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ASPIREpapers 002

Writing Accessibility Statements: A Guide for Publishers

Part 2: The ASPIRE framework

Huw Alexander + Alistair McNaught

Last week in Part 1 of Writing Accessibility Statement: A Guide for Publishers, we looked at the 5 key elements for writing a great accessibility statement that is focused on your user’s needs. This week we explore the ASPIREreview process and how the ASPIRE criteria can help to provide a framework for your accessibility statement.

The ASPIRE service has been designed to help publishers to write user-focused accessibility statements that tell the publisher’s story and improve the user experience. The ASPIREreview assesses the statement based on 3 distinct categories:

  1.  Communication.

  2.  Content.

  3.  Interaction.


The ASPIRE criteria provide a framework that enables you to create a user-focused statement that provides a positive, sustainable, and inclusive message about your content and your values as a company.

1. Communication

An icon of 2 speech bubbles, representing communication.

The Communication section assesses the Accessibility Statement for its provision of information and level of contact information availability. The section contains 4 main ASPIRE criteria as follows.


The publisher’s website should include easy to find accessibility information. Ensure that your accessibility statement is easily found when browsing your website or through a search engine. Include a link to your accessibility statement in the footer of your web pages and make sure that the statement is clearly linked from your home page. Also consider ensuring that your company information, including imprints, is up to date on the free searchBOX directory of accessible publishing contacts for librarians.


Is the accessibility information discoverable on the publisher website?

  • Accessibility information is easy to find [2]

  • Accessibility information is difficult to find. [1]

  • Accessibility information not found. [0]


Make sure that your accessibility information is up-to-date and state clearly when the page was last updated. Retaining outdated information in the statement may undersell any subsequent improvements and undermine the work you have done.


When was the information last updated?

  • Last updated within the last year. [2]

  • Last updated more than a year ago. [1]

  • No information available. [0]


The accessibility help page should include contact details, for instance, a telephone number, an email address, or a web form, so users experiencing difficulties can request support or request a file in an accessible format. Allow your customers to easily ask questions and ask for feedback, both good and bad. Accessibility is an ongoing conversation.


What level of contact information is provided by the publisher?

  • Contact details include specific options (e.g., named person/phone number/dedicated accessibility email). [2]

  • Contact details include a generic contact option (e.g., main switchboard number). [1]

  • No contact details available. [0]


The accessibility information should indicate how long it will take to receive a response to an accessibility query or an accessible file request for a disabled learner. The response time stated should be reasonable, e.g., days rather than weeks, given that the user is likely to have a limited timeframe in which the title will be useful for their studies. Since these requests are vital to student study needs and learning outcomes, response times should be based on the likely time to fulfil the request, not the time it takes for an automated email-responder system to deliver a holding email.


​Supplying an accessible file (or an unrestricted file which the library/disability team can make accessible) is usually the responsibility of the publisher, but aggregators/platform providers may also get these requests and have their own arrangements for responding. It is very helpful to have an indicative response time in an accessibility statement.


Some requests ("Please supply the raw PDF, so we can add semantic headings ourselves") may be quicker to fulfil than others ("Please supply a fully marked up version of this PDF"). Some requests are unreasonable ("Please provide this in Microsoft Word format"). The accessibility statement should provide a realistic assessment of the turnaround time for typical requests. It is reasonable that it might include caveats for more complex requests.


Does the publisher specify target fulfilment times for provision of accessible content (i.e., not just an email auto-responder acknowledgement)?

  • Accessibility information includes target fulfilment times of up to 5 business days. [3]

  • Accessibility information includes target fulfilment times of 5 - 10 business days. [2]

  • Accessibility information includes target fulfilment times of 11+ business days [1]

  • No information available on response times. [0]

An icon of a document page and a crown, represent Content Information and the fact that content is king.

2. Content Information

The Content Information section assesses the Accessibility Statement for the level of information provided about content files and user permissions. The Content Information section contains 7 ASPIRE criteria as follows.


Be clear about any usage restrictions you place on your content and outline your approach to supplying DRM-free copies to eligible readers. The accessibility information should clearly state whether your files are protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM). If they are, the restrictions should be clearly explained to avoid users wasting their time with trial and error. For instance, “Files can only be opened using Adobe Digital Editions” or “It is not possible to copy text.”


Does the publisher employ DRM for sales of their titles through third parties?

  • Content is signposted as DRM-free. [2]

  • Digital rights management (DRM) restrictions are clearly explained. [1]

  • There is no information on DRM. [0]


Do you supply DRM-free digital files upon request from an institution or customer? This may be handled internally by your permissions department or by a third-party such as the RNIB Bookshare service. If you have a partnership with an accessibility service, make sure to highlight this as it sends a positive message about your commitment to provide inclusive content.


Does the publisher supply DRM-free ebook files upon request for accessible copies?

  • Yes, DRM-free files are available upon request. [2]

  • No, DRM-free files are not available. [1]

  • No information on file supply. [0]


Be clear about which formats (such as EPUB or PDF) you make available in the market. ​The accessibility information should state which format the publisher’s files are provided in, e.g., PDF, EPUB2, EPUB3. Guidance should also be given on using these formats. This should include any software required to open the files and a link to download it, along with information on how to modify accessibility settings (or links to this information on the software provider’s website). For example:


“To open PDF files, you will need a PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader. Please see the following guide for advice on using the inbuilt accessibility features of Adobe Reader: 

Reading PDFs with reflow and accessibility features.” 


Which ebook formats are made available by the publisher?

  • Available formats are listed (e.g., PDF, HTML, EPUB2, EPUB3) with accessibility recommendations. [2]

  • Available formats are listed (e.g., PDF, HTML, EPUB2, EPUB3) but no accessibility recommendations. [1]

  • There is no information on the formats supplied. [0]


The inclusion of image descriptions, especially for academic content, greatly increases the accessibility of your content. Be honest about how you are approaching image description and state clearly what the customer can expect from your content.


​It is important for images and diagrams that convey information to have meaningful text descriptions to avoid excluding readers from key information. There are various ways this can be achieved, including adding a description to the alternative text HTML attribute (alt=) attached to the image, fully describing the image within the surrounding text, or including a detailed description in the image caption. Decorative (i.e., purely aesthetic) images do not require a text description and should have a null attribute (alt=“”) to save screen readers reading the image filename aloud.


The accessibility information should state whether images included in the publisher’s files have meaningful descriptions and provide detailed information about the form of these descriptions. If the publisher’s files do not include any images, this should also be stated in the accessibility information.


Does the publisher provide information about the inclusion of image descriptions in their ebooks?

  • Detailed information on image descriptions (e.g., Alt text/Long Descriptions/Captions). [3]

  • Generic information on image descriptions. [2]

  • Image descriptions planned for next 6 - 12 months. [1]

  • No information on image descriptions. [0]


Outline the navigation tagging structure and reading order that you have implemented within your eBooks. Publishers put huge effort into developing accessible files - tell the story of your efforts.


The accessibility information should state whether the publisher’s files have been structured for accessibility so that they can be navigated by screen reading software, meaning they are accessible to blind and severely visually impaired users. The accessibility information should also specify whether platforms can be navigated by keyboard only (for non-mouse users) as well as which structural accessibility features the publisher’s files have. Structural accessibility features may include navigational tagging (e.g., heading levels, hyperlinks) or reading order. Dyslexic readers also benefit from well-structured headings in files. Built in tools (e.g., Adobe Acrobat Reader’s ‘Bookmark’ panel) or browser plugins (e.g., HeadingsMap) lets readers quickly identify sections of interest.


Does the publisher provide information about navigational tagging and reading order in their ebooks?

  • Information is available on navigational tagging (e.g., heading levels, hyperlinks) AND reading order. [3]

  • Information available on structural tagging OR reading order. [2]

  • Navigation options are planned for next 6 - 12 months. [1]

  • No information available on heading structure or reading order. [0]


The ability for users to alter the text to a size they can comfortably see is an important accessibility feature. Magnification is particularly useful for people with visual impairments, older people with declining eyesight and people with dyslexia, who may find small font sizes difficult to read.


The accessibility information should state whether the text size can be changed in the publisher’s files, and if so, instructions for doing so (or a link to external instructions) should be provided.


When text is magnified, it should automatically reflow, i.e., re-wrap to fit the page. If reflow does not work and the page is simply enlarged within a frame, the user must scroll left and right to read the entire line, which presents a huge barrier to efficient access.


The accessibility information should state whether text in the publisher’s files will reflow when the zoom level is changed, and if so, instructions for activating the text reflow setting (or a link to external instructions) should be provided.


Reflow and magnification capability may vary with file format. Where multiple formats are on offer, guidance should be available on any format-based accessibility differences.


Does the publisher provide information about magnification and reflow in their ebooks?

  • Information available on magnification and reflow. [3]

  • Information available on magnification. [2]

  • Magnification and reflow options are planned for next 6 - 12 months. [1]

  • No information is available on magnification and reflow. [0]


Within an academic context, the ultimate purpose of reading an eBook is to use it for a curriculum related use. Users are likely to want to export text extracts or diagrams into their own notes or directly into assignments, and allowing copying supports this.

The accessibility information should state whether it is possible to copy text from the publisher’s files, and any limitations on this, e.g. “It is possible to copy up to 10% of each file”. 

The ability to print from an eBook is a useful feature for people who prefer to process information in printed rather than electronic format.


Does the publisher provide information about copying and print limits in their ebooks?

  • Specific information available on copy/print limits (e.g., pages or percentages). [2]

  • Generic information available on copy/print limits. [1]

  • No information available on copy/print limits. [0]

An icon of a node link network, representing interaction.

3. Interaction

The Interaction section assesses the Accessibility Statement for the details it provides regarding the publisher's engagement with accessibility services and their licensing terms. There are 3 ASPIRE criteria as part of the Interaction section.


Many publishers have partnered with services such as the RNIB Bookshare to help disseminate content. Make sure that you tell this positive story.


The accessibility help page should specify whether the publisher makes their content available to disabled learners via services such as RNIB Bookshare (UK), Bookshare (US) or Access Text (US). If so, information should be given on the publisher’s level of engagement with the service, e.g., they may have made only a selection of their titles available this way, a significant number of titles or their entire back catalogue. They may also have a direct upload feed to the service supplying ongoing newly published titles; this ensures they are made available to disabled learners as quickly as possible. Advertising this information can reduce the helpdesk requests you receive and forge strong relationships with your librarian customers.


Does the publisher work with accessibility services to provide accessible content?

  • Deeply engaged with multiple international accessibility services (such as RNIB Bookshare, Bookshare (US) and AccessText) (e.g., large number of titles or automated supply service). [4]

  • Some engagement with national accessibility services evidenced. [2]

  • Currently in negotiation to provide content to accessibility services. [1]

  • No mention of any services. [0]


When a disabled learner needs to use a publisher’s file and it is not accessible to them, an accessible version of the file needs to be obtained from the publisher. This is sometimes requested by the learner themselves, but most often it is requested by their institutional library or disability support staff on their behalf. When the publisher supplies the file, they may provide accompanying terms and conditions detailing how it can be used and any limitations on its use, e.g., that it can only be supplied to the specific student it was requested for, or that it must be deleted after a specified period of time.


If a publisher has specific licence terms and conditions for the supply and use of their accessible files, these should be clearly stated within the accessibility information. We advise publishers to check that their licences are compliant with the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Disability) Regulations 2014 legislation and the Marrakesh Treaty which enshrined a right for Higher Education Institutions to share accessible “intermediate copies” of textbooks.


Does the publisher provide up to date licence terms and conditions (T&Cs) on their website?

  • Licence terms are clear and easy to meet. [2]

  • Licence terms are clear but include inappropriate elements. [1]

  • No licence terms are available. [0]


Some licenses to obtain accessible content include a requirement to provide personal details about specific medical history. We live in a GDPR world now. Remove any requirements of this type and improve your ASPIREscore.


Do the licence terms and conditions on the website include the level of private data required from the disabled student?

  • Licence T&Cs require minimal or no personal details. [3]

  • Licence T&Cs require personal details acceptable to the learning provider. [2]

  • Licence T&Cs require intrusive personal details. [1]

  • No licence terms or conditions available. [0]

An icon of an open book.
An icon of a figure holding a sign that reads, Hello, this is us.

We hope that Part 2 of the ASPIREpaper, Writing Accessibility Statements: A Guide for Publishers,  has provided a useful overview of the ASPIREreview process and how the ASPIRE criteria can be used as a checklist as you write your statement. Writing user-focused and user-friendly statements is an art, but it is central to engaging with your audience. Think about your accessibility statement as a marketing tool - you are telling the positive story of your platforms and content, and listening to the needs of your readers. An accessibility statement is a single page, but it is a page of critical importance. Make sure you are an open book about your accessibility.


If you would like to commission an ASPIREreview or have any questions or need help in creating your accessibility statement and telling your story, please contact us at

View the ASPIRE publisher list to compare ASPIREscores across the publishing industry.

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