Buy Accessible: What to look for in ebooks

Are you buying ebooks that all students can read? Not all ebooks are accessible to students with print disabilities and knowing what to look for can help your textbook procurement staff make the best decisions for all students. To be considered accessible, ebooks should meet the following criteria:

  • Main text should be distinguished from supplemental information: Ebook files should be structured so that the main text is differentiated from supplemental information (such as sidebars, charts, figures, footnotes, etc.). This makes it possible for students to listen to the text from start to finish without being interrupted by additional material.
  • Content should not be presented as an image: When content is presented visually, such as when the title of a book is embedded in an illustration or an initial capital letter in a chapter is styled as a decorative element, that information will not be read by a screen reader or a text-to-speech voice.
  • The table of contents should be linked to the text to make it easy to navigate through the book: A complete table of contents with links should appear at the beginning of the ebook (and ideally at the beginning of each section) so that readers can navigate through the text more easily.
  • Tables should have headers and captions: Tables should have headers so that readers can find their place easily. Captions should also be provided that explain what information the table conveys.
  • Math should be presented in MathML format: When math is presented as an image, screen readers will not be able to read it and will say “image.” Ask publishers to provide math in the special markup language called MathML that can be read by a screen reader.
  • Video and audio content should be accessible: Captions and/or descriptions for video segments and transcripts for audio segments should be available.
  • Content is AT-compatible: Product is compatible with assistive technology (AT) such as screen readers, refreshable braille, text-to-speech, and reading software.
  • Navigating the content does not require the use of a mouse: Both visual and non-visual forms of navigation are possible (e.g., keyboard shortcuts/mapping, screen gestures, voice).

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