Best Practices for Accessible Publishing (2016)
Adopted by AHA Council, June 4, 2016
The American Historical Association urges that published material be accessible to all scholars, including those with print-reading disabilities. To achieve this goal, it is imperative that publishers make materials available in accessible formats at the same time as print copies.
Current best practices include the following. Materials must be in EPUB 3.0 or later format with true, reflowable text embedded in them—not screen images. This makes it possible to resize the text (for readers with low vision) and read aloud (for readers using screen-reading software). If DRM (digital rights management, which sometimes creates a barrier that makes it impossible for accessibility software to access the text) is used, a DRM-free version must be available to persons with documented disabilities. The process for accessing a DRM-free version should be straightforward.
The program Adobe InDesign—used by most large book designers—has built-in features for checking accessibility, but these should be test-run with users of screen-reading software since the tools are a work in progress.
Many charts and graphs are unrecognizable to screen-reading software. Numeric tables replicating chart data should be provided. Instead of using color-coding for charts and graphs, differences in line style or “texture” should be used so that the chart can be understood in black and white. Data tables should not be converted into images, and basic accessibility guidelines should be followed for table headers, titles, and so on.
Images, maps, and figures appearing in books should be visually described, particularly when the images are central to the themes, arguments, findings, and/or narrative of the book. In this way, readers using screen-reading software can understand these features.
Publishers should consider depositing an electronic copy with bookshare.org, which makes copies of many books available to students and others with print-reading disabilities. This link provides details about how it works.