A content-centric approach is the key to resolving accessibility issues for publishers, says Kevin Burns, senior v-p of content solutions. “Words and images—particularly images with rich, descriptive metadata—are almost all inherently digital today. By authoring or converting this digital source data to a structured, machine-readable format, publishers can have content in multiple outcomes, including NIMAS [National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standards], economically, and even profitably.”

All four major specialized output formats for accessibility—Braille, large print, audio and digital text—follow predictable rules and logic. “So a structured ‘master file’ approach is used to create the content once, and output it as needed in as many formats as required, with minimal manual intervention,” adds Burns, pointing out that NIMAS, an XML-based specification for organizing and structuring textbook and other educational content, is the format of choice.

At Cenveo, the input for NIMAS projects is often a combination of Word files, hard copy, PDFs or XML as well as existing metadata for each textbook, says business manager Yogesh Jedhe. “We use robust transformation technology tools to extract data from input files, apply or edit XML tags, and process and tag image files. These steps parallel the process of creating XML files for print production. Then our content analysts make sure that the elements requiring detailed human judgment, such as image descriptions, are properly created. Finally, our team validates the XML file against the NIMAS schema and a series of business rules, which are designed to check the file beyond basic NIMAS compliance.”

Jedhe and his team also work with clients’s subject matter experts to make sure that image description fields are populated with text that truly help visually impaired students. “Elements such as math equations must be captured accurately and effectively to convey information to the visually impaired.” So far, the team has converted more than 2,700 books for educational publishers big and small.

Reiterating the importance of creating great NIMAS files instead of “good enough” output, Burns says: “All too often, budget constraints lead conversion teams to choose the easiest and cheapest way instead of doing the right thing to create a good NIMAS file. But successful NIMAS conversions must include accurate comprehension of visual design elements used in print. Without a certain level of visual literacy—such as the use of sidebars, bullet lists or call-outs—the resulting NIMAS output will lack the granularity and nuance of its printed counterpart.”

Long description for images, which is a NIMAS requirement for any visual element in a printed textbook, is often an issue. Published captions or call-outs are not truly meaningful for someone visually impaired if these are just copied and pasted from the print version. So those creating the NIMAS file must have an understanding of the subject in order to create additional content that really make images accessible to the print disabled.

The long descriptions for images are also vital to making content usable, and discoverable, down the road. “Having content—especially nontext content—that is easily discoverable is exactly what things like long descriptions in NIMAS files are all about. Discoverability and content repurposing may well be the financial driver for managed content practices that will, as a side benefit, result in better NIMAS files,” adds Burns, pointing out that with mobile devices becoming better in conveying sound, large print and even tactile data, the potential for accessibility increases. “With NIMAS, there is savings, and even profitability, if a publisher’s content is more broadly discoverable and easily repurposed while avoiding the need to recreate it for each new project.”

Executive v-p for global content services Atul Goel will be at Frankfurt with sales and marketing director Marion Morrow. Email marion.morrow@cenveo.com to schedule an appointment for demos on Cenveo’s myriad services.