Bologna Discussion: Accessibility in Illustrated eBooks, or, America Take Note
NOTE: Just to give you a sense of how the next few days will play out, I’m going to divide my Bologna posts into the following sections: Discussions, Presentations, Exhibits, and Misc.
For today’s post, I was also considering the alternative title: “Stuff I’ve Never Heard American Publishers Discuss Publicly.”
So this was the first discussion I attended at the Bologna Books Fair and its title in particular caught my attention: Accessible Illustrated Books and Where to Find Them. Hosted by Gregorio Pellegrino the Chief Accessibility Officer at Fondazione LIA and featuring two other panelists, the panel was discussing how to make ebooks accessible to all readers.
To begin, take a look at this image.
Look at how it’s structured. This image is apparently very popular in Europe. In essence, it shows how any person, anywhere, can at some point have accessibility issues at some point in their lifetime (though the Viking image still kinda throws me). Today’s program, then, was addressing sight, hearing, mobility, intellect, and learning disabilities and how publishers and others can work to make their ebooks as accessible as possible.
Because this talk was held in Italy, the gist of it focused on how companies in Europe (specifically Italy) have been working to make their children’s books more accessible in digital formats. Here in America I have, admittedly, never heard anyone discuss this issue. Why is Europe so ahead of the game? It may have something to do with the fact that in Europe they passed something called the European Accessibility Act was passed. Put simply, it requires publishers to create accessible versions of their ebooks.
Sounds great, right? Well, there are some pretty big problems with doing this. First and foremost, making a book accessible to all is an expensive prospect. That’s why publishers need the help of Aldus Up, an Italian non-profit hoping to make digital content accessible to everyone. Their job is to assess ebooks for accessibility. They also work with publishers to help make their platforms more accessible. They’re also part of different international organizations and working groups that establish standards for accessibility. This talk at the fair discussed the newest standards on how to make complex books accessible.
So. What is the best way to make a book for kids, one that is potentially filled with loads of sidebars, illustrations, and even sections with significant colors, accessible? Well, to be perfectly frank, the most cost effective way to handle it is for the publisher to make the publication accessible from the very beginning of production. This means also designing the layout of the paper book to take into account how the title will translate to an accessible digital version.
One of the key points I took away from all of this (aside from wondering whether there are American groups are doing the kind of work that Fondazione Libri Italiani Accessibili is doing, over on our side of the ocean) is that as we settle more and more into the digital book world, this can only be a big topic in the future.
In Italy, a publisher might approach Fondazione LIA and ask for help on how to make an accessible digital version of their book. Here’s a good example. It’s a title that was about inclusion in the first place. Interestingly, the word “dyslexia” was never specifically named. Instead LIA mentioned changes made to colors to make the book more accessible, so I read between the lines and figured that was what they were saying.
Interested in learning more? At this time there is a monthly newsletter in English that folks can subscribe to, discussing these issues. They even had a form that we could fill out at the talk.
The catch? It was entirely physical. No e-version. So it goes, folks.
Filed under: Bologna Children's Book Fair
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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