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Adobe InDesign. At which stage is the accessibility for EPUB production?


Adobe InDesign, the world’s most widely used layout designing software, does not currently fully support the native production of accessible contents in EPUB, the best format for accessibility requirements. This software does not, in fact, contain the necessary tools for autonomous production of digital publications in a born-accessible mindset, which is going to be increasingly important with the upcoming application of the European Accessibility Act in 2025. So, the job of publishers and content creators is made more difficult.

Fondazione LIA together with other experts and international organizations have already got in touch with Adobe some years ago, with the aim of requesting to adapt the software so that users can create accessible content in the software, without any further processing with other tools, as it is already the case for the PDF format.

We interviewed Gregorio Pellegrino, Chief Accessibility Officer of Fondazione LIA, who has been appointed Co-chair of the Better EPUB from InDesign Working Group created by the Daisy Consortium. Starting from the needs and requests of publishers and content producers, this working group brings together international experts with the aim of providing Adobe with all the information on the necessary changes and updates to improve the software toward the accessibility mindset.

The interview

Portrait of Gregorio Pellegrino

Why was this working group created? Why is it so important to work with Adobe?

It all started with a request signed by a series of international organizations – including IPA (International Publishers Association), WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and World Blind Union – to the CEO of Adobe, asking for the commitment to work to enhance InDesign’s capabilities for producing accessible digital publications.

Adobe InDesign is the most widely used professional layout software for the production of paginated materials and digital publications. The technical staff of publishing houses needs to produce accessible digital publications, in the simplest possible way. It is therefore essential to interface directly with Adobe to push them to improve the software in terms of accessibility.


Who else is in the working group?

Adobe replied to our request with a proposal to create a task force to address the issue made up of their own staff and international experts in producing accessible digital publications. A working group was therefore set up, of which I was appointed Co-chair, recognizing the specific experience of Fondazione LIA in this area. The group is made up of around ten professionals from the world of accessible digital publishing from Europe, North America and Africa. These professionals are complementary: going from freelancers who produce accessible EPUBs for publishers to InDesign script developers, from InDesign teachers for accessibility to professionals of companies specializing in accessible publishing, there are also representatives of the largest global publishers.


What are you working on?

Within this diverse group, I have created a mapping of all that is required to produce accessible digital publications and which of these requirements currently cannot be met using only InDesign. This mapping has been shared with the group and we have currently identified 33 features that are not present. For each of these requests we have included all the references to the technical specifications relating to accessible formats and we are working on a detailed explanation, accompanied by some example files to show programmatically what we expect the software to do.


What do you hope to achieve from this work?

Our final goal is for Adobe to accept all our requests, so that a publisher can create accessible ebooks in EPUB format in InDesign, without using any other additional software.

We can improve the accessibility tools in InDesign, so creating accessible digital publications will be easier. Furthermore, anyone who uses InDesign will make more accessible contents for everyone, even without expressly taking accessibility into account.


What are your results so far?

In an initial phase, we presented and discussed with Adobe the needs that emerged from our work but, up to now, the results obtained have not been satisfactory. In agreement with FEP and WIPO, we have reiterated our requests: Adobe has appointed a new manager of this project and it has begun to define a roadmap that will lead to concrete results.

We are working with the new appointed person to define a shared list of actions to be taken, evaluating which have the greatest impact for content producers and which can produce greater benefits for end users. The aim is to have a clear and shared mapping of priorities. The first results should be seen in the next releases released in 2023.