Accessibility Issues in Digital Publishing: Digital Rights Management, Accessibility Content, and User Interface Control

Judy Brewer
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Domain Lead, W3C
jbrewer@w3.org

Janina Sajka
Linux Foundation Fellow, W3C/WAI PFWG and IndieUI Chair
janina@rednote.net

Abstract

Ensuring accessibility of digital publishing systems and content for people with disabilities requires technical standards with built-in accessibility support, tools that facilitate the production of accessible content, and widespread awareness of the requirements and resources for accessibility. As publishing moves into the digital environment, it offers far more opportunities for an accessible reading and interaction experience than does traditional print media.

This presentation highlights several key issues in accessibility of digital publishing today, including accessibility standards support, digital rights management, development of accessibility content, and user interface control.

Position Paper

Ensuring accessibility of digital publishing systems and content for people with disabilities requires technical standards with built-in accessibility support, tools that facilitate the production of accessible content, and widespread awareness of the requirements and resources for accessibility. As publishing moves into the digital environment, it offers far more opportunities for an accessible reading and interaction experience than does traditional print media. Potential accessibility benefits of digital publications cross a wide spectrum of functional limitations including auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, and visual. For people with some kinds of disabilities, digital publications may offer their only access to publications. This presentation highlights several key issues in accessibility of digital publishing today, including accessibility standards support, digital rights management, development of accessibility content, and user interface control.

The extent of accessibility support in digital publishing standards is dependent on the extent to which digital publishing systems are built on Web standards that already support accessibility, as is the case with the W3C technologies upon which EPub is based. The digital publishing community has been instrumental in pushing for improved accessibility support in Web standards, including the need for longer textual description mechanisms for complex images. Advocacy for accessibility of digital publishing standards, and for harmonization among accessibility-supporting digital publishing standards, therefore both play an important role in ensuring accessibility of digital publications for people with disabilities.

W3C/WAI accessibility guidance in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is relevant to the development of digital publications, Web content and Web applications. Since the principles, guidelines, and normative success criteria of WCAG 2.0 are technology-neutral, they can be used for any Web technologies. The mechanisms involved in digital rights management (DRM) typically lock out users of certain assistive technologies such as screen readers unless specific provisions are made to ensure access despite the presence of an assistive technology. Ensuring effective accessibility in the presence of DRM requires maintaining a balance between the enforcement needs of copyright management systems and the access needs of some classes of consumers. In this presentation we will describe DRM design options that are cognizant of these needs, and provide examples of accessible DRMs already in use.

Use of complex images, infographics, and data visualizations is another area where the digital publishing environment frequently presents challenges for users with disabilities. Appropriate design of mechanisms for associating longer textual descriptions with complex images has been an area of contention in Web standards development over the past several years. Progress is now being made in this area, with a likely scenario being the co-existence of existing longer description mechanisms with newer, more versatile approaches. In this presentation we will address questions of standards harmonization, tool support, and awarenes of user requirements for longer text descriptions in order to drive increased implementation of longer textual mechanisms in the digital publishing environment.

Likewise, effective embedding of rich media is an interested challenge in the digital publishing environment from the perspective of discovery of accessibility information accompanying rich media resources. And reliable interoperability is a challenge in the presence of multiple media formats given the need for cost-effective transposition between divergent media formats, and the need for the presentation of re-usable content to be optimized for display across a variety of different types of devices. This presentation will also highlight accessibility challenges in user interface control for accessing content on diverse device types, including examples of user requirements in this area (for example, how to capture the intent of "turning a page" when one is not navigating by finger); and the expected role of standards such as IndieUI that are newly under development. Finally this presentation will highlight existing resources that support accessible digital publishing internationally, and suggest gaps to address these in new work going forward.