Accessibility and ebooks - strategies for ensuring it is done well

This topic is for discussion of “Accessibility and ebooks - strategies for ensuring it is done well.” To go back to this session in Sched, click here.

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Here are some links from today: @accessible.ebooks | Linktree


thanks @marisademeglio!
If you attended this session (or even if you didn’t) please also remember to let us know if you’re interested in workshopping any of the ideas we discussed (Thorium, accessible PDFs, accessibility of content in databases like EBSCO and ProQuest)

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Looking forward to listening to this session. Was there any discussion about the known accessibility issues with the popular pdf.js from Mozilla used by Firefox and many websites? (including a website I help run – eep!)

Hi allainna, we did not talk a lot about PDF during the session. DAISY and EDRLab both recommend the use of EPUB, for its native accessibility potential.
However, Thorium Reader now integrates pdf.js to offer PDF support in the reading app. This is mostly for allowing library e-lending of EPUB + PDF ebooks. We didn’t to fully test the accessibility of pdf.js vs screen reader, but the first tests are not bad.
The real issue on PDF side seems to be more about the difficulty to obtain a property accessible PDF file.

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Hi Alainna! Also just to note - one of the things we hope to get from NISO Plus is some sense from the community about projects you think we should prioritize. Accessible PDFs was an idea that came out of this session (as well as working with Thorium and looking at accessible content in content databases) so, if there’s enough interest from participants, we will do some more brainstorming on this in the next couple of months.

Guide to evaluating pdf.js has some light information about the issue, though it doesn’t go deep into it. Our team’s experience has been that, even following the recommendations on accessible PDFs by our parent institution to make OER PDFs which were deemed reasonably accessible using a screenreader in Acrobat and Chrome, we were unable to make PDFs which were accessible in browsers/sites using PDF.js.

I’d prefer EPUB over PDF for the same accessibility potential; however, we’re an institutional open access repository/publishing platform which mostly hosts articles, reports, and chapters, rather than books and OERs, so books/OERs aren’t as well supported at present. :grimacing:


As a library we also host a variety of formats. Many of which are PDFs. Some anecdotal evidence from our users is that some people prefer to use PDFs. Especially for materials that are in house created. The Word to Epub plug in is amazing and I love the accessibility of EPUB in general. But for some users the lack of white space in EPUB makes it harder to read. So we are thinking that providing a minimally accessible PDF alongside an EPUB would be the best option for our users. Time will tell. And with our limited resources we are remediating/reformatting PDFs on a case by case basis. I look forward to the day when all the new materials we get are born accessible

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Hello! Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s very informative for me as a software developer.

But for some users the lack of white space in EPUB makes it harder to read.

I wonder what kind of white space users are expressing a preference for? EPUB readers can offer a great deal of control over the visual presentation, for example if you look at the settings in Thorium reader, you can change many different aspects of spacing (line, letter, word, margin).

Thanks for responding. Perhaps it’s more a matter of needing instruction in how to use the reader software :slight_smile:

I’ll use me as an example because I have a very hard time reading the homemade epubs. For me when I open an epub it just looks like a long page of text. There’s no real obvious delineation between paragraphs. Everything is left justified so there no indents to make it obvious you’re moving to the next paragraph. And in the settings I can increase the space between lines and margins etc. but those changes are for all and there is the same space between lines within a paragraph as there is between a heading and the next line of test or between the last line in a paragraph and the first line in the next paragraph. So to me it ends up looking almost like a solid page of text with no visible structure. I know there’s structure there and it’s the important structure that allows screen readers to navigate. It’s just that I am a very visual learner and so a big block of text is very intimidating to me and makes it harder to focus.

If there is a way to tell Thorium to say make the next heading 1 go to the next page, or put more white space between paragraphs or between headings and regular text or something like that, please share. I have been using the read out loud functionality as that helps, but sometimes I find myself drifting off and not listening uggg. That just goes back to my understanding written text better than auditory.

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There’s no real obvious delineation between paragraphs.
If there is a way to tell Thorium to say make the next heading 1 go to the next page

Formatting in EPUB should be done using pure HTML and CSS. CSS is the perfect technology for authoring a padding before the first line of a paragraph or between a heading and a paragraph.
It is true that is for badly authored EPUBs, Thorium could allow creating paddings where missing. Foo for thoughts …