What is certification?

Certification is a formal process of evaluating a digital book to ensure it incorporates all the accessibility features required to meet the needs of students unable to read standard print due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, or a physical disability. Benetech’s program is the first of its kind and confers on publishers who meet the criteria an official “stamp of approval” that they can market to schools, universities, and retailers.

Why do publishers need to have their files certified?

Institutions in both the K-12 and higher education sectors are increasingly asking publishers to submit an independent third-party certification to make sure the content they buy conforms to an acceptable level of accessibility for their students with print disabilities. Publishers risk losing sales by not being able to present proof of accessibility.

What does Benetech’s Global Certificated Accessible (GCA) program involve?

Certification is a two-step process involving accreditation and auto-certification once accreditation has been established. Once a publisher’s workflow receives the Benetech GCA stamp of approval, titles are eligible for inclusion in the VitalSource-hosted retail site as well as on Benetech’s website listing all certified titles.

Accreditation involves an in-depth review of a sample set of files. Benetech requires that three files be shared for review. Over a hundred accessibility features are evaluated by a content architect trained in accessibility. The results are presented in a detailed report that scores each feature on how successfully it meets accessibility criteria and offers advice on how to remediate issues. A final report includes a handy “at-a-glance” snapshot of the findings along with an executive summary. Individual features are scored and the file is given an overall accessibility score and a pass/fail notification.

Auto-certification grants the publisher the ability to automatically certify all titles produced from an accredited workflow. To ensure ongoing conformance with its certification standard, Benetech will spot check three files over the course of the yearly subscription. Publishers are requested to submit a quarterly list of files that they have auto-certified.

How does a publisher make accessible books available for sale through Benetech’s retail site? 

A publisher can choose to list its certified titles on the new Benetech’s retail site, hosted by VitalSource, for accessible educational books. Publishers can now offer all users a commercially available book – both those with disabilities covered under accessibility accommodations and those who do not but who would benefit from a rich digital experience (such as struggling readers or English language learners).

Does Benetech use Ace by DAISY to certify files?

Benetech uses “Ace by DAISY” (Accessible Checker of EPUB) to check for very basic accessibility features. This tool, built on top of HTML checking technology, checks between 20% to 30% of the EPUB file; the rest of the file must be manually inspected. Ace is a free, open-source tool released in early 2018 that is being widely adopted by publishers and conversion vendors.

Isn’t Ace by DAISY sufficient to verify that content meets the accessibility requirements that educational institutions are demanding?

Ace is an important step in helping publishers make sure their files have the basic accessibility features, but it will not check many features that schools and universities require beyond the basics. In contrast, Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible Program offers publishers an in-depth review of their content, covering all accessibility features that can be implemented today and going significantly beyond Ace in its accessibility review. Unlike Ace, it provides detailed feedback, suggestions for remediation, a handy overview of whether accessibility features have been successfully implemented, an executive summary of Benetech’s findings and an overall accessibility score.

What does Benetech’s certification cost?

GCA costs are assigned to the two stages in the process: accreditation and auto-certification.

Accreditation (one-time fee)

  1. Simple: $2000
  2. Moderate: $5,000
  3. Complex/Extra Long: $8,000

Auto-Certification Yearly fee to keep accreditation (spot-checked quarterly):

  1. Simple: $1,500
  2. Moderate: $4,000
  3.  Complex/Extra Long: $6,000

Guide to Book Complexity Levels

  1. Simple — Simple structure. Straight-forward text without any design elements such as figures, tables, list items, links, audio, video, mathml, etc.
  2. Moderate Complexity — Intricate structure. EPUBs with up to 30% of design elements such as figures, tables, list items, links, mathml, audio, video, etc. Simple JavaScript.
  3. Complex / Extra Long –Complex structure and possible elaborate navigation. EPUBs with more than 30% of design elements such as figures, tables, list items, links, audio, video, mathml, etc.  Complex JavaScript.

The percentage will be computed based on the number of pages against the number of design elements.

Who participated in the development of Benetech’s certification program?

Elsevier, Macmillan Learning, Harvard Business Press, HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Random House, Amnet Conversion Services and Apex CoVantage have supported Benetech’s certification program through their participation in the pilot and beta stages of the project and guidance on the structure of the program. Benetech also consulted with international partners who serve readers internationally: Royal National Institute of Blind People, Vision Australia, and Dedicon (The Netherlands).

How can schools, universities, and all those interested find GCA ebooks?

Ebooks that have earned the GCA stamp of approval can be found on Benetech’s website and on its retail site hosted by VitalSource, launching in 2019.

Are any other companies offering ebook certification?

Benetech is the only company in the U.S. that is offering a formal program that gives publishers an objective accessibility score and an official “stamp of approval” based on a comprehensive file evaluation. Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible is an international program, developed in collaboration with trusted partners internationally who serve people with print disabilities. Our founding partners offering Global Certified Accessible internationally are:

  • The DAISY Consortium
  • The Royal National Institute of Blind People — United Kingdom
  • Vision Australia – Australasia
  • Dedicon — The Netherlands, Europe

Why is there suddenly such urgency on the part of these institutions to demand accessibility?

The urgency that publishers supply accessible textbooks is driven in large part by the liabilities these institutions face for inaccessible content. A list of recent challenges to institutions in higher ed can be found in this summary: “Higher Ed Accessibility Lawsuits, Complaints, and Settlements” Additionally, in January 2018, the first update in over twenty years to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which details the accessibility standards federal agencies must follow, took effect. This is regarded as a “blueprint” for accessibility that many institutions are choosing to adopt (if not legally required to do so):  Overview of the 508 Refresh.

How will procurement offices know that titles have been certified?

As part of the certification process, publishers will provide metadata detailing their certification credentials and specifying various aspects of the accessibility of their files. Additionally, VitalSource will include certification information about files that have been evaluated in their catalog metadata. All titles that have been certified have the option to be included in Benetech’s VitalSource-hosted retail site as well as on Benetech’s website.

Do trade publishers need to be certified?

Trade publishers who publish into the education market are subject to the same terms applied to educational textbook publishers. Regardless of whether publishers serve the education market and are subject to the imperatives of accessibility for students, it’s critical that they understand that accessible files are a huge benefit to all readers. Just as curb cuts and closed captioning have made it possible for all people to benefit from accommodations designed for people with disabilities, accessible books can benefit everyone – whether it’s by instantly creating a large print version of a book, being able to listen to the text through text-to-speech software, or navigating quickly through a digital book thanks to the extra tagging designed to ensure that blind and low-vision readers can easily make their way through a text they cannot see.

What accessibility features does Benetech’s certification program check for?

Benetech’s extensive file reviews check for over a hundred accessibility features, including the following:

  • proper page navigation and logical reading order
  • correctly coded images that are properly described when required
  • proper use of landmarks and semantic markup
  • tables, links and lists that are correctly marked up and described when necessary
  • correct accessibility metadata
  • proper fallbacks

For more information, see Technical Background.

How will procurement offices know if a book accommodates the particular needs of a student with disabilities?

To pass certification, publishers must provide accessibility metadata that stipulates how a book accommodates the needs of readers who are unable to read standard print due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, or a physical disability.

How can digital content service providers support publishers and participate in GCA?

Involving vendors in GCA is a critical component of the program. Benetech invites vendors to work with us to become a “Benetech Approved Vendor” by submitting files for review based on the same criteria Benetech applies to publishers. “Benetech Approved Vendors” are listed on our website and in our marketing materials.