What is certification?

Certification is a formal process of evaluating a downloaded digital book to ensure it incorporates all the accessibility features required to meet the needs of students unable to read standard print due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, or a physical disability. Benetech’s program is the first of its kind and confers on publishers and conversion vendors who meet the criteria an official “stamp of approval” that they can market to schools, universities, and retailers.

Why do organizations s need to have their files certified?

With high market demand and increasing legal requirements, publishers cannot ignore the need to publish fully accessible books. Individuals with print disabilities represent a significant market share and need accessible books for school and leisure reading. K-12 and higher education institutions are demanding that publishers submit an independent third-party certification to make sure their content conforms to an acceptable level of accessibility before purchasing textbooks.

Are there additional benefits to publishing certified accessible ebooks?

A certified accessible ebook is a better ebook. Benefits to publishers include:

  • Increased market share: The accessibility features built into these ebooks enable publishers to tap into a significant portion of the population who are unserved by the existing ebook market.
  • Improved discoverability: Because accessible books contain more title metadata, they can be found on Google and Amazon much easier, creating more sales opportunities.
  • Decreased remediation costs: Avoid costly 1-to-1 remediation by creating ebooks that are accessible from the start.

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

GCA is a two-step process involving initial certification and re-certification on an annual basis. Once a publisher’s workflow receives the Benetech GCA certification stamp of approval, titles are eligible for inclusion in the VitalSource-hosted retail site as well as on Benetech’s website listing all certified titles. Certification involves an in-depth review of a sample set of files. Benetech requires that three files be shared for review. The files must begin by meeting EPUB and WCAG accessibility standards. Beyond that, there are additional tests against Benetech’s internal Born Accessible set of standards. Over a hundred accessibility features are evaluated by a content architect trained in accessibility. The results are presented in a detailed report that scores each feature on how successfully it meets accessibility criteria and offers advice on how to remediate issues. A final report includes a handy “at-a-glance” snapshot of the findings along with an executive summary. Individual features are scored and the file is given an overall accessibility score and a pass/fail notification.  To ensure ongoing conformance with its certification standard, Benetech will spot check three files over the course of the yearly subscription. 

How does a publisher make accessible books available for sale through Benetech’s retail site? 

A publisher can choose to list its certified titles on the new Benetech’s retail site, hosted by VitalSource, for accessible educational books. Publishers can now offer all users a commercially available book – both those with disabilities covered under accessibility accommodations and those who do not but who would benefit from a rich digital experience (such as struggling readers or English language learners).

Does Benetech use Ace by DAISY to certify files?

Benetech uses “Ace by DAISY” (Accessible Checker of EPUB) to check for very basic accessibility features. This tool, built on top of HTML checking technology, checks between 20% to 30% of the EPUB file; the rest of the file must be manually inspected. Ace is a free, open-source tool that is being widely adopted by publishers and conversion vendors.

Isn’t Ace by DAISY sufficient to verify that content meets the accessibility requirements that educational institutions are demanding?

Ace is an important step in helping publishers make sure their files have the basic accessibility features, but it will not check many features that schools and universities require beyond the basics. In contrast, Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible certification program offers publishers an in-depth review of their content, covering all accessibility features that can be implemented today and going significantly beyond Ace in its accessibility review. Unlike Ace, it provides detailed feedback, suggestions for remediation, a handy overview of whether accessibility features have been successfully implemented, an executive summary of Benetech’s findings and an overall accessibility score.

What does Benetech’s certification cost?

Initial GCA certification costs are assigned based on the complexity of the content submited.

  1. Simple: $2000
  2. Moderate: $5,000
  3. Complex/Extra Long: $8,000

Annual Renewal — Yearly fee to keep accreditation (spot-checked quarterly):

  1. Simple: $1,500
  2. Moderate: $4,000
  3.  Complex/Extra Long: $6,000

Guide to Book Complexity Levels

  1. Simple — Simple structure. Straight-forward text without any design elements such as figures, tables, list items, links, audio, video, mathml, etc.
  2. Moderate Complexity — Intricate structure. EPUBs with up to 30% of design elements such as figures, tables, list items, links, mathml, audio, video, etc. Simple JavaScript.
  3. Complex / Extra Long –Complex structure and possible elaborate navigation. EPUBs with more than 30% of design elements such as figures, tables, list items, links, audio, video, mathml, etc.  Complex JavaScript.

The percentage will be computed based on the number of pages against the number of design elements.

Who participated in the development of Benetech’s certification program?

Elsevier, Macmillan Learning, Harvard Business Press, HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Random House, Amnet Conversion Services and Apex CoVantage have supported Benetech’s certification program through their participation in the pilot and beta stages of the project and guidance on the structure of the program. Benetech also consulted with international partners who serve readers internationally: Royal National Institute of Blind People, Vision Australia, and Dedicon (The Netherlands).

How can schools, universities, and all those interested find GCA certified ebooks?

Ebooks that have earned the GCA certification stamp of approval can be found on Benetech’s Born Accessible Ebook Store and on VitalSource.

Why is there suddenly such urgency on the part of these institutions to demand accessibility?

The urgency that publishers supply accessible textbooks is driven in large part by the liabilities these institutions face for inaccessible content. A list of recent challenges to institutions in higher ed can be found in this summary: “Higher Ed Accessibility Lawsuits, Complaints, and Settlements” Additionally, in January 2018, the first update in over twenty years to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which details the accessibility standards federal agencies must follow, took effect. This is regarded as a “blueprint” for accessibility that many institutions are choosing to adopt (if not legally required to do so):  Overview of the 508 Refresh.

How will procurement offices know that titles have been certified?

As part of the certification process, publishers will provide metadata detailing their certification credentials and specifying various aspects of the accessibility of their files. Additionally, VitalSource will include certification information about files that have been evaluated in their catalog metadata. All titles that have been certified have the option to be included in Benetech’s VitalSource-hosted retail site as well as on Benetech’s website.

Do trade publishers need to be certified?

Yes. All publishers who serve the school and library markets should be certified. Regardless of whether publishers serve the education market and are subject to the imperatives of accessibility for students, it’s critical that they understand that accessible files are a huge benefit to all readers. Just as curb cuts and closed captioning have made it possible for all people to benefit from accommodations designed for people with disabilities, accessible books can benefit everyone – whether it’s by instantly creating a large print version of a book, being able to listen to the text through text-to-speech software, or navigating quickly through a digital book thanks to the extra tagging designed to ensure that blind and low-vision readers can easily make their way through a text they cannot see.

What accessibility features does Benetech’s certification program check for?

Benetech’s extensive file reviews check for over a hundred accessibility features, including the following:

  • proper page navigation and logical reading order
  • correctly coded images that are properly described when required
  • proper use of landmarks and semantic markup
  • tables, links and lists that are correctly marked up and described when necessary
  • correct accessibility metadata
  • proper fallbacks

For more information, see Technical Background.

How will procurement offices know if a book accommodates the particular needs of a student with disabilities?

To pass certification, publishers must provide accessibility metadata that stipulates how a book accommodates the needs of readers who are unable to read standard print due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, or a physical disability.

How can digital content service providers support publishers and participate in GCA certification?

Involving vendors in GCA certification is a critical component of the program. Benetech invites vendors to work with us to become a “Benetech Approved Vendor” by submitting files for review based on the same criteria Benetech applies to publishers. “Benetech Approved Vendors” are listed on our website and in our marketing materials.