The judges have selected a shortlist of eight for this year's ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing. The winners will be announced on 16 September at the opening of the ALPSP 2020 Virtual Conference.
In this post, we hear from Richard Orme about WordToEPUB.
Tell us a bit about your organization.The DAISY Consortium is a global family of organizations which pool and coordinate resources to deliver worldwide change on our vision and mission, ensuring people have equal access to information regardless of their ability.
Our work is focused on the development of solutions for accessible publishing and reading via influencing global standards, the creation of tools to facilitate accessible content creation and delivering guidance materials and training.
For over 20 years the DAISY Consortium has had a significant impact on mainstream and specialist publishing. The DAISY audiobook standard is used by organizations around the world to deliver millions of titles on a daily basis to people with print disabilities (e.g. people who are blind, have low vision, dyslexia or physical disabilities).
Our work on the EPUB standard ensured that it was built on a foundation of accessibility. The free validation and accessibility checking tools we develop and maintain are used by publishers, conversion services and retailers for almost all commercial publications.
What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?
We are delighted that our new WordToEPUB tool has been shortlisted for the awards. Launched earlier this year, it an incredibly user-friendly tool which enables anyone with a structured Microsoft Word document to easily create an accessible and highly flexible publication in the EPUB 3 format. This can be read on any device and used with a variety of assistive technologies which people with disabilities around the world rely upon throughout their education, work and leisure.
Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it
The WordToEPUB tool was designed to offer a simple process which anyone can use, with more advanced options available to those seeking a greater level of control and customisation. The tool can be run from a button on the Microsoft Word Ribbon, or directly as an application. On activation the tool performs a series of tests on the Word document to identify significant accessibility issues which would impact the resulting document, and if found the user is notified of the issue and advised. If the document passes the initial test the document undergoes conversion resulting in an EPUB document. A menu of advanced features and customization is also available, aimed at users who are knowledgeable in ebook creation, but not hampering the ability of novice users.
The tool also automatically records details about the content language, supporting multilingual texts for accurate text to speech playback and support for reading in braille. The application and the supporting documentation has been translated from English into French, Spanish, German, Italian, Danish and Portuguese, with support for Finnish, Swedish, Russian, Hindi and Japanese partially implemented. Support for other languages is underway by native speaking volunteer supporters.
The tool was developed by DAISY staff, with voluntary contributions from the global DAISY community of educators, publishers and accessibility experts, and with advice and encouragement from Microsoft.
Despite only being a few months old, the WordToEPUB tool has already shown that it plays an important role in the development of simple, practical workflows for the creation of accessible materials. The tool is now in everyday use in education establishments and specialist libraries as a primary tool for the creation of accessible education and leisure reading materials and has been used by self-publishing authors to release titles.
In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?
EPUB is generally produced from bespoke XML workflows, complex publishing software or specialist tools. WordToEPUB was created to answer the direct needs of people who create content using a familiar word processor and needed a simple method that is just a couple of clicks. With this tool they can ensure their materials are delivered in a flexible and accessible way to meet the needs of their diverse readership. Marrying the most widely used word processing system on the planet with EPUB, the world’s most accessible publishing format, through a free and easy to use tool delivers benefits to everyone involved. Readers can enjoy EPUB publications using whatever device they own, adjusting the text presentation based on their device size or access requirements, or directly reading through audio or braille.
The powerful EPUB format is already used widely in education publishing, so enabling educators and support staff to provide education resources in the same format has proven to be particularly powerful. This is especially true since the COVID pandemic has driven many education establishments around the world to transition to delivering education content online, while meeting their moral and legal obligations to ensure the content can be accessed by people with disabilities.
What are your plans for the future?
We have seen a significant increase in the adoption of the WordToEPUB tool, and feedback has been glowing. Over the coming months we are continuing to enhance the tool and support resources, offering guidance for more complex content like equations, and translating the tool and support materials into more languages with a special focus on the developing world.
On the development side we are working towards a command line system for batch processing and integration into established workflows, as well as a cloud-based solution which may assist educators unable to install applications. Slightly longer term we plan to release a macOS version of the tool.
Through the development of this tool we have been able to share information and offer feedback to tools supporting content authored in Apple, Google, and open formats to improve the quality of output
We will also continue to work with Microsoft and encourage the integration of this or a similar process directly within Word.
Richard Orme has worked in the area of inclusion and accessibility for over 30 years, including many years working on innovations for mainstream and specialist publishing.