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Last Modified: May 16, 2024
Graphic with the messaging, "Publisher Spotlight: University of Alberta Press’s Accessible Publishing Journey"

Introduction

In this third installment of our blog post series exploring the accessible publishing journeys of Alberta-based publishers, University of Alberta Press’s Production Editor and Digital Coordinator, Duncan Turner, shares the production challenges faced by scholarly publishers and discusses some of the Press’s latest accessible titles. 

University of Alberta Press is a contemporary, award-winning publisher of critical scholarly and literary books that engage, challenge, and provoke. The Press seeks to provide a platform for a wide range of voices that reflect the contemporary Canadian West: urban, cosmopolitan, and diverse. Currently, nearly half of the Press’s titles available as ebooks are accessible, and “as much as possible, all forthcoming titles will meet accessibility standards,” notes Turner.

Why Accessibility Matters to University of Alberta Press

Since 2021, University of Alberta Press has participated in several accessible ebook conversion projects led by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta. The projects were made possible through the Canada Book Fund’s Accessible Digital Books Initiative, a five-year investment announced in 2019 by the Department of Canadian Heritage, aimed at supporting the sustainable production and distribution of accessible digital books by Canadian independent publishers. Similar accessible book projects were conducted over the past five years by other provincial book associations. 

Turner mentions that accessible books are important because they “enable as many readers as possible to access the books published by the Press, and to ensure more equitable access to those books for readers who cannot use or otherwise struggle with a print book.”

Pursuing Certification

To further their accessible publishing capabilities, the Press achieved Benetech certification in the fall of 2023. Benetech, a US-based tech company, offers a GCA (Global Certified Accessible) program that certifies publishers’ workflow in order to create born-accessible books.

“Our supplier was not able (after a number of attempts) to produce EPUBs that met certification standards. We then changed suppliers and, working via eBOUND, were able to meet certification (with thanks for the patience of Jessica Albert, who was assessing files from the Press).”

Post-certification, the Press is working on incorporating processes to meet accessibility needs across various stages of the publishing cycle – from acquisitions, through production, and into conversion and distributions. Some key areas of attention for the Press include alt-text creation, language shift mark-up, and accessibility metadata.

Latest Accessible Titles from University of Alberta Press

One of University of Alberta Press’s forthcoming titles is All Sky, Mirror Ocean by Brad Necyk, which the publisher notes may prove challenging to convert in terms of meeting the required accessibility standards.

“This is a scholarly book, but it also includes what may be considered experimental poetry as the author uses placement on the page and punctuation in very creative ways,” says Turner.

The Press is also working on conversions for two backlist titles about northern Indigenous communities—People of the Lakes: Stories of Our Van Tat Gwich’in Elders / Googwandak Nakhwach’ànjòo Van Tat Gwich’in by Shirleen Smith and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation; and Our Whole Gwich’in Way of Life Has Changed / Gwich’in K’yuu Gwiidandài’ Tthak Ejuk Gòonlih: Stories from the People of the Land by Leslie McCartney and Gwich’in Tribal Council.

“We are working to mark language shifts with the aim of future-proofing the texts (as much as possible at this stage) so that the Indigenous languages used in the books will be pronounced properly when the time comes that the devices and software are able to do that.”

The Future

Going forward, the Press hopes to continue developing their processes and to explore professional development opportunities as available. In order to keep accessibility needs at the forefront, the Press also discusses their workflow processes every quarter. Moreover, Turner mentions, “Working with eBOUND on conversion (who perform quality assurance tests on a percentage of converted titles) allows us to meet new and changing requirements.”

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Featured Books

All Sky, Mirror Ocean: A Healing Manifesto

Brad Necyk (CA)

Published: Jan 04, 2024 by University of Alberta Press
ISBN: 9781772126778
People of the Lakes: Stories of Our Van Tat Gwich’in Elders/Googwandak Nakhwach’ànjòo Van Tat Gwich’in

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (CA), Shirleen Smith (CA)

Published: Jan 12, 2010 by University of Alberta Press
ISBN: 9780888645050
Our Whole Gwich’in Way of Life Has Changed / Gwich’in K’yuu Gwiidandài’ Tthak Ejuk Gòonlih: Stories from the People of the Land

Leslie McCartney (CA), Gwich’in Tribal Council

Published: Feb 01, 2022 by University of Alberta Press
ISBN: 9781772126297