LIA – Libri Italiani Accessibili
|Target Users||Blind and visually impaired readers|
|Nature of the initiative||LIA is a project realized in a public-private partnership funded by the Italian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, managed by the Italian Association of Publishers endorsed by the Italian Union of the Blind. The project features the participation of all the main stakeholders of the digital publishing value chain, from producers through distributors and sellers to end users and their advocacy associations.|
LIA-Libri Italiani Accessibili (Accessible Italian Books) is a service born as a project coordinated by the Associazione Italiana Editori (Italian Publishers Association), managed by its subsidiary company Ediser and funded by the Italian Ministry of Culture through its ‘publishing for the blind and visually impaired fund’. The project was developed in cooperation with the Unione Italiana dei Ciechi e degli Ipovedenti (Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired), the ICT excellence Milan-based center CEFRIEL, and the Institute for the Blind F. Cavazza of Bologna, a reference point at national level for technology and visual disabilities.
LIA has created an innovative service increasing the availability in the market of accessible fiction and nonfiction titles in digital format (e-books) for blind and visually impaired readers.
To reach such target, the LIA project put in place a true cultural change in the way the issue of accessibility is approached. One of the portraying features of the LIA project has been the promotion of dialogue with visually impaired stakeholders and collaboration among the different actors of the publishing value chain to encourage a substantial improvement compared to the present situation.
The theme of accessibility enters in publishing production processes as integrating element, no longer as a feature to add ex post.
To overcome the existing situation in which blind and visually impaired readers have to find out the desired text, buy it, require the production of an accessible version on the basis of the exception in compliance with ruling legislation and wait for the production and delivery of an accessible version made ad hoc by dedicated structures scattered all over the country, often expensively and ineffectively, LIA moved the production of accessible files and related metadata up in the mainstream publishing production and distribution flows.
LIA is a true revolution for more than 362,000 blind and 1,5 million visually impaired Italians who proved to be definitely strong readers according to a recent survey carried out by LIA prior to the implementation of its model, with an average of 9 books read every year, three times more than domestic average.
Blind and visually impaired readers are thus able to access accessible versions in the same way and at the same time as any other reader, well aware of their accessibility features from the beginning. All this takes place irrespectively of the type of copyright exception and in a more efficient way.
In order to come up with solutions that integrate accessibility wherever possible within mainstream workflows, rather than as an additional issue, LIA has concentrated its efforts on standards and interoperability, starting from the international e-book format publishers are most familiar with.
Working with the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), LIA identified EPUB as the most suitable format to work on.
In 2011 the Enabling Technologies Framework project published guidelines indicating how to integrate accessibility features into the standard editorial production process, translated into Italian by LIA. In addition to these, LIA provides Italian publishers joining the project with further practical indications to enter accessibility in their mainstream production flows.
A dedicated technological infrastructure (VCC) was created by LIA to properly manage the flow of files provided by publishers for Verification, Check and Certification of their accessibility features.
At the end of the flow, LIA checks the files and their compliance with the accessibility requirements indicated in the guidelines and, when test is successful, they are tagged with a LIA compliant digital interactive label, an interactive URI allowing to retrieve information on accessibility whenever clicked.
Thanks to the agreement between LIA and Informazioni Editoriali, the set of metadata in the catalogue of e-books in trade in Italy (e-kitab) now also includes information on accessibility.
To provide users with an accessible environment in which to search in full autonomy for LIA labeled titles, LIA offers a completely accessible platform, redirecting users to e-retailers in order to check out their accessible shopping basket.
The role of technology
Two keywords characterize the LIA approach: digital and interoperability. Interoperability means standards: for both formats and description. Standard also means international. Therefore, accessible e-books will be in EPUB format, as they already are in most cases both in Italy and abroad. The EPUB 3 version incorporates the accessibility features of the DAISY format, the main standard for blind and visually impaired.
When an e-book is put in commerce, it goes with a series of descriptive metadata. The standard used worldwide to spread them is ONIX, managed by EDItEUR. LIA has developed, in collaboration with EDIteEUR, an integration to ONIX, officially included in the international standard, to deliver accessibility features of a file.
LIA designed a system fully integrated in the publishing production and distribution mainstream.
In the production stage, publishers require LIA a certification of accessibility. LIA carries out a series of tests, checking whether the EPUB file meets accessibility requirements defined coherently with the IDPF international guidelines. LIA then tests the file compatibility with the main reading devices and software available in commerce and with the main assistive technologies. If the file is fully accessible, LIA certifies this through an electronic label, and fills the dedicated ONIX record section.
Presently more than 6,000 titles in Italian are available in accessible format, with a wide variety of offer: from classics to best sellers, from literary prizes to books for kids. Most of all, new releases are enriching the online catalogue at a pace of about 300 titles per month. Sixty-five publishing brands, representing 80% of the market, already joined the service.
The LIA service, based on an approach funded on the deployment of technological standards, together with support and training activities, has been identified as a positive case history and earned the project the endorsement of outstanding international organizations: EDItEUR, FEP, BISG, DAISY Consortium.
The LIA technological infrastructure is based on standards, interoperability and mainstream production and distribution channels, thus it has a high potential of scalability in both other national systems and for other disabilities.