Accessibility in Open Textbooks

Doing accessibility (see here for definition) right in Open Textbooks is a critical aim for the Rebus Community.

To this end, we want to develop good accessibility practices throughout the Open Textbook publishing process. This probably means something like the following:

a) make sure that authors/editors making Open Textbooks are aware of good accessibility practice from the start of the process
b) help authors easily implement good accessibility practice
c) provide a standard accessibility audit process after an Open Textbook is created (possibly with some tech tools associated)
d) provide a mechanism to “fix” accessibility problems found in the audit process (possibly with tech tools associated)
e) have an “accessibility stamp of approval” for projects that have successfully passed the accessibility audit

Are you interested in helping us work on accessibility practices? If so, please reply to this post.

Proposed workplan


This document outlines a workplan for developing Rebus Community approach to ensuring accessibility of all Open Textbooks produced by the Rebus Community, using one book project as a test case.

Expected outcomes

  1. An overview of typical accessibility problems in Pressbooks books
  2. A checklist of best practice solutions to typical accessibility problems
  3. Remediation of one existing Rebus Community project
  4. Recommendations for next steps


The Rebus Community for Open Textbook Creation has a mandate to support the creation of Open Textbooks, by:
- process: developing community-driven Open Textbook creation/publishing processes
- tools: developing software tools to support these community-driven processes
- collaboration: building (global) collaboration on Open Textbook publishing as a fundamental driver of both processes and tools

Rebus Community Open Textbooks are built using the open source Pressbooks Open Textbook publishing platform.

One of most important characteristics of Open Textbooks is that they can and should be accessible from the start, without requiring after-publication remediation.

To ensure that all Open Textbooks developed by the Rebus Community, accessibility must be built natively into the processes and tools, from the very beginning of a project.


  1. [DONE!] Identify a single Open Textbook book as a test case for typical accessibility problems
  2. Have multiple community members review/audit this book, and (each) produce a brief memo outlining the accessibility problems identified
  3. Collaborate together to develop a document that outines:
    a) a shared vocabulary of typical accessibility problems
    b) a checklist of “best practice” solutions to typical accessibility problems
  4. Collaborate (with the author) to implement remediation of the test case book
  5. Develop recommendations for:
    a) building best practices upstream (!) into the Rebus Community authoring process
    b) defining technical approaches/specifications in the authoring environment that could/would support accessibility improvements (upstream)
    c) defining technical approaches/specifications in the publishing environment that could/would support automatic remediation of typical accessibility problems (downstream)

Project participants: @jmitchell, @michelle.reed, @uwaccesstext, @jgray , @enambo, @ro.mckernan, @jtreviranus, @hugh.

We at the Inclusive Design Research Centre and the FLOE Project are very interested in helping. While we cover all the things you listed, we are most interested in integrating inclusive design and accessibility into the workflow, and development and authoring tools so that it becomes second nature and has a positive impact on internationalization, longevity, reuse, interoperability and the many other benefits of designing for diversity.

Having been in accessibility for 8 years, I’m excited to partner with the Inclusive Design Research Centre to create, vet and evaluate accessible-born OER, specifically open textbooks. In addition to points A-E, I love that this project will help to educate content creators and publishers about accessibility.

@jtreviranus @uwaccesstext great to have you both aboard … more news to come!

@jtreviranus FYI we’ll be getting FLOE integrated by default in Pressbooks (yay!) … hopefully this quarter.

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Hi All-

We have the following BASIC checklist available via BCcampus:

As well please find the attached PDF our Co-op Student, Josie, has been authoring on how to make the books.

Hi @amanda.coolidge, do you think Josie would want to join our “working group” to give some real world experience/input?

We have a call tomorrow, at 10am Pacific … would be great to have her on board to give advice!

@amanda.coolidge I really like Josie’s summary. I’m struggling with making our wp-pressbook site meet the WCAG 2.0 AA standard and I’ve been cheating using Joe Dolson’s WP-Accessibility plug-in (and the WAVA toolbar). Work in progress. :slight_smile:

@hugh Great- can you email her the details?

Hello everyone!

My name is Eric. I’m the Accessibility Advocate (Specialist) at my college’s eLearning department and I’d be more than happy to contribute! I’m new to this role here at Chemeketa Community College, but seasoned in web accessibility with roughly 5 years of experience.

All of the points are stellar goals! I am really interested in how this conversation goes, with particular interest in B, C, & D. I look forward to the challenge of turning technical language into plain English for easy comprehension and application.

I hope to contribute!

LinkedIn Profile

Hi Eric, Welcome. We’d be delighted to have more people on board with this project … more to come as it evolves (I feel like I keep writing that sentence !)

Hello all!

I work with BCcampus as an accessibility editor on their open textbook collection. As mentioned by Amanda, I’ve been working on creating a reference guide of the tools I use and standards I follow when working on these textbooks. It is a work in progress; I edit it when I learn something new or find a better way to do things and I am open to suggestions on ways to improve it.

I do all my editing directly in Pressbooks so I have a good idea of common accessibility barriers that come up during the creation of these textbooks. I think it is a great idea to integrate accessibility tools into Pressbooks that could guide authors during the creation of these books.

I am happy to contribute!

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hi @jgray ! thanks for all the work you are doing … & for joining this convo, your experience will be v helpful!

I have a practicum student this semester who is working with me as part of the requirements for a minor in disability studies. There’s a good possibility that the partnership can grow into a larger project with practicum students rotating out each semester. In the short-term I’ve asked my student, Nicole, to investigate the best accessibility standards, find or create a rubric to evaluate the accessibility of OER, and apply that instrument to a prioritized list of resources available in the Open Textbook Library. Would love to coordinate so as not to duplicate efforts.

@michelle.reed Excellent! Welcome aboard… We’ll be focusing on an existing in-progress OT project here, so, if your student is interested in using that as a test ground as well it would be helpful.

As Krista ( @uwaccesstext ) suggested, we will need to evolve our vocabs so that they all coincide, but starting small & practical, if we can do a concerted review of a text together, and agree on accessibility priorities, and how best to address them: in the first place, downstream as remediation; and more broadly, as upstream improvements to authoring environments/tools/education etc … then I am confident we’ll come up with a good approach here.


Hello everybody! See the top post for a proposed workplan.

Does that reflect everyone’s understandings of our discussions to date? …

@jmitchell, @michelle.reed, @uwaccesstext, @jgray , @enambo, @ro.mckernan, @jtreviranus.

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@hugh looks good to me!

I wasn’t seeing the notifications because I originally signed up with my uwaccesstext@gmail account. But I also signed up my account. Both folks are me! - Krista

@greeark Glad you can now see the notifications!

Update: We’ve scheduled a call to discuss next steps and the proposed work plan on accessibility.

That call will be next Thursday, Feb. 23, at 9 a.m. PST (12 p.m. EST).

If you would like to take part, you can join the call by clicking this link

@lizmays Ok, perhaps dumb question – do we have access to the book yet? Did I miss something very obvious?