Frequently Asked Questions

What is Global Certified Accessible (GCA) certification?

Benetech’s GCA certification is the first-ever US independent third-party with a digital accessibility global certification program. Our goal is to help publishers build born accessible content that meets the needs of all readers. Learn more about certification.

What does Benetech’s Global Certificated Accessible (GCA) program involve?

The program helps publishers adjust their workflows to ensure that content they produce is accessible from the start. Learn more about certification.

What standards and guidelines does GCA follow?

Benetech’s GCA program follows:

  • EPUB Accessibility 1.1 specification (the “Baseline”)
  • World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 AA
  • Accessibility metadata to promote conformance and discoverability of certified accessible publications

Benetech was both a contributor and editor in the creation of EPUB Accessibility 1.0 and 1.1 and continues to work on new specification releases. Benetech also participated in conceptualizing how accessibility metadata should be displayed for libraries and bookstores. Today, we continue to contribute to a number of EPUB accessibility best practice documents and sit on committees to help move accessibility forward.

The GCA process also reviews extended image descriptions and MathML using industry best practice guidelines to ensure conformance. There are currently no published specifications on extended image descriptions or math descriptions. Benetech is working to influence how images and math can both be made accessible.

Why do publishers need to create accessible content?

Two reasons are high market demand and increasing legal requirements. Readers with print disabilities represent a significant market share and need accessible books. K-12 and higher education institutions are also demanding that publishers submit independent third-party certification to ensure content is accessible before purchasing textbooks.

Are there additional benefits to publishing accessible content?

A certified accessible eBook is an eBook all readers can use. Benefits to publishers include:

  • Increased market share. Creating accessible content allows publishers to tap into a significant portion of the population who are underserved by the existing eBook market.
  • Improved discoverability. Because accessible books contain more title metadata, they can be found on search engines and retailers much easier, creating more sales opportunities.
  • Decreased remediation costs. Creating born accessible content allows publishers to avoid costly title by title remediation.

Should trade publishers be certified?

All publishers should be certified, regardless of whether they serve the education market. Accessible files benefit all readers, not just those with print disabilities. Many modern amenities were created for accessible purposes, such as curb cuts and closed captioning, but all people benefit from their implementation. Accessible book benefits can include resizable text, use of text-to-speech, or quicker navigation thanks to extra tagging included so blind and low-vision readers can easily make their way through an eBook.

Can digital content service providers participate in GCA certification?

Digital content vendors are encourages to support publishers by going through their own GCA certification and is a critical component of the program. Learn more about certification and view our current certified vendor partners.

Can Benetech help publishers and vendors outside the US?

Absolutely! We work with companies all over the world. If you’re based in Europe, becoming certified accessible could help you reach requirements put forth by the European Accessibility Act. European content creators have until June 2025 to reach compliance. You can learn more about the EAA on the European Commission website and the Inclusion Europe website.

Can a publisher make their accessible books available to readers through Benetech? 

Yes, publishers can list their certified accessible titles on Benetech’s retail site, hosted by VitalSource. Readers with print disabilities and those who would benefit from accessible books, such as struggling readers or  English language learners, can purchase books from Benetech’s Accessible eBook store. Visit the Benetech bookstore.

We also encourage publishers to donate titles to Bookshare, Benetech’s online digital library for accessible titles. Library users include colleges, universities, K-12 schools, libraries, individual students, and individual non-student readers. While GCA focuses on accessible EPUB files, Bookshare produces 5 accessible formats of donated eBooks for readers, including audio, large font, and braille. Learn more about Bookshare.

Why have educational institutions begun to demand accessible titles from publishers?

Liabilities institutions face for inaccessible content has been one driving factor. For reference, a list of recent challenges to higher education institutions can be found in this summary: “Higher Ed Accessibility Lawsuits, Complaints, and Settlements.In January 2018, we also saw the first update to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in over twenty years and details the accessibility standards federal agencies must follow. It’s become a blueprint for accessibility that many institutions are choosing to adopt.

How will educational institution procurement offices know what titles have been certified?

As part of the certification process, publishers provide accessibility metadata detailing their certification credentials and a title’s accessible features, including how a book accommodates the needs of print disabled readers. VitalSource will also include title certification information in their catalog metadata. All certified titles will be included in Benetech’s Accessible eBook store, hosted by VitalSource. Visit the Benetech bookstore.

Does Benetech use Ace by DAISY to certify files?

One of the tools we use to certify titles is Ace by DAISY, which checks for basic accessibility features. Ace is a free, open-source tool that is being widely adopted by publishers and conversion vendors. Built on top of HTML checking technology, Ace reviews between 20% to 30% of the EPUB file. The rest of the file must be manually inspected.

Using Ace by DAISY is an important first step in reviewing basic accessibility features, but it will not check many features that schools and universities require. Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible (GCA) program offers publishers a more in-depth review of their content, covering all accessibility features that can be implemented today and going beyond Ace‘s capabilities. The GCA program also provides detailed feedback on files reviewed, which includes an overall accessibility score, an overview of accessible features, a detailed summary of our findings, and suggestions for remediation.

What accessibility features does the GCA program check for?

Benetech’s GCA team reviews three publisher-provided EPUB files in depth, evaluating over one hundred accessibility features, including, but not limited to: 

  • page navigation and logical reading order
  • alt text for images and descriptions where necessary
  • use of landmarks and semantic markup
  • tables, links, and lists that are correctly marked up and described when necessary
  • correct accessibility metadata

What does Benetech’s certification cost?

Fees for GCA certification are based on the complexity of the content submitted. Publishers should submit content that is a good representation of the complexity level most frequently produced by their workflow.

Annual certification renewal also carries a fee based off title complexity level. View fee table and complexity level explanations.