Demystifying Accessibility

We all understand the importance of accessibility and providing equal access to reading material. However, for many, the world of accessibility can seem like a labyrinth of complex terminology and jargon. From “W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” to “reflowable,” the terms surrounding accessibility can be intimidating to those unfamiliar with its nuances. But fear not! Understanding accessibility terms is not as daunting as it may seem. Together let’s demystify these terms and make accessibility . . . accessible to all! So, whether you’re a teacher or librarian just starting to learn about accessible eBooks or a seasoned pro, this list of accessibility terms will equip you with the knowledge needed to make a meaningful difference in your collection. Let’s get started!

When it says… What it means…
EPUB Stands for electronic publication. An EPUB is a file format used for eBooks.
Reflowable In a reflowable EPUB, the layout is customizable and can be adjusted to fit the size of the screen. Font-size and colour are also adjustable.
Fixed-Layout In a fixed-layout EPUB, the layout is not customizable. Fixed-layout format is suitable for books where layout is as important as content, such as cookbooks, picture books, and graphic novels.
WCAG 2.2 Level AA The latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). Level AA establishes a level of accessibility which should work with most assistive technology on desktop and mobile devices.
EPUB Accessibility Specification 1.1 This specification identifies the conformance requirements for verifying the accessibility of an EPUB.
Born Accessible An eBook that is accessible from day 1 and does not have to be remediated post-production to include accessibility features.
Benetech Certified Refers to a publisher or eBook production vendor who has gone through Benetech’s GCA (Global Certified Accessible) program to certify their workflow and ensure the production of born accessible eBooks.
Table of Contents This allows readers to navigate to the major sections of the book.
Reading Order This ensures that readers can navigate through content in a logical order that is consistent with the meaning of the content.
Print-equivalent page numbering This allows eBook readers to reference passages especially for academic work or to follow along with print readers and easily find what others are referencing.
Alt-text/Alternative textual descriptions Alternative text, or Alt-text, is text that is used in place of visual content (e.g., pictures, charts, graphs, etc.) for those who cannot view the non-text content.
Structural Navigation Indicates that all headings are properly marked up and allows users of assistive technology to quickly navigate through the different heading levels.
Use of Colour Ensures that colour is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element. When colours are used as the sole method for identifying screen elements, controls, or giving instructions, persons who are blind, colour blind, or have low vision may find the information unusable.
High Contrast Display Providing maximum contrast between the content and the background allows for the text to be legible for anyone with low vision or colour deficiencies.
Language Tagging The language of the eBook’s text has been specified and phrases or words in different languages have been marked up with the appropriate language codes. Both of these optimize text-to-speech functionality in eBook reading applications.
ARIA Roles ARIA stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications. ARIA roles organize and improve the structural navigation within an EPUB by identifying key sections of the content for users of assistive technology.
Accessibility Summary The accessibility summary is textual metadata within an EPUB that summarizes the book’s accessibility features, hazards, and other notable accessibility-related details.

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