Accessible Books Create More Inclusive World for Filipino Publisher

By Laura Deck, posted on

St. Matthew’s Publishing launches partnership with Bookshare to offer digital books on secure, global platform and alleviate book famine for people with print disabilities in the Philippines.

Publishers around the world have the same goal: cultivate more readers to expand their customer base. One publisher in the Philippines is taking a novel approach to achieve this goal by offering books in alternate formats for readers who can’t read traditionally printed books. Students with visual impairments, for example, often rely on parents or family members to read to them, but when the adults are busy working or managing a household, they can’t always find time to fully help their children. That’s where digital books come in. “Students can use screen readers or reading apps to read digital books in accessible formats,” says Aggie Angeles, Bookshare Outreach Representative in the Philippines.

Ruth Catabijan holds a book, Every Sunday, with 3 books to the right: The Legend of the Cagayan River, Some Bunny to Love, and Bantay. Photos of Regine Catabijan, St Matthews Operations Head, Dr. Homiyar Mobedji, Allan Mesoga, Author Kevin De Guia, and Aggie Angeles appear at the bottom next to the Saint Matthew's Publishing logo.

Publisher Expands Readership

St. Matthew’s Publishing Corporation, based in Manila, saw Bookshare as the way to expand their readership: Filipino students with reading barriers who want educational books in accessible formats, as well as Bookshare members who want more Filipino content.

Founded in 1989 by the Catabijan family, St. Matthew’s has approximately twenty employees. It produces textbooks and children’s books in English and Filipino on a variety of subjects – including sibika (civic consciousness) – for early learners in K-6. Ruth Catabijan, Business Development Manager, says “we understand that there is a book famine in the Philippines, especially for people with reading barriers, so we hope more publishers and authors will make their books available in Bookshare. That’s why we feel it’s important to be part of Bookshare.”

Bookshare Platform is Secure

The road to the Bookshare partnership started at an event hosted by the National Book Development Board of the Philippines. There, Ruth met Allan Mesoga, a blind employee of the Department of Education-Bureau of Learning Delivery who is a Bookshare ambassador in the Philippines. He asked Ruth if St. Matthew’s would donate their ebooks to Bookshare. “If someone asks you to donate ebooks, the first question that comes to mind is: how do you make sure the books won’t be stolen or pirated?” explains Ruth. “Most publishers won’t provide ebooks to someone just by asking for them. Either the publishers have their own platform that they control to sell ebooks, or publishers will seek out platforms they know are secure.”

Ruth knew that many other reputable publishers outside the Philippines were already working with Bookshare, so she was interested in learning more. St. Matthew’s undertook these steps to evaluate Bookshare’s suitability for a partnership:

  • First, St. Matthew’s evaluated Bookshare’s technology to verify that the global platform is secure so that no one can steal or pirate the books.
  • Second, they reviewed Bookshare’s process for validating a potential member’s print disability to ensure that only qualified individuals are granted access to Bookshare’s library according to copyright law.
  • Third, Ruth and her team identified one imprint, Kahel Press, to submit to Bookshare. Kahel Press contains picture books, guide books, and biographies for the children’s book market. Kahel’s orange logo symbolizes the passion of red and the happiness of yellow, and the books emphasize stories that communicate good values, kindness, and responsibility.

The Road to Born Accessible Books

The next step involved selecting one book, Junior Ipon, as a test case to convert the digital file by adding accessibility features. These features include image descriptions, text-to-speech audio, braille output, large font, and navigation.

Eventually, St. Matthew’s would like all of their books to be completely “born accessible;” that is, ebooks with accessibility features built in from inception. For now, they are integrating accessibility standards into their publishing process gradually. In addition, they are offering books featuring characters who are deaf and blind and including a list of organizations that support people with people with disabilities, including Bookshare.

“There is a book famine in the Philippines, especially for people with reading barriers, so we hope more publishers and authors will make their books available in Bookshare.”

Ruth Catabijan, Business Development Manager, St. Matthew’s Publishing

A Mutually Beneficial Partnership

The Bookshare partnership helps St. Matthew’s achieve its business goals of cultivating more readers by offering excellent content in accessible formats. Bookshare is pleased to partner with St. Matthew’s to continue its legacy of nurturing young minds and making books available to all readers.

On the Digital Bookshelf

Contact Aggie Angeles, Bookshare Outreach Coordinator, or Rhea Guntalilib, Membership Support, or call 63-09175810850 to learn more about Bookshare membership in the Philippines.

Read more about increasing access to books in the Philippines:

Empowering People with Visual Impairments in Every Corner of the Philippines

Dear Bookshare: My Dream Has Come True