Born Accessible: How to Make Publications Accessible From the Start

This webinar was broadcast live on October 23, 2019.

Speakers: Bill Kasdorf, Kasdorf & Associates, LLC; Jonathan McGlone, Front End Developer and UI Designer, and Jillian Downey, Director of Publishing Production, Michigan Publishing. Hosted by Leah Hinds, Executive Director, Charleston Conference.

Few books and journals are published in a properly accessible form. For most people with print disabilities, special versions of those books and journal articles need to be created, often at great effort and expense by the Disability Services Offices at educational institutions or other post-publication service providers.

This is especially regrettable because modern standards of accessibility employ file formats and standards that publishers and their partners already use routinely–primarily EPUB and HTML, along with Web Accessibility standards like WCAG and ARIA. Today, standard editorial and production workflows already provide files that meet many accessibility requirements and can incorporate features often omitted, such as the creation of proper image descriptions.

In this webinar, Bill Kasdorf will provide an overview of today’s accessibility standards as well as widely available tools and services that make it easier for publishers to make their publications born accessible. Then Jon McGlone and Jillian Downey from Michigan Publishing will describe how the University of Michigan Press has incorporated accessibility into the systems and workflows used to produce and disseminate scholarly books. They will discuss the technical issues that needed to be addressed, the solutions they’ve employed, and the workflow and cultural changes involved, providing a real-world example of a scholarly press working to get accessibility right from the start.


Bill Kasdorf is Principal of Kasdorf & Associates, LLC, a publishing consultancy focusing on accessibility, XML/HTML/EPUB modeling, information infrastructure, standards and best practices alignment, and editorial and production workflows. He is a founding partner of Publishing Technology Partners. Bill is active in the W3C (serving on the Publishing Working Group, Publishing Business Group, and the EPUB 3, Publishing and Knowledge Domains Community Groups) and co-chairs NISO’s Video & Audio Metadata Guidelines Working Group. He is Past President of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP), currently serving on SSP’s Annual Meeting Program Committee. He is a member the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), serving on BISG’s Workflow Committee; the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC); and WIPO’s Accessible Books Consortium (ABC). He is the recipient of the SSP Distinguished Service Award, the BISG Industry Champion Award, and the IDEAlliance/DEER Luminaire Award. Bill has written and spoken widely on publishing technology and workflows. He is general editor of The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing and co-editor of the BISG Guide to Accessible Publishing. In his consulting practice, he has served large international publishers such as Pearson, Cengage, Wolters Kluwer, Kaplan, and Sage; scholarly presses and societies such as Harvard, MIT, Toronto, Taylor & Francis, Cambridge, IEEE, the American College of Physicians, and the Cochrane Library; aggregators such as VitalSource; and global publishing and library organizations such as the World Bank, the British Library, the Asian Development Bank, OCLC, ORCID, and the European Union.


Jonathan McGlone has worked at the intersections of academic libraries, digital publishing, design, and the web since 2007.

As a front end developer and Senior Associate Librarian at the University of Michigan Library since 2012, Jonathan’s primary work involves front end web development, user interface design, usability, and accessibility for Michigan Publishing and University of Michigan Press web assets including open access journals, ebooks, and websites hosted on a variety of platforms. Most recently he is actively involved with the development of Fulcrum, a Mellon Foundation funded open source digital publishing platform for scholarly publishers that launched in 2016.

He currently chairs Michigan Publishing’s Accessibility Group, a group aiming to make University of Michigan Press ebooks, digital content, and web publications equitable for all readers. Jonathan is also an active member of the University Library’s Digital Accessibility Team, an award-winning group of developers and accessibility advocates that aim to educate and provide accessibility services across the Library.


Jillian Downey is Director of Publishing Production for the University of Michigan Press, within Michigan Publishing and the University of Michigan Library. Jillian has worked in publishing for almost 30 years, more than 20 of them at Michigan Publishing in Ann Arbor, and has worn many hats, across manuscript editorial, design, and production. She manages the ebook creation, quality-check, and file and metadata distribution processes. In recent years this has included working closely with colleagues at Michigan Publishing to create workflows for putting original materials, ebooks, and enhanced ebooks in the University of Michigan Press Ebook Collection on the Fulcrum hosting and services platform. Since Fall 2015 Jillian has been involved in creating and implementing accessibility initiatives for Michigan Publishing.


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