New study to map accessible book production processes

A photograph of a child using both hands to interact with a tablet at a table.

The APA Schools and Educational Publishers Committee (SEPC) has commissioned a study of how accessibility is implemented in the editorial and production workflows of educational publishers.   

The study is to be led by Dr Agata Mrva-Montoya, Director of the University of Sydney Masters in Publishing. It responds to changing accessibility legislation and the impending changes to the procurement requirements from the NSW Department of Education. 

The project aims to investigate how accessibility is implemented in the current editorial and production workflows of educational publishers. The goal is to identify challenges impeding the production of accessible educational media, to establish best practices in accessibility implementation, and to develop an implementation framework. 

The findings will support the APA in building publishing industry capability in producing 'born-accessible' digital books – that is, books with 'accessibility built in at the point of creation'. By transforming the way educational materials are produced, publishers can facilitate access to reading for students with print disabilities and remove barriers to achieving a full and equitable education.

A photograph of Agata Mrva-Montoya, a brunette woman who wears glasses.

Dr Mrva-Montoya commented that ‘the interest in accessibility in the publishing industry is part of a broader “accessibility revolution”, which has been sweeping many industries and transforming the way things are done’.

An online survey will be aimed at all staff of educational publishers working in various roles (acquisitions, editorial, production, marketing and managerial). There are approximately 88 educational publishers in Australia of different sizes and business models. The survey will be followed by a series of interviews with 20–25 staff from publishers who have made some progress on accessibility implementation.

The SEPC has provided funds towards the study, which is also being supported by the University of Sydney. It is hoped that the findings about best practice will be of immediate use to educational publishers, and eventually to trade publishers as they too wrestle with issues of accessibility. 

The study design is currently going through the ethics design process at the University of Sydney and it is expected to commence in early 2022. If publishers have further inquiries, they can contact Dr Agata Mrva-Montoya.