Madrid’s Readmagine 2023
Research and development
The W3C Publishing Community Group has released the “User Experience Guide for Displaying Accessibility Metadata”, version 1.0. The document proposes a shared framework for presenting publication accessibility metadata in a user-friendly manner to end users, complementing the “EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Requirements for EPUB Publications” specification and thus providing the publishing world with an additional tool to enable and facilitate users’ search and discovery of accessible digital publications that best meet their specific accessibility needs.
Fondazione LIA actively participated in the definition of this document. Gregorio Pellegrino, LIA Chief Accessibility Officer, is a co-editor of the guide.
The objective of these guidelines is to provide online bookstores, digital libraries, and other distributors of digital content with guidance on how to display accessibility metadata to end users in non-technical language that is understandable to non-experts, thereby enabling them to make informed decisions before purchasing or borrowing a digital publication.
As of 2025, in addition to metadata describing bibliographic information such as author, publication title, year of publication, publisher, to be in line with the new European Directive on accessibility requirements for products and services (European Accessibility Act), a digital publication will also have to include metadata describing its accessibility features. The metadata can be inserted by publishers directly into a digital publication or created in an external file that is then sent along the distribution chain, and can be made visible on the page of the website from which the publications can be purchased, so that users can consult them and assess how suitable that publication is for them and their needs.
For users of assistive technology, it is indeed essential to have detailed information about the accessibility of a publication and to be able to answer questions such as: is it compatible with screen readers? Is it possible to navigate its contents? Do the indexes have links to the different sections in which the text is structured? Are there references to the page numbers of the printed publication? Do images have alternative texts that allow the user to know what the content of graphs, tables and other important images is?
Displaying accessibility metadata in a clear, simple and readable form allows the user to answer these and many other questions.
If the “EPUB Accessibility Conformance and Discoverability Specification” defines the required accessibility metadata that must be included in conforming publications, this new document, which includes two parts, “Principles” and “Techniques”, will be of enormous help for the publishing industry to allow publishers that produce Born Accessible books and publications to have the accessibility of their publications exposed to the marketplace.
Gregorio Pellegrino, co-editor, has commented:
“[…] it becomes more and more strategic to show the accessibility metadata: the risk is that each platform displays the information in a different way. These documents are meant to be a starting point to offer the end user the information in a user-friendly and consistent way across different vendors.”
According to Charles La Pierre, co-editor, the release of this guide marks an important milestone in how certified accessible books can be found and will make natively accessible publications, which are expected to become more numerous in the coming years, more visible and easier to find.
All LIA-certified publishers receive, in addition to the accessibility certification, accessibility metadata created in the two publishing industry standard formats: EPUB Accessibility Metadata (Schema.org) and ONIX for Books. In the LIA catalogue, each ebook record includes a section about its accessibility characteristics.
These metadata are automatically and algorithmically generated by the VCC system, a technological platform designed and implemented by LIA to manage the flow of files coming from the Italian publishers, to verify, control and certify the accessibility of these files and to create the metadata in the two standard formats according to the LIA business rule, a high level of granularity and configurability according to the models.
Thanks to the VCC, Fondazione LIA can automatically manage the overall flow of accessibility metadata for EPUB3 files.
The VCC is configured as a Saas (Software as a Service) platform and can therefore also be used by other interested parties.