For the last four years, as Vice-President and then President of the International Publishers Association, I promoted accessible publishing around the world, talking with key stakeholders of the book industry and addressing multiple audiences about the commitment of the IPA to this important matter. My main goal was to explain what accessible publishing is and what it means, to communicate its significance, and to convince publishers to go accessible by signing the Charter for Accessible Publishing of the Accessible Books Consortium. Being actively involved with the issue has made me passionate about it, and I am thrilled to be able to continue working to increase the number of accessible publications. I would like to thank the Chair of IPA’s Inclusive Publishing and Literacy Committee, past president Michiel Kolman, for his invitation to coordinate our efforts in favour of accessibility.
I have come to believe that accessible publishing is something all publishers should and must embrace.
Publishers should embrace accessible publishing because of its moral significance. Books bring us joy, inspiration, and knowledge, and they make us think, imagine, and create. Books are magical, but sadly over 285 million Visually Impaired People (VIPs) worldwide1 have access to less than 10% of published works2. Imagine never having the opportunity to read everything that shaped you to be the person you are now. As publishers we have the moral obligation of allowing everybody to enter this magical world of books, including any person with a visual impairment.
I know many publishers may not see this as a priority. The threats to the core of our business, especially copyright infringement and threats to the freedom to publish, can already be overwhelming enough to worry about something for purely moral reasons. But that is the thing. Accessible publishing is not about charity. It is about doing the right thing, also in terms of our business models. This is why I also say we must embrace it. Accessible publishing is inherent to modern publishing, and I will show it through four compelling reasons.
First, for most types of publications, when born accessible, it is easy and low cost. Thus, books have to be envisioned, from their very conception, in accessible formats. The technology already exists, and it will continue to develop, making it easier and even more affordable for publishers facing greater accessibility barriers. Furthermore, as the industry faces a staggering need of digital transformation, something we have seen in the last two decades and that has become more than obvious during the COVID-19 Pandemic, accessible publishing is a tiny step in the digital path publishers are already taking.