Italy’s Fondazione LIA: ‘APACE’ for the EU Accessibility Act

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Partners in Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Finland, Lithuania, and the Netherlands are engaged in Europe’s ‘APACE’ led by Fondazione LIA.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Flavio Vallenari

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

APACE: ‘Accelerating Publishing Accessibility’ in Europe
As many of our international readers know, the “European Accessibility Act,” as it’s called, will apply to new products and services on the market beginning on June 28, 2025.

As EU explanatory material for the initiative specifies, the  legislation requires accessibility in “products and services that have been identified as being most important for persons with disabilities while being most likely to have diverging accessibility requirements across EU countries.” The list of products and services this covers comprises:

  • Computers and operating systems
  • ATMs, ticketing and check-in machines
  • Smartphones
  • Television equipment related to digital television services
  • Telephony services and related equipment
  • Access to audio-visual media services such as television broadcast and related consumer equipment
  • Services related to air, bus, rail and waterborne passenger transport
  • Banking services
  • Ebooks
  • E-commerce

This year, the Milan-based Fondazione Lia has begun rolling out its coordination of a new networked project with three publisher associations and three organizations that work in accessibility are the driving six entities of “APACE,” an acronym for Accelerating Publishing Accessibility Through Collaboration in Europe:

In the next two years, the goal of the APACE initiative is to “improve the reading opportunities—and thus the social inclusion—of more than 100 million people with visual impairments and print disability in Europe.”

Fondazione LIA, which has led the development of APACE, was established in 2014 by AIE, the Italian Publishers Association that’s leading the 2024 Guest of Honor Italy program at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20).

LIA ‘s secretary-general, Cristina Mussinelli, in comments made public in an earlier report about the program by Alessandra Rotondo for Giornale della Libreria, points out that the nonprofit foundation’s work in expanding the available pool of accessible books in Italy throughout its digital publishing system means that LIA works “in collaboration with entities that guarantee access to publications for people with disabilities, starting with the Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired (UICI), which has been an institutional member of the foundation since 2017, and with the support of the ministry of culture.”

Fondazione LIA, in creating and coordinating the EU-funded APACE project, is expanding the approaches and techniques it has developed in Italy with the wider European bloc, timed to coincide with the needs for bloc-wide response as the Accessibility Act comes in.

In these beginning months, APACE is focused on “gathering facts and figures on the current level of adoption of accessibility practices in Europe,” according to Fondazione LIA’s project coordinator, Elisa Molinari, “with particular regard to ‘born accessible’ models, which integrate accessibility into the production and distribution processes of digital books; thus identifying the specific skills and knowledge needed at each stage of publishing work to achieve the goal of accessibility.”

A survey is being used to get a higher view of where things are in various EU member-states’ levels of preparation to fulfill the requirements of the new act for accessibility in regard to book publishing. The results of that survey—and what those results indicate needs to be done—will of course be of interest to the news media in covering how well positioned Europe is for the implementation of the act and where the biggest challenges seem to lie.

It’s anticipated, LIA’s leadership indicates, that some of the supportive measures needed will involve:

  • Capacity-building
  • A European “summer school” program on accessibility
  • “Ask the expert” sessions at meetings
  • Events presenting best practices
  • Pilot projects in the production and distribution of accessible ebooks

Guidelines, white papers, and other materials generated will be offered through the APACE program, which is being developed, partly with input by people with disabilities.

“The involvement of publishers and people with disabilities from the initial design phase in the different activities,” Molinari told Rotondo, allows the project “to share, experiment and co-design solutions, taking into account the needs of content producers and readers at the same time.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on trends and issues involving accessibility and world book publishing is here, more on the Italian market is here, and more on issues and publishing in Europe 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.