, what's going on over there. I'll talk through it a little bit, and then we can maybe next time we do this. Next slide.
So, I think we went overtime with the first part of it; we'll have to move a little faster on the second part of it. But I think I just want to go through a few of the issues that come up. And I think, like, if you look at a complicated page, and a complicated page like this one over here, you can see that a reading app is going to have a hard time trying to figure out. YOU probably have a hard time figuring out which way to read things. So, the major, one major thing that needs to happen, once all the text there, is to make sure that the reading applications know where to go. So, like, if you look, the first column is probably OK, you know that you just go down the first column on the left, but what about the second column over there, where do you go from there? Well, by eye you'll see that you're supposed to go down to that lower one.
But it's not that clear that it follows one to the other, or that it's a continuation. And then you've got the pictures over there. What do you do with those? The reading app does nothing with a picture like that unless it's told what to do. And still staying on the theme of reading, going to that next side of it, now you've got two columns over there; you've got the lower picture, and above, a picture. So, so, you know, when it comes, it's when you're working in XML, and if you're working with the EPUB standard, for example, the reading order is, is pretty much automatic because if things are flowing in a certain way and it's fine, but when you're working with PDF files, which is a lot of what we end up working with, there's no, there’s no markers there, normally to tell you what order to read things in. So this, like, going back to that picture to the left and right, it might just start reading things across if it doesn't have a clear delineation.
So, reading over it is one thing. The pictures, there's something called – pictures, you know, need to be described for somebody who's visually impaired. So something called alt text that's inserted: alternative text. So, I think we'll have a picture of what that looks like. So, in order for it to be fully compatible, somebody to be able to read it, each picture would need to have some kind of description of what it is. How much description you give, well, that's going to depend. And, again, it's really, if you're doing this from scratch, when you're doing a new book or a new document, and you have this in mind, then you're going to do all, you can do all these things. You've got the standards, you put them in. But I often get involved if somebody has 10,000 pages of material, or $100,000 pages of material, and they might go back 20 or 30 years, and none of these things were included in there. So then, how, doing that by hand becomes a difficult process. Much of what we involve is how do you automate that process so that it doesn't take you six years to get those pages done?
So, and I guess that's pretty much – there's also some other things that I'll point out in this picture is link annotations. How do you know when something is linking someplace? A lot of material we have, especially on websites, but more and more on other kinds of documents, you're referring to something else. How do you know what you're referring to? You see some kind of indication for that. Let's go to the next, the next slide. So, and, Lettie, I'm sure you've seen all this before, if you've got comments on it, feel free.
Thank you; no worries.
And, you know, some, some particular cases, which are particularly difficult, it's really, when you get into academic papers, a lot of times technical papers, one is tables. How do you deal with tables? So a table, you know, not knowing anything else about it, reading across these columns is not particularly useful, and, you know, tables are just something that's really trying to visually give you information in a certain way. So, if this is marked off properly, in, with the EPUB standard, or in XML, using, so, a book reader, you know, or a reading app, would be able to know that you need to go to the next column: I'm reading a new column. I'm reading the next row.
And there are controls on many of these readers that, so that it doesn't read haphazardly, the person reading this can say, OK, read me the next column, and read it down till I tell you to stop. Or I'm on the row that I want to read; read across that row. So, if you've got the right controls in place, you'll be able to do that. If you just have an image of a table, if you have a PDF table that's not, that's not properly laid out, the reading machine, reading app can't really do anything with it. So this is, this also happens with math, this happens with chemistry, any technical materials. And there's also a structure that's put in, into, that's not normally in a PDF document, for example. But it can be inserted. And why is that important? It's a little hard to see over here, but, but reading a whole document to find something, you need on the fifth page is very tedious, because reading machines, reading apps are not very fast. They read slower than I do or you do. So, you want to be able to navigate around the page. So, if things are marked off properly with what is a heading and a subheading, and what is a bullet list, when all those kinds of attributes are put in, then reading apps can follow that.
And you can control that. The reading app can be told: Read me all the, all the headings till I get to the one I want. And when I get to the one I want, read me all the subheadings till the one I want. And then go through the bullet points and just read, you know, read, sort of the way YOU read, right, when you skim a paper. If you've got the right navigational aids inside that document, then you can skim it the way you would otherwise. And I've watched people who are visually disabled work with this. There work with it very, very quickly; it's something that they pick up very well.
Next, uh, next slides. And, we've talked about text so far, but color is really very important. And color blindness and color disabilities affect lots more people than, than just the text disabilities. And this is, these two examples over here, you can see that if, if you, the left side over there, the text is written on a very dark background, and the right side is on a very light background. Even if you're fully visually abled, that left side is pretty hard to read. And it's something, so, that's something to keep in mind. And just going back to the next slide, please.
And this is an example of how that first slide over there would appear to– these are, I can't do any of those loads, I'm sorry. But these are the way that particular page would appear to different people with different kinds of visual disabilities. And you can see that it is very difficult, and even, and, and, you know, so you have to be mindful of that. The next page, go to the next slide. We'll try to go through these quickly, because we're almost done with where we're supposed to be at this point. This is how it would appear with the lighter background. So, you see, many kinds of visual disabilities can be solved by doing this kind of thing. So when you're thinking about an advance, you can put all that in place. Otherwise, you have to go and the retrofit them, which is a more complex process.
And I just want to give some, before I said alt text, you describe the picture, there's many ways of describing a picture. What level do you describe it? The left side is a perfectly valid alt text. It's saying well, this is a map, and it's a map of Floor B in Iowa City. Great. The one – which is sufficient for many purposes. The one on the right would give a full description of what's in that so you can see where it is, where all the exits are, where the staircases are, which is, might be needed for certain, like, emergency documentation might need to have that kind of information. Next slide. What are we up to? Next slide, I think...
I think we're ready for the Maverick case study.
Yes, OK, it's up to you.
Yeah, well, and alt text was actually a really good segue because that was a really key outcome of this case study. So this is a real-life example of Maverick's work with publishers to progress accessibility compliance and ensure that we can sort of move beyond this sense of "we have to comply," but, you know, it actually being a cornerstone, an industry standard. That's really what we're hoping to achieve. And what I suggest when we work with publishers is to start small and make baby steps and make iterative progress.
I'm keeping this case study anonymous, because really, the, the act of sort of sharing one's accessibility roadmap, really, it needs to be owned by the organization itself, so not my place. But suffice it to say, our client wanted to collaborate on a project that would give them a sense of their current state of accessibility and also give them some tools to continue to assess ongoing. The goal of this project was to come out with a rating of their current accessibility, and to develop a remediation plan to get to WCAG 2.0, I believe was their goal. So we started with an audit.
We ran an audit of their journals platform against the WCAG 2.0 standards. This involved some of the semi-automated tools, both sort of a heuristic or a human exploratory analysis of their site from the perspective of the disabled user journey. But also some of those automated tools that will run through and count the number of images with missing alt text, for instance. And that was one of the biggest outcomes of the website audit, was that a great majority of their images, graphics, tables, et cetera, were missing fluent, descriptive attributes that were associated with those images.
Our audit also included an in-depth review of the content itself, and they had a few different journal formats at play, so we ran the PDF UA standards over a few different variations of their journals, and this resulted in a gap analysis, they had quite a bit of work to do in this space as well. And that work really was a matter of giving their vendor the specs of what they needed to do to, to improve their PDFs. So the results of both audits were presented. We worked through some conversations around contingencies or opportunities. We were looking out for things like roadmaps of their vendors and providers.
For instance, their platform provider had some potential improvements to the submission system, which would allow alt text to be captured directly from the author. So we were looking into that. After some of that export to exploratory conversations, we then put together a roadmap, and that essentially gave them a two-year kind of sequence of events that would get them to WCAG 2.0. That included a communication plan as well because keeping their customer base informed about their progress, I think, is part of meeting WCAG standards. Simply the transparency of completing what's often called a VPAT or Voluntary Provider Accessibility Template. A template you can basically check off and say, here's where we are or are not compliant. So simply the transparency of talking about compliance and your roadmap to compliance is a key step in that process. Mark, over to you.
I just wanna say, I mean, this is, that roadmap. Having a plan, and doing an audit, and having a roadmap is just so important for everything else. I mean, having that roadmap, having an inventory of what needs to be done, really lets you plan and with things, what kind of automation you need, what will benefit you, can do all the return on investment on that. And, and the other thing that's important is really, besides your customers, as we saw earlier, there are also legal issues these days, and having, having an audit, and a gap analysis, and a roadmap of what you're gonna do, it really goes a long way to satisfying a lot of the things that are needed in remediation.
If you have a roadmap you can say, I will be done in a year, or I'll be done in two years, that usually solves a lot of the issues you might have, and lets you prioritize what's important, what’s less important. The thing, that's, one thing I wanted to point out before, I have a short case to go over. I know we're going to run out of time, but not everything, you know, there's different levels of accessibility, that you could put in. Some things are very expensive to do, some things are less expensive to do, and I'm not going to read through this, but there are some, there are some pieces of, you could get 80% of the way there, let’s say, what an automated process that will get you 80% of the way there and will solve many of the issues that most people have.
Other things will need more to be done. So, for example, alt text, that might be simple alt text, that you can get out of the text itself that will need to be pulled in, and that could be done automatically, and that could be done at low cost. On the other hand, if you have to do very lengthy descriptions, that does require somebody to sit there and edit it and pull it together. So, you know, there's different levels, I think that should be considered and, and you can prioritize which things need what. The next slide, which I think, is the last slide. I just wanted to go, this is, much of what we've been talking about, what Lettie's been talking about, is, like, how to plan and pull things together. This is a remediation case that we did, not for publishers, but for the VA, and they have tens of thousands of PDFs.
So, I mean, this is going back 20, 30 years. They didn't do everything in XML; it wasn't really an issue in there. But they had a very large inventory of materials that were very important to veterans, and were not accessible, and there were PDF files which needed all kinds of remediation. What we did there is develop the kind of plan we talked about over here, and then put together an automation to do as much as we could of it, and then some pieces of it had to be done by hand.
But what was, I think this is a case of, where veterans actually went and fought the VA in court asking for remediations, a lot of veterans, they needed access, and it was that that really pushed things along a few years ago. Because, otherwise, the court ruled that if they don't have this remediated, they would have to provide a 24 hour hotline with somebody to read these documents over to them. So, that was the temporary measure, but then these were done over the next few years, and now they pretty much have everything they need up online and available and remediated. But, we did a lot of the things that need to be done, that we've talked about: alt text, reading order, and making sure, and making, making forms accessible and things like that. And I think that's, better cut it, because we're out of time. I can talk about this forever. So can Lettie.
I agree. I know.
We're doing fine with time. So, a number of questions have come in asking for, you know, Lettie, some of your, the resources you mentioned, as well as the Firefox speech add-on. And I just want to let everyone know who's here, before the end of the day I have a document that I'll be emailing that lists all these resources. So keep a lookout for that. OK, we have some questions coming in. Lettie, you mentioned the VPATs, the Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates. Can you tell us, are more organizations filling VPATs out per the request of universities?
Yes, the universities are usually the organizations that are looking for that, in part so that their librarians are prepared to take disabled student requests. So, whether in the library or through the institution in another department, a disabled student services needs to be aware of what capabilities a given database or published product has. So that they know how to navigate, they know what to make, what request to make of the publisher, for instance, you know, an EPUB conversion of a book chapter, or an accessible PDF, an accessible PDF version of an article or product.
The VPAT also gives you a quick win. Simply by sharing your current level of accessibility, you are, in a sense, meeting one of the expectations in accessibility compliance. So, it's, it's very good practice and I have seen an increase over time. So, definitely one of those things that Maverick can help construct. We've drafted some for publishers before. It's an iterative product or project. It's the kind of document that you want to continue to update as your products and services evolve. So, as enhancements may be released or a platform, a platform migration happens, you'd want to update those documents.
OK, thank you. Mark, we have a question that came in from a publisher who has a large archive of content. The thinking is that it would take a very long time to go back and retrofit that content to make it accessible. So the question is, is it sufficient to make all content accessible moving forward, and then revisit that old content when requested by a customer? So what are your, what's your take on that?
Well, what needs to be remediated is anything that is public facing. Right. So, so if material is not public facing, if it's just something that's sitting in a database, and not being used, you don't need to do that. But, if it's public facing in the sense that it goes up on a website to the public, or even not to the public, if it's made available in general, even, there's also requirements for the workplace. If it's being available to your employees, then it needs to be remediated at some level. So that's website material.
Published materials, there are, I think, a lot of it relates to, and Lettie, you might know more than I do, but I think a lot are replaced at educational institutions, where materials need to be made available on request. So, and I think several states, now, have required that all new material, new textbooks, for example, all new material, they're being made available to high schools and middle schools and elementary schools, I guess, need to be accessible in order for them to consider acquiring them. So you may not even have to do things that are on the long tail that you never use, but the things that you intend to sell or put up back to sell, those probably should be remediated to widen your market.
Yeah, absolutely. I would just add to that, sort of strategically, I often suggest that publishers focus on new content going forward, in part so that you can tick that box, and you can ensure that all new material that's published is in compliance. It gives you a toehold on the accessibility sort of pipeline, or roadmap. It gives you a sense of momentum and excitement, come back later and remediate your backfile, for instance. If it's a journals platform, you know, get your new publishing routines in place, get the new content accessible. That's certainly where peak demand is, in an academic library context, great to come back and do it later, but don't forget to do it. Definitely go back and do it.
The priorities. I mean, what are your priorities over what period of time?
OK, so we do have quite a few questions. We're not going to have time to get to all of them, but we will reach out to each of you who's, who've asked a question. So in the last two minutes, Mark and Lettie, someone asked: our content's already in XML. What else do we need to do to make it accessible? Two minutes.
The usual answer: it depends.
Pick up the phone and call one of those numbers.
It depends! Yeah, I would audit, real quick, run an audit. It's, it's fast to get a sense of where the gaps are.
Right. I mean, it may be, it may already be there or it may, some pieces need to be done, or it may not be, there's wide differences in how XML was structured today and over the years, so it may be suitable or not. But if you're already in XML, you're most of the way there, I would, I would – Lettie Conrad: Absolutely. I'd say, don't forget about that, you know, the web component as well. Content's super important, but what else would certainly be looking at all the other touch points, including the website.
And so I think we have one more time for this one last question, and it's regarding websites. Can any publicly accessible website anywhere get sued for ADA issues?
In theory, yeah.
In America, anybody can sue for anything, so yes. Yeah, but the ADA. But the requirements are that any publicly accessible websites need to be, need to be accessible. I mean, so yes, what the remediation is, is, you know, becomes a negotiation. But yes.
Well, thank you both, and thank you, everyone, for attending this webinar, taking time out of your day. The DCL Learning Series comprises webinars, a monthly newsletter, and our blog. You can access many other webinars related to content structure, XML standards, and more from the on-demand webinar section at dataconversionlaboratory.com. We do hope to see you at future broadcasts. This concludes today's broadcast. Have a great day, everyone. Bye.
Thanks for coming.