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InDesign new release: a visible and a hidden new feature in accessible EPUB export

Research and development

In the recent update to version 19.2 (February 2024) of InDesign, new features were introduced in the export of accessible EPUBs, thanks to the joint work of Fondazione LIA, ABC Consortium and DAISY Consortium, which, through the Better EPUB from InDesign working group, are gathering insights to provide to Adobe in order to improve the software for creating “born accessible” EPUBs directly from InDesign. These enhancements are just the beginning of a path that aims to make digital publications increasingly accessible, without the need for manual intervention in the code of exported files.

Gregorio Pellegrino, LIA’s Chief Accessibility Officer and Co-chair of the working group, explains below what are the two important new features implemented in the latest release.

Accessibility metadata for EPUB

The most relevant new feature is the presence of a new “Accessibility” panel within the InDesign export mask, under the “Metadata” tab. This panel allows content producers to directly enter the publication’s accessibility metadata. This is a significant step forward, considering that accessibility metadata is a key requirement of the EPUB Accessibility Guidelines.

Screenshot of the panel "Accessibility" in InDesign

However, it is important to note that this panel is not pre-filled and requires a thorough understanding of the accessibility characteristics of the files that must be described by the accessibility metadata to ensure the accuracy of the information entered. In this sense, as Fondazione LIA, in our Quality Assurance activities of ebooks, which we increasingly carry out also at the international level, we often face situations where the accessibility metadata do not reflect the reality of the content. So we need to be careful not to provide users with incorrect information about ebook accessibility.

Document language indication

Another small, but significant, change concerns the indication of the document language in EPUBs exported from InDesign. With the version 18.5, the exported EPUB has the lang attribute within the html tag in many file XHTML.

Now, in version 19.2, all XHTML files contained in the EPUB correctly include the main language attribute within the html tag, so a manual correction is no longer necessary.

Example of html code extract where the language tag is inserted into the html tag

The Package Document (OPF file) also correctly reports the language for the metadata. This seemingly minimal update actually results in significant time savings by eliminating the need to manually open and edit each HTML file to correct the language indication.

Upcoming developments

Our collaborative work with Adobe does not stop here. New developments are underway that will be implemented in upcoming InDesign releases, aimed at further improvements in EPUB accessibility. To stay up-to-date on these new developments, please subscribe to our newsletter and follow our communication channels.