Bill Kasdorf from the U.S.A. was the first to inform AIPI of its world-leading qualities. With experience spanning decades in the publishing, technology and accessibility spaces, Bill has a handle of what is happening in print accessibility developments from a global perspective. We briefly chatted with Bill to learn more about his background and the latest trends in accessible publishing.
AIPI: What is your background and how did you become to be involved in the issues of accessibility?
I’ve been involved in publishing for my whole career. I had my own business for many years, which provided design, editorial, and production services for trade, scholarly/STM, academic, and reference publishers. For the past fifteen years I’ve been a publishing technology consultant. And I’ve always been an advocate for standards, dating back to the SGML era; I participate in many standards organisations. Standards not only facilitate interoperability and help future-proof your systems and publications, they enable you to build on the collective wisdom and experience of the communities that develop them. Most of my work today involves XML/HTML modeling, specification development, and workflows—and accessibility.
It became obvious to me two decades ago that to be truly standards-based and interoperable, content and systems need to be accessible. An old friend, Rick Bowes, who preceded me as President of the Society for Scholarly Publishing, first acquainted me with the standards (e.g., DAISY), organizations (e.g., Benetech), and people (e.g., George Kerscher) who were (and are) doing important work on accessibility. I became involved in the development of the EPUB standard and now Web Publications in the W3C, standards that are at their very core designed for accessibility.
What are the trends you have noticed internationally in the last 4-5 years in the accessibility space?
I’d highlight two main trends: the convergence of standards and the not unrelated increase of awareness of accessibility and willingness to make publications accessible.
When I first became involved with accessibility, the files and products accessibility required were special ones with unique specs, such as the DAISY DTBook XML spec. And accessibility requirements were not well aligned globally. Today, virtually all accessibility specs and requirements worldwide are based on web accessibility standards like HTML, WCAG, and WAI-ARIA. That’s what most Assistive Technology needs now. DAISY has even dropped DTBook and recommends EPUB 3 (which is based on those same web standards) as the proper format for the interchange of accessible publications.
We’re getting close to the vision first articulated by Betsy Beaumon, CEO of Benetech: everything born digital should be born accessible. Accessible publications should be produced by publishers’ standard workflows, and the resulting products should be the same ones everybody buys. We’re not there yet, of course, but we are getting very close. And the realization that most of what’s needed to make publications accessible is what publishers and their partners and vendors already know how to do has frankly taken some of the fear out of the equation. It’s not rocket science. Let’s just do it.
How would you position AIPI in the international scene?
While I have not been aware of many members from Australia being involved in the development of standards (the time zone issue is a big culprit there), I was frankly stunned to learn of the great work AIPI is doing on accessibility. You are in many respects far ahead of similar organizations in other parts of the world. And you are doing that in a very broad-based fashion: AIPI has what I would characterize as an ideal mix of types and sizes of publishers and other organizations all working in concert toward helping publishers build accessibility into their products. The world needs to know more about what you’re doing!
What do you think is the future of accessibility?
I hope—and, honestly, expect!—to live to see the day when accessibility is just taken for granted, the way we take the internet for granted today. Because of the convergence of standards, and because of the drive toward openness and interoperability, this is no longer a pipe dream.
I’m not just talking about publications being born accessible. The systems we use to create, disseminate, and consume them need to be accessible too. But just as publishing workflow technologies already use most of the standards that accessibility requires, so are many of the systems we use based on web technology—which is built for accessibility.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do; we do. Those standards enable accessibility, but they don’t guarantee it: you have to use them properly. The future state I’m envisioning should make that easier and easier. Accessibility shouldn’t be a chore; it should just be how we do what we do.
Bill Kasdorf, [email protected], is Principal of Kasdorf & Associates, a publishing technology consultancy focusing on accessibility, XML/HTML/EPUB modeling, information infrastructure, editorial and production workflows, and standards alignment to future proof content and systems. He is a founding partner of Publishing Technology Partners. Past President of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP), Bill is a recipient of SSP’s Distinguished Service Award, the IDEAlliance/DEER Luminaire Award, and the Book Industry Study Group’s Industry Champion Award.
Active in many standards initiatives, Bill serves on the Steering Committee of the W3C Publishing Business Group and is a member of the W3C Publishing Working Group developing the next generation of Web Publications and EPUB, as well as the W3C’s EPUB 3 and Knowledge Domains Community Groups. He is a member of the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC), which governs many standards for image and video metadata as well as rights metadata and other standards for the news industry, and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), which publishes resources for the book industry, with a special focus on accessibility and EPUB implementation. He is also a member of ABC, the Accessible Books Consortium, an activity of WIPO—and, of course, SSP.
Bill has led seminars, written articles, and spoken widely for publishing industry organizations such as SSP, W3C, AUP, ALPSP, STM, NISO, BISG, IDPF, IPTC, DBW, AAP, ALA, Publishing Business, Seybold Seminars, and the Library of Congress. He is the General Editor of the Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing and a co-editor of the BISG Guide to Accessible Publishing and is the author of the chapter on EPUB metadata and packaging for O’Reilly’s EPUB 3 Best Practices and the chapter on EPUB in the book The Critical Component: Standards in Information Distribution, published by the American Library Association in collaboration with NISO. He serves on the editorial boards of Learned Publishing and the Journal of Electronic Publishing.
In his consulting practice, Bill has served clients globally, including large international publishers such as Pearson, Cengage, Wolters Kluwer, Kaplan, and Sage; scholarly presses and societies such as Harvard, MIT, Toronto, Taylor & Francis, Cambridge, APA, and IEEE; aggregators such as VitalSource; and global publishing and library organizations such as the World Bank, the British Library, the Asian Development Bank, OCLC, and the European Union.