Three ways you can support the development and use of accessible books for children with disabilities

Free tools for use by publishers, Ministries of Education, and education implementers support inclusive education that benefits all children.

Three ways you can support the development and use of accessible books for children with disabilities

In low-resource countries around the globe, only one percent of books are published in accessible formatslike audio, braille, large print and sign language booksfor children with disabilities. Yet if the world is to realize the ideals of Sustainable Development Goal 4to provide quality and inclusive education for all childrenby 2030, books usable by the 93 million children with disabilities globally must be provided.

Resources created through our Book Boost: Access for All Challenge are narrowing gaps in the provision of accessible content for children with disabilities. The prize, conducted in collaboration with Pearson and Project Literacy, awarded innovators for developing tools for anyone to create accessible books and working with publishers to more easily and affordably adopt accessible publishing standards. 

The two winners of the Book Boost prize, eKitabu and SIL LEAD, created and tested tools to reduce accessible digital book production costs and streamline publishing of high-quality accessible reading materials. 

“Born accessible publishing saves time and cost in content development in comparison with retroactive adaptation of materials to meet standards for accessibility,” says Will Clurman, CEO and co-founder of eKitabu. “Books born accessible and digital have low costs of reproduction and distribution in comparison with traditional printed books.”

“Making books accessible from the outset forces you to think about a broader range of needs for those who will read them,” said Paul Frank, executive director of SIL LEAD. “Then you can begin with the end in mind.”

With the availability of these free tools, here are three ways you can leverage them to expand access to inclusive education resources to meet the needs of all children in your education programming: 

Commit to creating and publishing born-accessible e-books

eKitabu’s Book Boost award included the creation of an Accessible EPUB Toolkit, which helps publishers and content creators adopt accessible publishing standards, including the development of accessible EPUBs with image descriptions, accessible navigation, dyslexic fonts, and sign language videos.

Since the Book Boost: Access for All Challenge, eKitabu has continued to utilize the toolkit with local content developers and publishers in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania, and has expanded it to support translation and adaptation of books into accessible formats for underserved local languages. Through its additional award of ACR GCD’s Begin With Books prize, eKitabu is using the Toolkit in Malawi to develop accessible books in Tumbuka, Lomwe, Yao, and Malawian Sign Language (MSL).

In 2019, together with Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), Kenya Ministry of Education (MOE), Kenya Institute for Special Education (KISE), and Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD), eKitabu launched a Content Development Challenge that resulted in seven publishers developing 70 new accessible books for Kenya’s new Competency Based Curriculum. 

ACR GCD encourages publishers and content creators around the globe to use the Toolkit to support the development of accessible digital content that serves the needs of all children. 

“Publishers have worked with us to train their editorial teams on how to develop born accessible EPUBs,” Clurman says. “eKitabu also collaborates regularly with MOE officials to share knowledge on standards for accessible digital content, how to produce accessible EPUBs, and how to host them on MOE digital platforms.”

Use Bloom book creation software to create accessible books

Through Book Boost, SIL LEAD added accessibility features like audio narration and image descriptions to its ACR GCD award-winning Bloom book creation software, and created an accompanying accessibility toolkit for others using Bloom to create local language books for children. The Bloom development team has since added a sign language video tool to Bloom as well. 

The Bloom toolkit and accessibility features have already been used by the Ministry of Education of Guatemala and Juarez and Associates, which used the Bloom sign language tool to create books for the deaf in the local sign language. In El Salvador, local disabled persons organization Fundación para el Desarrollo Integral de la Persona Sorda (FUDIPES) used Bloom and its toolkit to develop a book in Salvadoran Sign Language on COVID-19 prevention for deaf children. Former ACR GCD awardee Resources for the Blind in the Philippines has also used Bloom to create books for children who are blind or low vision. 

The benefit of Bloom, particularly now with its enhanced accessibility features, is authors and book creators no longer need to learn a new tool to create books that serve all children, Frank says. 

“It’s straightforward to take any book in Bloom and add accessibility elements to it,” Frank says. “If the person or organization already uses Bloom, we point out that they can take any book that they have created or adapted in Bloom and add accessibility features to it. They only have to learn the new tools, not a whole new program.”

Order accessible books for your education programs

As demand drives supply, ACR GCD encourages MoEs, NGOs and other education program implementers, and all charged with procuring education resources to require accessible books that serve the needs of all children. 

“If you believe in educational equity, you have to make education inclusive,” Frank says. “You have to think about books being accessible, not as an add-on that is sort of clunky, but as an integral, coherent part of the design of the educational experience and learning materials.”

Learn more about the resources created through our Book Boost: Access for All Challenge

Watch and share our video on tools for accessible publishing