To date, persons with reading disabilities - for instance blind, visually impaired or dyslexic people - only have access to 5 to 10% of the yearly book production, depending on the country they live in: the term “book famine” has been coined some years ago to describe this fact. The books they have access to are specific adaptations of print or digital books, created in small quantities by associations for the blinds or similar organizations.
The European Accessibility Act (Directive (EU) 2019/882, acronym EAA) will come into force in June 2025. This Directive promotes universal accessibility, which consists in taking into account all the needs and possibilities from the conception of the services, to be able to create quality services in this digital context. It is part of the Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities 2021-2030, which addresses several major themes: accessibility, equality, education, social protection, employment and more. With it, Europe is committed to an inclusive policy that makes people with disabilities core concern.
The publishing industry, worldwide, agrees that EPUB is the only digital book format which allows, with a few efforts, the creation of fully accessible ebooks. Most titles are already published in EPUB, and the first accessible titles are now on sale.
There will still be an issue with most ebooks published before 2025: a backlist of probably 2.5 million files in Europe. Since the objective of the Directive is to end the “book famine” endured by visually impaired people, it is necessary to transform as many titles as possible into accessible EPUB files before 2025. To do so, publishers need to have a clear view on gaps to be filled and related costs per type of ebook.