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Reading in EPUB

This video has been produced in collaboration with the DAISY Consortium and thanks to support from the Government of Canada's Social Development Partnerships Program - Disability Component.


Narrator: When thinking about digital books and the diverse requirements of people with different print disabilities, we can consider: navigation, reading with a screen reader, visual adjustments and read aloud. Here, we'll review what the EPUB format offers in each of these areas of accessibility.

We know that providing excellent navigation in digital books is essential for readers with disabilities. Fortunately the EPUB format excels at this. Let's take a look.

We're looking at this e-book on a Windows computer. But the same principles apply whether you're reading on a Mac or on Android or on iOS handheld devices. Of course I can move through the book page by page, backwards and forwards. Or, I can use the table of contents feature to move straight to a section of the book. If I want to go to the same place as page 102 in the print book I can jump straight there. And it's probably faster than someone who's got the paper version of the book already open on their desk. We've got a reference here to an endnote. So I can jump straight to it. I can read the reference. And then I can go back to where I was reading in the book. I can set my own bookmarks for places I want to come back to. And I can quickly jump to a place that I've already bookmarked. I can search in the book. And go straight to that section.

So with the ability to easily move forwards and backwards through the book, or jump to a specific page, to use the table of contents, to follow linked content within the book, to have bookmarks and search, it all makes EPUB a highly navigable experience.

For digital books to be accessible they need to work well with screen readers. On Windows computers the popular options are JAWS, NVDA or Narrator. On Apple devices the built-in screen reader is called VoiceOver and on Android it's TalkBack. EPUB books are put together using an open standard based on the web, so it's highly compatible with all of these options. We'll show the principles here of reading an EPUB with a screen reader on Windows.

As I explore the books in my library the screen reader announces the information about each title.

Computer voice: Book covers. Fundamentals of World Regional Geography. Marketing: An Introduction. Understanding Motor Development by David L Gallahue. Early Childhood Education Today 14th Edition by George S Morrison.

Narrator: I'm going to open this book by pressing the enter key. I can then read through the book using regular screen reader controls for navigating text content.

Computer voice: Page edit. Maslow and self-actualization Theory. Banner Landmark. Heading level 1. Maslow and Self-actualization Theory. Abraham Maslow 1890 to 1970 developed the theory of human motivation called self-actualization. His theory is based on the satisfaction of human needs and he identified self-actualization or self-fulfillment as the highest human need. Maslow

Narrator: As expected the screen reader is speaking the text, but it also told me essential information such as the first item being a heading and I'll hear when I go into and come out of a list.

Computer voice: List with five items. Bullet. Life essentials, such as food and water. Bullet. Safety and Security. Bullet. Belonging and love. Bullet. Achievement and prestige. Bullet. Aesthetic needs. Out of list. Maslow

Narrator: This rich experience with a screen reader is because the EPUB is built on web technologies. I can use the familiar commands I've learned for surfing the web and enjoy the same advantages such as hearing image descriptions.

Computer voice: Graphic, a flow chart shows Maslow's hierarchy of needs and your roles as a teacher. Narrator: In addition to alt text this EPUB from Pearson has extended descriptions.

Computer voice: Link figure 5.6 full alternative text.

Narrator: If I select this link I'll get a very detailed description of what's in this image.

Computer voice: Early Childhood Education Today document. The following list provides each level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the roles of a teacher from lowest to highest. List bullet. Life Essentials. Food, water, air. List bullet. Provide snacks in the classroom Bullet. Work with parents and families to ensure that children are well fed. Bullet. Provide designated water fountain times or have children keep water bottles in the classroom not paper or styrofoam cups. Out of list. Bullet. Safety and Security. Safety

Narrator: There's a lot of information in this figure so I'll stop and go back to the text. I did this by following the link in the EPUB. I don't need to learn how to use new commands for this. If I already know how to use my screen reader on the web then I can use the same commands in an EPUB to move between the headings and links, jump to the next graphic, navigate around a table and so on.

So because EPUBs are built on web technology, the compatibility with screen readers means there's a great experience reading the HTML based content, not just to the text, but to rich information such as headings, lists, tables and image descriptions. And the use of links provides a familiar navigation model for endnotes and other features. And the superior navigation features of EPUB, including the table of contents, page navigation and search, are also highly valuable to screen reader users.

For many years people with print disabilities have needed to make special versions of books and documents to suit their visual needs. These could have been enlarged photocopies, large print editions or copying pages onto colored paper. However the ability to adjust the visual presentation is designed right into the EPUB format. Let's see this in action.

So if I have a book open and the print is too small for me then I can make it larger. And rather than going off the edge of the display, notice how the text magically adjusts to suit the new layout. This is called "reflow" it's one of the killer features of EPUB. It means the same file can be read on laptop with a large screen, or on a smartphone held in portrait mode. I can adjust the size of this window and still read the paragraph without having to pan the text back and forth. People with low vision or specific learning differences often need larger text, and in EPUB this is really easy to use. Also, colors are important for many readers with print disabilities. And the EPUB format allows for flexible selection of text and background colors. This reading app has more than 20 combinations. I'll just switch this back to black on white. Now the choice of font can make a big difference to the reading speed and comprehension for some learning disabilities. And for people with some eye conditions and it's easy to change the font of an EPUB to find one that suits you. So with the ability to change the size of words and images, with magical text reflow, and the facility to choose your own colors and fonts, EPUB offers many ways to suit the visual needs of readers with print disabilities.

People with low vision will sometimes use Text-to-Speech to increase their reading speed and reduce eye strain. And research shows that reading both visually and through audio is very helpful to people with specific learning differences such as dyslexia. This is often referred to as "Read Aloud", and we can use this capability in this EPUB from Pearson.

It's built right into this EPUB reader I'm using on Windows. I'll just start it from the toolbar.

Computer voice: Critical issues of assessment. In early childhood education, essential questions surround what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate practice and what is best for children and families. Assessment is no exception.

Narrator: Notice how the visual highlighting emphasizes the current line being spoken, and each word is it's being read. Next I can use the controls to move the Read Aloud further ahead in the text.

Computer voice: Blurring the line between assessment and teaching. As an early childhood professional you are constantly multitasking.

Narrator: I can change the speed of the Read Aloud. Computer voice speaks slower then faster: teaching children, children. But many believe that the emphasis on assessment leads to teaching to the test. And I can select a different voice.

Computer voice changes from male to female voice: Many fear that the emphasis on accountability is creating an educational culture that puts test scores ahead of intellectual growth.

Narrator: Read Aloud works very well in EPUB. It complements the visual adjustment capabilities and the format is designed so that the reading order is always followed correctly.

So, we've reviewed the powerful navigation features built into the EPUB format and reading apps. The great compatibility with screen readers and the familiar experience for users. How the use of web technology means that the visual appearance can be adjusted flexibly and instantly. And because the contents of the EPUB are standard HTML, the text can be read aloud in a predictable order, visually highlighting as it's read. Hopefully, you've found these demonstrations useful, and you can start to experience the great features of this modern format for publishing and reading yourself.

This video was produced with support from the Government of Canada's Social Development Partnerships Program - Disability Component.

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