It should not come as a surprise that much of what is produced for consumption via the web is actually not consumable for all. Studies and reports vary in terms of an actual percentage but it is believed that between 5-20% of the population are unable to consume web content. Web content, simply defined, refers to anything that you can read, see or hear on the internet.

"between 5-20% of the population are unable to consume web content"

Disabilities that prevent an end user from being able to effectively make use of the web include blindness, low vision, colour blindness, deafness, or motor and cognitive impairments (the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired).

Web surfing with an impairment usually includes the use of an assistive device, such as a screen reader, which helps present the information in a digestible format. When web content is not organized in a matter that can be interpreted by an assistive device it is of no use to someone with a disability.

Not only is it socially responsible and economically beneficial to ensure that web content is accessible for the entire audience but in some circumstances it is required by law.

Ontario Regulation 191/11 Integrated Accessibility Standards

"government, public sector and large organizations must conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines"

The Province of Ontario, under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, mandates that websites and web content for government, public sector and large organizations must conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines within the next couple of years.

Other provinces such as British Columbia have followed suite and have created laws which define how to conform to web accessibility.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

In the United States the rules of information and communication technology for a federal agency are outlined in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act. In January of 2017 a final rule was established which updated guidelines for both Acts. The recent guideline refresh harmonized both Acts with other recognized guidelines for web content such as WCAG 2.0.

What is WCAG 2.0?

WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 is a set of guidelines created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). W3C is an international community that is responsible for developing guidelines to ensure the continued progression of the web. WCAG 2.0 consists of recommendations that make the web more accessible for users with impairments such as those mentioned above.

The recommendations in WCAG 2.0 include, but are not limited to;

·         making it easier to see and hear content

·         making all functionality available via keyboard

·         provide methods for users to navigate, find content, and determine where they are

·         maximize compatibility with assistive devices such as screen readers

Within WCAG 2.0 there are 3 levels of conformance which are defined as Level A, Level AA, Level AAA. Each level varies by the amount of success criteria or checkpoints within that level with Level A being the minimum level of conformance and Level AAA being the maximum.

How does this affect digital edition technology?

It is our goal to help publishers build strong audience relationships by delivering their digital content to readers worldwide – including those with disabilities. As a result the HTML5 web viewer has been certified as compliant with WCAG 2.0 Level AA success criteria as well as all web requirements of Federal Section 508 Section 1194.22 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1998.

"HTML5 web viewer has been certified as compliant with WCAG 2.0 Level AA"

To achieve this certification the HTML5 web viewer has been responsibly developed to meet certain standards of accessible design. The certification was approved by a third party agency (WebAIM) using system default color schemes, rollover elements, and text articles.

One Step Further

Our digital edition solution delivers an unmatched web experience for users with impairments. However, we recognized that not all experiences can occur in a web-based environment. Sometimes, by preference, personality or policy, it is necessary to physically distribute content (ie. flash drive) or to make content downloadable for localized storage. With that in mind we are now able to provide accessible PDF’s that conform to WCAG 2.0 and PDF/UA standards.

What is an Accessible PDF?

An Accessible PDF is an adapted form of PDF which allows readers with impairments to consume the textual and graphical content using their assistive technology. Without PDF reformatting the assistive device may interpret information out of order, without any image description, or in a manner that makes little sense to the reader.

Much like a digital edition, an Accessible PDF retains the layout of the original PDF but also includes an invisible set of instructions which help the assistive device organize the content within.

What is PDF/UA?

We’ve already outlined WCAG 2.0 and what it entails in terms of web accessibility. PDF/UA is an iso standard developed solely for Portable Document Format. The acronym ‘UA’ references Universal Accessibility. The standard was developed by an international committee and in order for a PDF file to receive PDF/UA certification it must adhere to a stringent protocol.

What does this mean for our clients?

To begin, it means that our clients are able to bundle an accessible digital edition and an accessible PDF that meet guidelines or standards that accommodate a greater portion of the population – from a single source. It also ensures that our clients are providing options that abide by current or forthcoming legislation.