Italian Publishers Explore Accessible Publishing for University Students

In News by Porter Anderson

Amid a jump in university students needing accessible learning aids, Italy’s publishers are collaborating in a special conference.

At Sapienza University of Rome, the site of the June 20 conference on accessible reading and college students in Italy. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Peter Spiro

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Questioning University Study Materials’ Accessibility
In a sobering assessment, it’s being reported today (June 15) that Italy’s university student population has seen a sharp growth in specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia and more general disabilities that can affect learning, such as visual impairments and full blindness.

Today the number of Italy’s college-level students struggling with such issues has surpassed 40,000, and the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) notes that this rise in accessibility issues is coupled with a decline in enrollments–in the academic year 2019-2020, 36,800, based on data from the ANVUR (National Agency for the Evaluation of the University System and Research).

In practice today, the AIE reports, 2 percent of university students have a disability or specific learning disability—twice the percentage of 10 years ago. In responding to the situation, 76 percent of universities report that on request they provide such students with teaching materials in an accessible format; 71 percent say they offer tutoring activities; and 55 percent report offering lessons with sign language.

The Italian publishing community, concerned about the direction this situation has gone—and of course about what can be done to create and provide accessible reading tools and products to assist—is collaborating in the presentation of a special conference on Monday (June 20) with Fondazione LIA, Italy’s leading accessibility-in-reading program, with which Publishing Perspectives readers are familiar.

The conference Inside All: Inclusive Publishing and the University, set at the Sapienza University of Rome on the Via del Volsci (122). There should be a live stream available, as well, here. At issue: the accessibility of university textbooks and study materials.

The topic will be addressed starting from the legal context provided by the WIPO-led Marrakesh Treaty, with which our readers are very familiar. Also under discussion will be the European Accessibility Act, which has introduced obligations for publishers and universities, making accessibility an element of the design of ebooks and digital services.

Ricardo Franco Levi

AIE president Ricardo Franco Levi says, “The choice to collaborate in organizing this conference is a confirmation of AIE’s long-term commitment in the field of editorial accessibility, which in 2014 led to the establishment of the LIA Foundation.

“This also is evidence of our willingness to work with the other actors involved to find solutions shared to encourage the inclusion of all students.”

Mario Barbuto, who leads Fondazione LIA, says, “The evolution of technological and regulatory factors now offer new opportunities for accessibility in the reading of books and other publications.

“As president of the LIA Foundation, which has an internationally recognized role in this area, I’m sure that from the comparison of experiences, new stimuli and ideas can come that will put Italy at the forefront” of university-based exploration of these problems and solutions.

We have the complete program for you below.

The Agenda for the Day

All times are CEST, Central European Summer Time (GMT + 2 hours)

9 a.m.:  Opening session

  • Gianfranco Crupi, contact person for students with disabilities and DSA faculty of humanities, Sapienza University of Rome
  • Antonella Polimeni, rector of Sapienza University of Rome
  • Giuseppe Recinto, head of the Cabinet Ministry of University and Research
  • Caterina Lombardo, delegate of the rector for students with disabilities and DSA Sapienza University of Rome
  • Arianna Punzim, dean of the faculty of humanities, Sapienza University of Rome
  • Paola Buzi, director of DigiLab, Sapienza University of Rome

10:00 a.m.: The Context
Access to reading for all: A social context and a publishing world in great evolution

  • Mario Barbuto, president of the Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired and the LIA Foundation

The standards: International, European, national

  • Beatrice Cunegatti, IT Law Firm

11 a.m.: Coffee break

Technologies: The opportunities opening up

  • Gregorio Pellegrino: CTO with the LIA Foundation

The needs

  • Giampiero Griffo, coordinator of the National Observatory on the Condition of Persons with Disabilities

The supply

  • Maurizio Messina, president of the Academic Professional Group IEA

1 p.m.: Lunch break

2 p.m.: The Commitments

The commitment of publishers and service producers

  • Cristina Mussinelli: secretary-general of the LIA Foundation

Experiences in publishing houses

  • Andrea Angiolini, editorial director, and Paolo Casarini, IT director, with Il Mulino
  • Roberto Devalle, general manager, and Marta Fornasero, with the University Publishing Editor Deascuola

University engagement

  • Antono Felice Uricchio, president of ANVUR (National Agency for the Evaluation of the University System and Research)
  • Alberto Arenghi, president of CNUDD

Experiences in the universities

  • Umberto Gentiloni, president of SUE (Sapienza Università Editrice)
  • Dimitri D’Andrea, president of FUP (Florence University Press)
  • Claudia Napolitano, Italian University Press Coordination
  • Anna Capietto, Polin Laboratory University of Torino


  • Gianfranco Crupi, Sapienza University of Rome
  • Andrea Angiolini, Il Mulino
  • Piero Attanasio, Associazione Italiana Editori

More from Publishing Perspectives on Italy and its book publishing industry is here. More on Ricardo Franco Levi is here, more on industry statistics is here, more on accessibility in publishing is here, and more on the Association of Italian Publishers is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on world publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.