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Open Educational Resources Collective Publishing Workflow

Check Against Accessibility Standards

Checking Accessibility of Open Textbooks

One of the best ways to ensure as many students as possible can access to your textbook is to offer it in a range of formats. For example:

  • print – print or print on demand
  • digital – PDF, EPUB and webbook.

EPUBs are considered the most accessible file format for screen reading software.

Disability support services at your university can assist you with accessibility. Disability support services facilitate student accommodations such as:

  • portable electronic and large print textbooks for people with mobility limitations or low vision
  • read-aloud files for text-to-speech software for people with learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries or others who may benefit from listening to an audio text
  • tagged texts, images and tables to enable screen reader navigation for people who are blind or low vision
  • tactile graphics and braille.

Three easy steps you can take to improve the accessibility of your open textbook are:

  • ensure digital text is machine-readable
  • use headings and subheadings to organise content
  • tag and describe images and tables.

If you're using Pressbooks, Pressbooks was designed to be accessible to all users. For example, Pressbooks:

  • is compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies
  • incorporates built-in heading styles in their templates to help you organise content
  • allows you to add captions with alt text (and copyright information) to images and tables.

Testing and Generating Accessible Formats

You can use online tools to test the accessibility of your open textbook or convert it into different accessible formats:

  • NVDA Screen Reader – Free, open source, Windows-based screen reader that enables user testing in more than 40 languages.
  • Free PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC 3) – Free program that displays a PDF preview in a web browser. The PAC preview shows PDF tags and presents the accessible elements as they’d be interpreted by assistive technologies. PAC also provides an accessibility report, which lists the detected accessibility errors.
  • DAISY Consortium Pipeline 2 Cross-platform, open source framework for converting text documents into accessible formats for people with print disabilities. 

Accessibility Evaluation Rubrics and Tools

You can use the rubric below to assess the accessibility of your open textbook:

Area of Focus Requirements Pass?
Organising content
  • Content is organised under headings and subheadings
  • Headings and subheadings are used sequentially (e.g. Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) as well as logically (if the title is Heading 1 then there should be no other Heading 1 styles as the title is the uppermost level)
  • Images that convey information include alternative text (alt text) descriptions of the image’s content or function
  • Graphs, charts and maps also include contextual or supporting details in the text surrounding the image
  • Images don’t rely on colour to convey information
  • Images that are purely decorative contain empty alternative text descriptions. (Descriptive text is unnecessary if the image doesn’t convey contextual content information)
  • Tables include row and column headers
  • Tables include a title or caption
  • Tables don’t have merged or split cells
  • Tables have adequate cell padding
  • The link is meaningful in context, and doesn’t use generic text such as ‘click here’ or ‘read more’
Embedded multimedia
  • Transcripts are available for  multimedia resources containing audio narration or instruction, including:
    • speaker’s name
    • all speech content
    • relevant descriptions of speech
    • descriptions of relevant non-speech audio
    • headings and subheadings
  • Captions of all speech content and relevant non-speech content are included in the multimedia resource that includes audio synchronised with a video presentation
  • Audio descriptions of contextual visuals (graphs, charts, etc.) are included in the multimedia resource
  • Formulas have been created using MathML
  • Formulas are images with alternative text descriptions, if MathML is not an option
Font size
  • Font size is 12 point or higher for body text
  • Font size is 9 point for footnotes or end notes
  • Font size can be zoomed to 200 per cent

The City University of New York (CUNY)’s Accessibility Toolkit for Open Educational Resources (OER) provides a list of online tools for evaluating the accessibility of OERs.


Adapted from:

Accessibility’ in Authoring Open Textbooks by Melissa Falldin and Karen Lauritsen, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence, based on 'Step 4: Determine Access' in Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need To Know by the Open Textbook Network, used under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Accessibility Checklist’ in The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence, based on ‘Appendix A: Checklist for Accessibility’ in B.C. Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit (2nd ed.) by Amanda Coolidge, Sue Donner and Tara Robertson, used under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Make Your Book Accessible and Inclusive’ in Pressbooks User Guide by Pressbooks, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.