A road map of activity for 2020 to improve print accessibility in Australia has been established by the Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative (AIPI).

Training for publishers, a panel discussion at the BookUp Conference, success stories on the AIPI Knowledge Hub, Accessibility Plans developed by each AIPI member, and exploring an inclusive publishing index are some goals on the list to achieve for the new year.

Twenty-five participants from the book industry and disability sectors collaborated in Sydney on 1 November at the annual AIPI Forum held at the offices of sponsors, Gilbert + Tobin. This was the fourth AIPI Forum with a number of new participants joining the group.

Coordinated by the Australian Publishers Association, the day was opened by Senior Director of Content Standards and Accessibility at Macmillan Learning, Rachel Comerford, New York, with a presentation about the process of becoming the first Benetech certified accessible publisher.

When asked what Australian publishers can do to follow in Macmillan Learning’s footsteps, Comerford says, to “re-examine one’s publishing workflow. Easier said than done but absolutely worthwhile.” She also suggested that all publishers “do away with PDF and work with EPUB” and make connections with standards organisations who can support your transition to creating accessible books.

Reflecting on the good work of the Initiative across 2019, the Forum noted the success in publishing two guides, an informative website, and establishing conversations with key government decision-makers. Sarah Runcie, AIPI coordinator, shared that the group has received recognition from international organisations, such as WIPO, and the International Publishers Association at Frankfurt Book Fair held in October 2019.

With one of the key strengths of the group being its diverse, cross-sector make-up, Runcie said that again the Forum was a big success, with representatives joining from new organisations.

Vice President of the Australian Book Designers Association (ABDA), Astred Hicks says, “It was hard not to be overwhelmed by the thought of effecting large change within Australian publishing. However, the group are so committed and knowledgeable that the steps needed to get to the goal didn’t seem so daunting after all.”

When asked what she saw as the designer’s role in the accessible publishing process, she remarked, “We’re one of the implementers in the work-practice change. In partnership with editors, publishers and typesetters, the work that we create will ultimately be the source for many accessibility apps and programs. So it is integral that designers are aware of the need to make their design documents compatible and have the skills to do it. Which means training and being included in the conversation.”

And that’s something they’re really excited about: “To be able to facilitate training for ABDA members. We really look forward to helping motivate and mobilise the book design community to integrate accessibility into their design practice.”

State Braille and Large Print Manager Kim Barber at the NSW Department of Education was in attendance for the first time. “I found the day absolutely engaging, with many great opportunities for Australia to be the forefront leader in accessibility. Connecting to the various people on the ground and in the different industries was also invaluable. The key take-home message for Barber was, “The plan is to start at the beginning with accessibility rather than trying to fit it retrospectively. That access to books for my students is the hardest, especially tagged work.”

Stephen Heasley Senior Portfolio Manager at Pearson Australia said the day was inspiring. He says, “Pearson is committed to helping people make progress in their lives through learning, and with that comes a focus on inclusivity and accessibility. The AIPI Forum 2019 was a unique opportunity to form deeper connections with like-minded organisations, and a highlight was learning about Macmillan Learning’s journey to inclusive publishing.”

“Knowledge sharing is key to support organisations both big and small.” Heasley went on, “I’m excited to see the AIPI’s knowledge hub grow to be an even more helpful source of information, resources and best practices. I’m personally eager to speak with leaders from across Pearson to identify ways we can better share our commitment to accessibility and inclusive content in ways that benefit the wider AIPI community.

“The AIPI is a diverse and dynamic collective of professionals that will only grow stronger with the involvement of more publishers of all shapes and sizes. We all have successes, challenges and experiences to share, and forums like AIPI present an opportunity to explore synergies and harness our strengths to advance the evolution towards fully inclusive publishing.”

Policy, Accessibility and Client Consultation at the Royal Society for the Blind Tony Starkey said it was “great to meet again to review and plan for Australia Publishing to be born accessible. Foundations have been laid with the actions from 2018/19 members work, International models have been developed in France and the USA on how to embed accessibility at all levels within the publishing process as the content is created and produced. As a blind consumer I encourage the Australian publishing sector and all its complimentary industries to strive to become the global leader in accessible published content.”

For any publishers wishing to join AIPI for 2020, please be in touch with Sarah Runcie from the APA.

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