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Getting Mainstream Publishers onto the Accessibility Bandwagon: Why STEM & commercial publishers avoid accessibility

Proposal No: 2987

Bios & Handouts


  • Bevi Chagnon, President and Founding Partner, PubCom—Publishing Communications

Disability Area:          

Topic Area:                  

Length of Session (in hours): 1-hrFormat: Lecture Expertise Level: All Levels Type of session: Not provided

Summary of Session

How can publishers make better, more accessible publications? There’s a lot holding them back from making accessible commercial publications, and the problem isn’t that they don’t want to; it’s that they can’t do it. The solution is multi-pronged and involves everyone from AT manufacturers and AT users, to software manufacturers and WCAG, too.


From the viewpoint of a designer, managing editor, publisher, and publishing consultant, the speaker shows why publishers are not creating accessible documents. Sometimes publishing and design software lacks the tools to create accessible PDFs and other digital media without extensive hand coding. WCAG itself, originally developed for webpages, often conflicts with traditional publishing design and editorial conventions in use for 150 years. And the accessibility industry hasn’t yet defined a complete set of standards for publications. PDF/UA is a first step, but more is needed. All these stakeholders must solve the problem…together The presentation includes: Demos of design and editorial techniques that can make publications more accessible; Recommendations of how assistive technologies can improve the user experience in publications and other non-HTML media; Ideas for better software tools that can make it more feasible for publishers to create accessible publications.


  1. A magazine or book isn’t anything like a website—how WCAG can be tweaked to also accommodate publications
  2. Alt-Text isn’t sufficient for STEM publications—other techniques are demo’ed for rich information
  3. How not to force a square peg into a round hole—work with the publishing industry if you want accessibility.

Speaker Bio(s)

Bevi Chagnon

Bevi Chagnon is half geek, half designer, and 100% teacher. She has several decades of experience in publishing and academia, as well as being an Adobe expert for InDesign and Acrobat, focusing on accessibility for documents. Her firm,, works with government, commercial, and STEM publishers to improve their overall publishing workflow for cross-media publishing and to build accessible features into all their publications and media. She is the senior trainer for her firm which teaches publishing technologies and accessibility, and is the author of the firm’s acclaimed series of step-by-step books for creating accessible publications and digital media. During her career, Chagnon has been an award-winning commercial magazine art director; adjunct faculty member at several colleges for graphic design, digital media, and computer technologies; managing editor; webmaster and curator; director of publications and outreach; and software beta tester/advisor to many technology companies.


Getting_Mainstream_Publishers_onto_the_Accessibility_Bandwagon (pdf)