Twenty-five years ago, on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. We have come a long way in eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities, but as we join the week-long recognition of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ADA, it is imperative to consider how to extend the ADA promise to a new generation of Americans. The 25th anniversary of the ADA is a reminder that, at their best, policy and legislation support technological advances as well as benefits to society. We now need such balanced laws more than ever in order to stay committed to core principles of inclusion in the midst of massive technological change. To carry forward the ADA promise, we need regulations that mitigate these risks and still enable our students to benefit from the tools they need to succeed at school and beyond.
Today, May 21, in recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we are happy to share that the global publishing company John Wiley & Sons has announced that, starting this month, it will begin including alternative text (alt text) in nearly all of its frontlist books. By incorporating alt text into its workflow, Wiley makes its content accessible to users of all abilities. The company developed its alt text guidelines in consultation with Benetech’s DIAGRAM Center and other industry standards organizations.
Today, May 15 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day—a day intended to get people talking, thinking, and learning about digital accessibility for people with disabilities. This is an opportunity to share what Benetech’s DIAGRAM Center is doing to ensure that digital content is accessible to all. The DIAGRAM Center is working at the frontier of accessible publishing and online content by making it easier, faster, and cheaper to create and use accessible digital images. One of the many emerging technologies we are researching is 3D printing for accessible educational materials.
There were many over-the-top cultural experiences I took in on my recent visit to the U.A.E., where I headed this past November to represent Bookshare at the 32nd Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF). As Director of Content Acquisition for Benetech’s Global Literacy Program, which operates Bookshare, my key role is to engage with publishers in a deep conversation about the power of digital books to improve the lives of people at a reading disadvantage both here in the U.S. and around the world.
The Kojo Nnamdi Show, a live talk show produced by public radio station WAMU 88.5 in Washington DC, featured our CEO, Jim Fruchterman, in a conversation about the next generation of digital books. Jim described how e-books make it possible to provide more content, in more ways, to more people. He also spoke about the Big Data promise of enhanced e-books.