5 tips for ePub accessibility

Closeup of iBooks app on iPad.I was scheduled to present at a workshop on ePub at ISTe 2011 along with a group of fellow Apple Distinguished Educators, but since I was not able to go to the conference this year, I decided to create this ebook to be distributed to the participants instead.  The ebook is in ePub format and can only be read on the iPad or another IOS device, or by using a desktop reader application such as Adobe Digital Editions or Calibre.  It is an enhanced ebook that includes a few embedded video tutorials. This means it is on the large size, so please be patient with the download time on your device.

This was my first time using Apple’s template for ePub creation with Pages, and I must say that it made it pretty easy to create the ePub. In the past, I created the ePub documents from scratch using my own styles for headings. The Apple template, which can be downloaded here, saved me some time and the resulting ePub document looks great.

To summarize the key points of the ebook:

If you are implementing new technologies at a college or university, you really should read the Department of Education’s Dear Colleague letter to college and university presidents regarding ereader devices, along with their follow up guide.  The follow up guide clarifies the following:

  • it is not just ereader devices that are covered by laws such as the ADA and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, but any emerging technology. The new guide clarifies that online programs are also covered.
  • it is not just students with visual disabilities that are protected, but any student who has a specific learning disability or who otherwise has difficulty getting information from text sources (students with print disabilities).
  • the laws apply to elementary and secondary schools as well.
To make ePub documents more accessible, I presented the following 5 tips which are explained in more detail in the ebook:
  • use headings to split up long documents and provide structure and additional navigation in iBooks. The headings will be used to display a table of contents for navigating long ebooks.
  • provide captions or alternative text for images. At the very least provide a text caption underneath each image or video. This text should provide a concise description of the image’s content for those who use the VoiceOver screen reader.
  • provide a link to a captioned version of each video if you are creating an enhanced ebook that includes multimedia. iBooks does not currently read the captions when the video is embedded into the ebook. For this reason, you will need to link to a captioned version that can be accessed through the Mobile Safari web browser.
  • emphasize cognitive interactivity rather than just interface interactivity. Cognitive interactivity can be emphasized by asking questions and asking students to reflect on what they have read using the Notes feature of iBooks.
  • keep up with the ePub standard and become familiar with the new features available in ePub 3, such as media overlays.
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2 thoughts on “5 tips for ePub accessibility”

  1. I would like a copy of the ePub document you created. Is that possible? I can tell you more about me and why I would like to read it if you wish.

    1. You can download my ebooks for free by visiting http://www.mbl4sn.com (Mobile Learning 4 Special Needs) and selecting the ebooks section. I am working on uploading PDF versions that will be available through Scribd for reading online.

      Thanks for your comment.

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