Extended Description Whack-a-Mole

With the publishing of the EPUB Accessibility specification, there’s been a noticeable up-tick in people looking to produce accessible content. Normally, that would be a great thing, but it also means more people are hitting on the limitations of reading systems for accessibility. It’s true, EPUB reading systems aren’t just a headache for designers!

Providing extended descriptions is one of the more problematic areas, as we’ve been searching for years now for solutions that meet publishers’ needs and are also broadly supported enough that they can be reliably used. That headache popped up again this last week, so I thought I’d detail the anatomy of finding a solution.
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Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new set of guidelines in town: the Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base.

It’s not new, new, though, as these are based off the old work I did for DAISY writing the EPUB Accessibility Guidelines. They’ve just been generalized a bit as we look forward to web publications, and they are now the official source of documentation for the Ace accessibility checker.
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Evolution of Publishing Semantics

Think you’ve finally got your bearings in the shifting world of publishing semantics? Well, get ready for another change. One of the things I’ve been working on over the last year is to help develop a specification that will bring many of the semantics defined in the EPUB Structural Semantics Vocabulary more directly into the HTML/accessibility world via integration with the ARIA role attribute.

A first draft of what is now called the Digital Publishing WAI-ARIA Module is available for review — but it’s still too early for use, so don’t rush out to use it after reading. What is being sought at this time is feedback, so I’m going to give a little rundown of it and its development for this post for anyone not familiar with its development.Continue Reading Evolution of Publishing Semantics

My main point is?

The main element was a late addition to HTML 5.0, so late we didn’t even make mention of it in the EPUB Best Practices guide as it had gone to print by the time the element got accepted. The omission left me wondering if there are any cases in ebooks where including the element in publishing contexts would make sense, and I’m still drawing a blank.

Nothing about it seems pertinent to publishing, but it feels weird to say there’s an HTML element to avoid in ebooks. I’m going to see if I can talk my way into some use for it in this post, but I’m not feeling too hopeful right now. If nothing else, you’ll see clear evidence I rarely think my posts through before writing them.

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The EPUB Universe

The Phoenix EDUPUB meetings reminded me that the EPUB universe is growing rapidly, and becoming harder to keep track of. I was going to try and put up a nice graphical representation of how the specs fit together, but then I remembered how bad I am at all things graphics.

Instead, I’m going to chart out a table of current specifications, and then list all the various bits and pieces that you can’t always find without scouring the spec documents.

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Package Document to Collection Converter

A quick note that I’ve added another conversion tool to the site.

No time to explain it today — I’ll expand this post later — but if you’ve followed the Distributable Objects or Scriptable Components specs, it’s a quick and dirty XSLT that will convert a package document to a collection element for embedding.

As the specs are still under development, don’t expect it to be perfect out of the box. There’s no place to put the prefix attribute if it’s specified on the package element, for example, so it comes out on the collection for now.