Making publications accessible for all

Original Author(s): Prashant Ranjan Verma

Standard printed publications are not accessible to people with visual impairments. Many other categories of readers are not able to use the printed books, newspapers, and magazines - including those with dyslexia, motor disabilities or age-related macular degeneration. Collectively, these groups are often referred to as the 'print impaired'.

The digital medium and eBooks have been a boon for the print impaired. Many popular eBook formats do not provide full accessibility for all users. Publishers, governments and all other organizations should consider accessibility when choosing a format for their publications.

In order to be universally accessible, a digital publication should have the following features:

  • Compatibility with screen readers and text to speech (TTS): It should be possible to listen to the book text or view a synchronized presentation of the text, images and audio narration using synthetic or human voices.
  • Reflowability in order to fit all screen sizes: Digital publication should support magnification and colour contrast features of the reading systems. It should be possible to adjust the text display by changing font, font size and line spacing.
  • Rich navigability: It should be possible to browse the publication by chapter, section, page, sentence and more. The user should also have the option of skipping footnotes, sidebars, producer notes and page numbers when reading continuously with TTS.
  • Support for multiple input methods: Digital publication should work with different input methods e.g. keyboard, mouse and touch.
  • Accessible images: Digital publication should contain image captions and text descriptions for charts and graphs. Videos should be captioned or should be accompanied by text transcript.
  • Multi-platform support: Digital publication should be readable on multiple platforms and devices such as computers, mobile phones, tablets, refreshable braille and digital book readers.
  • Page numbers: eBooks should contain page numbers that match the print version of the same book.

Best practice example

UNICEF has provided The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities report and Executive Summary in EPUB, DAISY, HTML and BRF formats. These alternative formats provide greater accessibility and a rich reading experience to persons with disabilities. There is a version for everyone whatever their skills or needs. People can read with their eyes, ears or fingers.

Multiple formats cover all use cases and special needs

People like to read in different ways. In fact, in the present digital era, people even like to read the same publication on a variety of devices at different times. For example, you may like to read your favorite book at home on a large computer screen. You may then carry on reading the same book in your car, using text-to-speech that reads it to you on your mobile device or tablet. This kind of flexibility of the digital publication is even more essential for people with different disabilities who want to be able to adapt the book to their requirements. A blind person may want to read it on his refreshable braille display. Someone with weak eyesight may wish to magnify the text and change its background and foreground colour combination. Individuals with intellectual impairments may like to see each word highlighted as it is read out. Availability of the book in multiple formats gives users a choice to select the format most suited to their needs.

DAISY and EPUB formats are internationally recognized for offering maximum accessibility and flexibility to readers. The publications created in these formats are navigable, reflowable, and compatible with standard assistive technology. They can be rendered on a variety of mainstream and dedicated reading devices and apps.


EPUB is a free, open e-book standard developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). It is the most widely adopted format for publishing eBooks. In its latest upgrade, EPUB 3 has embraced all accessibility features present in the DAISY standard. A reflowable EPUB with table of contents (TOC) and image descriptions can be read on a range of devices with text-to-speech and magnification if required by the user.

Readium, AZARDI, Adobe Digital Editions are popular applications for reading EPUB on Windows. On Android tablets and mobiles Cool Reader, Ideal Group Reader or similar apps can be used. iBooks on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch are available on the iOS platform to read this format. Use Adobe Digital Editions or AZARDI on the Mac computers.


DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) is an internationally recognized accessible multimedia publishing system / standard that has opened up a much wider choice for reading for individuals unable to use standard print publications. This group includes, but is not limited to people with visual impairments, dyslexia, motor disabilities or age related macular degeneration. DAISY users can navigate the document precisely sentence by sentence. They can search, place bookmarks, and control the reading speed without distortion.

Use EasyReader, AMIS, FSReader or any other DAISY player on Windows, GoRead, DARWIN Reader on Android phones and tablets, Read2Go on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, DAISY2Go on Symbian mobile phones, ReadHear™ on a Mac computer. Portable DAISY players such as the Plextalk Pocket, Victor Reader Stream, Milestone, Blaze EZ and others can also be used.

The screen reading software or the "read aloud" feature of the apps can be used to listen to the text in the DAISY book. Font size, background text colour can be customized in most apps. Advanced features like word level highlighting is also available in some of the reading systems.


The DAISY books can be easily converted to a multi-page HTML using the freely available DAISY Pipeline for easier reading within a web browser. The pages offer a clean interface and contain keyboard accessible links to the next and previous section and the table of contents. The magnification and colour customization features provided by the browser and the OS will work well with these files.

Various web browsers and mobile devices can be used to read these HTML files. No additional apps are required.


Any publication which is available in accessible EPUB, DAISY or HTML format is also ready for reading by fingers. These formats can work with refreshable braille devices like PAC Mate or similar and display text in braille at the same time. Alternatively, braille transcription software can easily extract the text from these formats and emboss hard copy braille.

Single source – multiple output: DAISY and EPUB 3 make inclusive publishing easy

There can be many ways of producing a document in DAISY, EPUB 3, Braille and HTML formats. However, if accessibility of content is kept in mind while authoring the final distribution version then conversion to multiple formats can be a simple and almost automated job.

If the source document is prepared in the DAISY XML format (DTBook), then it can be easily converted to DAISY, EPUB 3, HTML, Braille and even other formats using free and open source tools like DAISY Pipeline 2 and Tobi.

A simple workflow based on free and open source tools, is given below. It may suit authors, self-publishers and small organizations.

  1. Markup the text in Microsoft Word or Open Office
  2. Use Save as DAISY to create DAISY XML file
  3. Use DAISY Pipeline to create DAISY text only book and HTML fileset
  4. Use DAISY Pipeline 2 to create EPUB 3
  5. Provide the DAISY fileset for Braille reading or embossing

Adaption of content

Apart from the format conversion the most important requirement for making the content accessible are:

  • Semantic markup of the document keeping the presentation separate from the content
  • building a simple reading order
  • providing text alternatives and descriptions to multimedia like images, videos

Guidelines have been prepared for creating accessible publications. The following resources are a good starting point for those who want to adopt inclusive publishing.

DAISY Consortium has been conducting training and awareness programs on Inclusive Publishing all over the world. Such training and seminars were recently held in Cape Town, South Africa in association with Publishers Association of South Africa and in Dhaka, Bangladesh in association with WIPO and the Accessible Books Consortium. If you are interested in organizing such programs, please write to DAISY Consortium using the Contact us form and choose Developing Countries Alliance in the message category.

This page was last edited by VLuceno on Saturday, August 6, 2016 07:11
Text is available under the terms of the DAISY Consortium Intellectual Property Policy, Licensing, and Working Group Process.


Hi, I'm hoping i'm posting in the correct part of the forum. so I'm new to this. and I'm launching my organization and we'll be creating daisy books. I've tried contacting the organization in japan to get the daisy production tools they have that's free for daisy members, and I haven't hurd from them. I was wondering if someone can help. also, I'm looking to start using html as well. and was wondering if you can also point me in the right direction. Thanks for any help you can give. You can also contact me by