Accessibility in Books: Australia’s New Publishing Guide

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The Institute of Professional Editors in Australia has produced an end-to-end guide on accessible book publishing two years in the making.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Serhii Hryshchyshen

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

See also: Australian Publishers Association: A First Industry Diversity Study

Toward ‘More Inclusive Publishing Practices’
You may recall that last year, Australia’s Institute of Professional Editors (IPED) made a point of firmly backing up the Australian Publishers Association as it released its first major effort in analyzing the diversity and inclusion of its industry’s workforce. Our story on that, from November, is here.

Today (June 8), we learn that the Institute of Professional Editors is releasing a 200-page guide designed to assist publishers and editors everywhere to create accessible books.

Books Without Barriers: A Practical Guide to Inclusive Publishing may throw some industry players who’ve seen the word “inclusive” used in relation to workforce and content diversity.

In this case, however, “inclusive” refers to accessibility issues such as those embraced by the WIPO-based Marrakesh Treaty, Benetech’s accreditation, the work of Fondazione LIA, and other initiatives designed to make publishing’s work accessible to those who are in some way visually disabled or otherwise challenged in traditional modes of reading.

Publishing Perspectives understands that the new guide, released in-country at the end of April, has taken two years to prepare and was developed “to provide a comprehensive resource for accessible books that covers the whole book-publishing process,” emphasis theirs.

Ganner: ‘Originally Envisaged as a Short Guide’

Julie Ganner chairs the organization’s Accessibility Initiative Working Party and says that it’s that end-t0-end element that makes Books Without Barriers unique, covering accessibility requirements for both digital and physical formats.

Julie Ganner

Ganner says, “The Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative’s 2019 publication, Inclusive Publishing in Australia: An Introductory Guide, made the legal, social, and business case for creating accessible books.

“However, we couldn’t find a single resource for the book publishing industry that described how to actually do so, [covering]  the whole book-publishing process.

“Therefore, we decided to create our own resource,” she says, “one that continues the aims of the Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative. And before we knew it, what we’d originally envisaged as a short guide had become a 200-page book.”

Ganner’s position is interesting not least because she and the organization see a editors playing a key role in developing reading materials that are, as is said in Benetech’s circles “born accessible” from inception.

“We hope that the advice provided in the guide,” she says, “will help transform the way editors think about editing and support them in the transition to more inclusive publishing practices.”

Currently, you can download a PDF here of the new guide now (a PDF for screen and another for print are offered, as is an accessible Word document). Sydney University Press reportedly has agreed to fund an EPUB conversion, NextSense is working on a braille transcription, and an accessible PDF is expected to be available soon.

The book has many illustrations. Books Without Barriers was created by Ganner, Agata Mrva-Montoya, Maryanne Park, and Kayt Duncan, and co-published by the Institute of Professional Editors and the Australian Publishers Association, with support from the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.

In four parts, the book “outlines the barriers to reading that people with print disabilities may experience if their needs are not supported,” and it “describes how to avoid creating these barriers at each stage of the publishing process.”

Image: From ‘Books Without Barriers’

More on the Australian market is here, and more on accessibility in publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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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.