Content Services

Becoming Benetech Global Certified Accessible: Paving the Way for Accessibility with Michael Johnson

For a comprehensive understanding of Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible program, Benetech is pleased to introduce Michael Johnson, Vice President of Content at Benetech. Having joined Benetech in 2019, Michael oversees Benetech’s GCA Certification program as well as Bookshare. Bringing years of experience in publishing, technology, and educational distribution, he brings expertise in all three areas. We are happy to have him as part of the Benetech and Bookshare team. Find out more about Michael’s insight into the GCA certification program below.

What is a Global Certified Accessible Certification (GCA)?

Benetech’s GCA certification is the first-ever independent third-party digital accessibility certification program. To meet the needs of all readers, we are committed to helping publishers produce born accessible content. To accomplish this, the program supports publishers in ensuring that their workflows are adjusted to ensure that their content is accessible from the very beginning. “When a publisher becomes certified by GCA, they receive a GCA seal and metadata that they may include in EPUB files produced by their certified workflows”, says Michael. He mentions that this certification not only demonstrates their commitment to accessibility but also their ability to create fully accessible eBooks.

Why should publishers and/or vendors strive to be GCA certified?

GCA certification is a one-of-a-kind program. It is the only independent third-party program of its kind. By obtaining GCA certification publishers gain valuable skills in fully accessible content creation and distribution. They also can address the over 20% of the world’s population who have a print disability and can’t buy their books today. There are also more laws being passed that require fully accessible content.

How would you describe the process for publishers who are seeking a GCA certification?

The GCA process is a training process designed to teach publishers everything they need to know about digital accessibility. As part of a review process, Benetech collaborates with the publisher on a select number of titles. Publishers submit titles, Benetech reviews them and sends feedback, publishers remediate based on the feedback, and then resubmit. Until each title passes certification, this cycle continues. Certified publishers send in one additional title annually, which is a part of the ongoing evaluation of accessibility standards to make sure the publisher maintains an accessible workflow.

For Publishers, who are interested but are not yet in the GCA process? Are there other ways besides certification to support and/or provide accessible materials to our Bookshare members?

We always advise publishers to donate to Bookshare as their first step towards accessibility. During the donation process, Benetech provides some immediate feedback on the accessibility status of the publisher’s existing workflow. Additionally, Benetech offers to return a DAISY formatted file to the publisher if requested. By using resources such as the DAISY Webinar series or BISG’s work, publishers can also learn on their own and boost their production workflow. To achieve accessibility, we must remember that it’s a journey, and every step forward is meaningful.  After a publisher donates to Bookshare, they should be sure their conversion vendor is GCA certified which can be checked here:

Why is Benetech in the business of running a certification program? What’s the value to our members?

Benetech developed the GCA process to meet two market needs. First, the publishers needed an expert source to teach them how to create accessible content. A process for creating Born Accessible content from the very beginning. Furthermore, there was a need for an independent organization to be the arbiter of quality accessible content for all stakeholders in the marketplace. It is a two-fold benefit for our members. As a result of the GCA, more and better content is being donated to Bookshare than ever before. We are now able to offer fully accessible content to our members on the same day that we offer it to all other readers.

As more publishers become GCA certified, how do you feel we can maintain the momentum for other publishers to follow suit?

Benetech has more than 60 GCA program participants around the world. Among them are small independent presses and some of the largest publishers in the world. As more publishers join the program, the more interest grows in the broader publishing community.

Why is it important for large publishers, like Pearson, to go through the certification process? What does that signal to the publishing industry?

A GCA certification was recently awarded to Pearson’s main EPUB workflow, and other workflows are in the process of being added. Pearson is one of the world’s largest and most powerful Higher Ed publishers, and as a result, they send a clear message to their peers, to the institutions with whom they collaborate, and to students buying their products that accessibility is an integral part of everything they do.

Is GCA the only way for publishers to ensure accessible content?

In addition to GCA, there are other methods. However, GCA is the only independent third party that issues certification stamps. Publishers can learn accessibility in other ways (as discussed earlier), and they can check their own work with tools like EPUBCheck and ACEbyDIASY. Several resources are available at to help publishers learn more about EPUB accessibility.

Check out the press release for our recent Benetech Global Certified Publisher, Pearson Education.

Are you a publisher or interested in learning more about the GCA certification process? You can reach Michael Johnson at [email protected]