The internet should be accessible and inclusive of all who use it but it’s not there yet. By accessibility we mean that it is the design of technology, including products, devices, services, and environments that includes as many groups of people as possible.
There is a lot of information out there about best practices, guidelines, and technical specifications to get “compliant” but what do some of those terms really mean?
The big one that is not always easy to understand is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Because there is not currently any specific legislation in place in the United States overseeing the digital realm except for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark civil rights law requiring equal rights and access for people with disabilities, which was written decades ago, the WCAG is currently the last word for internet accessibility compliance guidelines.
These guidelines are a set of suggested standards created by W3C, which is The World Wide Web Consortium, an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web.
The W3C standards help guide organizations in developing accessible content. They are currently used to create better sites and applications that are accessible by persons of different abilities, and to help organization achieve and maintain compliance with laws designed to prevent discrimination.
The world wide web was originally created to provide access to a “universe of documents.” It has grown to include many other things and various media but documents and, by extension, publications, have remained central to the Web.
Right now many publishers are using EPUB to bring digital content to their readers. EPUB is an e-book file format that uses the “.epub” file extension. The term is short for electronic publication. EPUB is supported by many e-readers, and compatible software is available for most smartphones, tablets, and computers.
Another standard that is important in digital publishing is DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem). It is a technical standard for digital audiobooks, periodicals and computerized text. DAISY is designed to be a complete audio substitute for print material and is specifically designed for use by people with “print disabilities”, including blindness, impaired vision, and dyslexia.
The DAISY format is based on MP3 and XML formats, and has advanced features in addition to those of a traditional audiobook. Users can search, place bookmarks, precisely navigate line by line, and regulate the speaking speed without distortion. DAISY also provides aurally accessible tables, references and additional information. DAISY allows visually impaired listeners to navigate something as complex as an encyclopedia or textbook, which would otherwise be impossible using conventional audio recordings.