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Fundamentals of EPUB Reading App Accessibility Testing

Fundamentals of EPUB Reading App Accessibility Testing

About the Author

George Kerscher, PhD, began his IT innovations in 1987 and coined the term "print disabled." George is dedicated to developing technologies that make information not only accessible, but also fully functional in the hands of persons who are blind or who have a print disability. He believes properly designed digitally published materials and web pages can make information accessible to all people. George is an advocate for semantically rich content that can be used effectively by everybody.

As Chief Innovations Officer of the DAISY Consortium, Senior Advisor, Global Literacy, to Benetech, and member of Publishing Groups in the W3C, Kerscher is a recognized international leader in document access. In addition, he chairs the DAISY/NISO Standards committee and the Steering Council of the Web Accessibility Initiative and serves on the advisory board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Over the last four years or so, the DAISY Consortium has been driving the testing of EPUB reading systems and apps. It is quite a challenge, but I think we have a pretty good methodology in place. This short article will give an overview of how the testing works and will provide an analysis of the value it delivers to various communities. Of special interest will be the newly updated Fundamental Accessibility Tests for Reading Systems, which will kick off the January 2019 round of testing.

The Methodology

The unique approach lies in the Fundamental Accessibility Tests for Reading Systems, which is an EPUB 3 publication. It is an all-in-one testing system containing uniquely identified pass or fail tasks that a person with a disability performs. The results, which indicate whether the tasks are supported or not, are recorded on We know this test title is perfect from an EPUB conformance perspective, so if we experience difficulties we don’t need to wonder if there was a mistake in the EPUB. We can therefore confine our testing to the reading system/app and the assistive technology that is being used.

Three disability groups are targeted:

VitalSource Bookshelf app on Windows, with zoom and read-aloud buttons visible on the toolbar

An Example of a Test That a Person Who Is Blind would Perform

A blind person like me uses a reading app with a screen reader. This reads the app menus and book contents using TTS (text to speech). Screen readers are available for computers, smartphones, and tablets, but not all apps work with them, including reading apps. This is why we test reading apps to make sure the fundamental accessibility features are supported.

The item below is a single test in the “Non-Visual” Reading chapter. Note, there are three parts:

Reading-010 Initiate "read from here"Focus on the beginning of a paragraph or a sentence and initiate reading. Reading should continue until interrupted by the user or at the end of the current document, e.g., current chapter.

The text being read should preferably remain in view, but this is not a requirement to pass the test.

Indicate Pass or Fail.

An Example of a Test That a Person with a Specific Learning Difference would Perform

Individuals with reading differences such as dyslexia rely on personalization, and this can be critical as a learning strategy. For example, documents are printed onto colored paper using preferred fonts and spacing to make it easier to read and understand information. This personalization is now available in reading apps, and our tests for visual adjustments examine these capabilities.

Another essential strategy is reading the text on the screen while it is simultaneously read aloud. This dual mode of reading has been shown to improve comprehension and strengthen reading skills. The read-aloud feature is so important than many apps now include it. Read-aloud also gets its own section in Fundamental Accessibility Tests.

Google Play Books app in sepia mode and menu for changing text size, font, spacing, and justification options

ReadAloud-610 Text is emphasized as it is spoken by read aloud

Activate the Read Aloud feature in the reading system.

When the Read Aloud is activated, the text being spoken should be emphasized visually using a contrasting color or any other means. As the reading continues, the emphasis should also move to the next section of text to be read.

Indicate Pass or Fail.

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