What is Born Accessible?

The digital revolution and ongoing advances in technology have made it possible to get more content, in more ways, to more people. At the same time, they have also given publishers and content creators a new digital imperative—if content is “born digital,” it can—and should—be “born accessible.” Accessible content must be a priority.

This could truly be a golden age of access to books and information for people with print disabilities—such as people who are blind or are dyslexic. There are millions of readers that can’t access a print book because of blindness or low vision, mobility impairments or learning disabilities such as dyslexia. For them, ebook technology promises a new world of opportunity for accessible content. In fact, for the first time in history, people with print disabilities may be able to purchase and fully utilize an entire world of newly published books, instantly upon publication.

As the nonprofit tech company operating Bookshare, the largest library of accessible ebooks in the world, Benetech believes the time is right for the publishing world to seize this era of opportunity. We believe that all content born digital can—and should—be born accessible. We understand how to navigate this new world of opportunity—both by identifying the possibilities and working to resolve the challenges.

Tremendous progress has been made when it comes to retrofitting books, especially those that are primarily text, but as digital content becomes richer and more complex, such as with STEM materials, the challenge of making it born accessible will require broader partnerships and technological innovation.

Accessibility Requirements

Global Certified Accessible (GCA) assesses titles for the full range of accessibility features currently detailed in the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Specification (also known as the “Baseline”) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) for levels A, AA, and AAA. Additional features specific to ebooks are also included. Benetech works with a publisher to extensively evaluate their production process for creating accessible books. Benetech certifies that the publisher has demonstrated their conformance to the accessible EPUB creation guidelines set forth by the Global Certified Accessible Consortium and which are based on standards put in place by the W3C and the international publishing community. While Benetech certification denotes confidence that the publisher has demonstrated its ability to regularly produce accessible books, any books that do not fully conform to the Global Accessible Certification standard remain the responsibility of the publisher.

The GCA™ Certification Process

Benetech’s accessibility certification team evaluates files in depth and provides a detailed report on compliance that provides an evaluation of over a hundred accessibility features, recommending remediation strategies when appropriate. Individual features are scored and the file is given an overall accessibility score and a pass/fail notification. It also provides a narrative summary of how the file performed along with an “at-a-glance” snapshot of how each feature reviewed met or did not meet accessibility certification criteria. Once accredited, a publisher is granted an annual subscription license to auto-certify titles produced by that workflow. Benetech’s goal is to make accessibility certification a rich, collaborative experience so that publishers learn from the review process what steps must be taken either in practical techniques or workflow processes to make their files accessible.  The publisher will then be entitled to use Benetech’s GCA certification seal on all promotional materials and to specify in its metadata that its e-book title is certified by Benetech.

Learn more about GCA.