The struggle is real. I spent hours, weeks, months trying to find a way to make my tester book, What If I Fall kids book, digitally accessible. What does that mean exactly? (This is for all you self-publishers out there, or authors who want to make sure your publisher is on the accessible road ahead.) Read on the mistakes I made, the lessons I learned, and what I wished I would have known.
text should be read separately and not embedded into the image.
I did this so wrong and it was terrible. I thought I was being creative by making text sit upside down, sideways, and patterned. This, in turn, made all of my text embedded into the images (meaning that a reader or any other device is not able to read it). Text and images should be done in separate layers (like in Amazon or iBooks, place the text after you’ve placed the image into the layout; or if in Photoshop or Illustrator, have the text on top of the image–also do this when preparing for print).
alt-text for images lets you give a brief description of what the image is about.
This was harder then I thought. There is a particular language to writing alt-text descriptions (not all software offer this option, like Amazon), so make sure you know what publishing paltforms allow for alt-text options. Remember to do your research on writing alt-text descriptions, as they should be specific but not too long. (Aside from ebooks, my entire page on this website disappeared because I made my alt-text too long one time–more than 30 words.) Also, speaking of images in websites, alt-text is different than attribution, which is the little text that pops up when a mouse cursor is on an idea (e.g. at the top menu of this site, if you put the mouse over the HOME or BOOKS tag, the title attribution will show as, ‘home page,’ or ‘books page’). Here’s a video for InDesign on how to do make ebooks visually accessible (then exported into an ePUB).
audio and sound capabilities.
I’m all for multiple ways of learning, so I knew I wanted to have something outside of just words and images. Only iTunes came through–it was hard until it became easy. Side note on anything when a software reading text: always add periods/punctuation, otherwise, the words just run together. For example, each of the sections in this blog post, like ‘audio and sound capabilities,’ has a period at the end, but you can’t see it since I changed the font color to white.
Now, this was something I hadn’t thought of at the time of publishing, What If I Fall, but I recently realized that picking a color scheme can either be great or harmful for those who are colorblind. For example, on the backside of the book, the background is green and the mushroom is red. So for a red-green colorblind person, those colors will blend into one and the person would not be able to see the red mushroom. Luckily, I had outlined the mushroom in black, so the mushroom will appear, but not in the red color.
large and friendly text.
Fortunately, most kid’s books have small portions of text, so making a text big and spacious is great! This was a no-brainer. Moving on to the friendly text, which I didn’t do for this book, but will for a different book: using a font that is dyslexic friendly. Normally what that means, is the bottom of a letter is a lot heavier than the top of the letter, in a way anchoring the letters so that letters don’t move around town. This also includes spacing the distance between words in conjunction to each other.
This doesn’t exactly have much to do with ebooks, but I wanted to point out the importance of ‘ease of navigation’ for a user. This includes navigation from page to page or where audio listening buttons are placed, and the such.