Certified Accessible eBook Ecosystem – From Vendor to Publisher to Student


Presented at 9:15am in Matchless on Thursday, November 9, 2023.



  • Charles LaPierre, Principal, Accessibility and Content Quality Architect, Benetech
  • Rachel Comerford, Senior Director of Accessibility Outreach and Communication, Macmillan Learning
  • Blake Perdue, Director Product, Learning Platforms, VitalSource
  • Will Awad, Head of Digital Accessibility, Newgen

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Panel
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible (GCA) program helps publishers and conversion vendors produce fully accessible EPUBs that are truly born accessible. Now students can understand the accessibility of the books they need before they make the decision to purchase. Campus bookstores, as well as integrated programs can now showcase the accessibility metadata publishers and vendors include in the title, empowering students with the information they need.


Benetech will be joined by Global Certified Accessible (GCA) approved vendor Newgen along with GCA certified publisher Macmillan Learning and VitalSource, the leading education technology solutions provider, in a roundtable discussion of the benefits of GCA and accessible eBooks, their unique insights into the GCA program, its benefits, and what they are doing to move the accessibility needle.

Since GCA launched in 2018, we now have over sixty publishers and a dozen EPUB conversion vendors creating thousands of accessible EPUBs which meet or exceed current accessibility standards. You will hear from our GCA family their firsthand experiences and their accessibility journey over the years.

GCA helps publishers and vendors understand what makes an EPUB fully accessible and enjoyable for all readers. An EPUB that looks amazing but is not accessible creates barriers for individuals who require personalization and adaptation to read and understand material.

Newgen was one of the first vendors to receive GSA certification, they will share how they are helping publishers produce accessible content and why having a certification is beneficial for vendors to produce this type of content. Being a trusted vendor helping publishers deliver accessible eBooks and meet the accessibility requirements.

Macmillan Learning Benetech's first GCA Certified Publisher will share their accessibility journey including their process for address frontlist and backlist titles; how they developed in-house verification methods for their eBooks; and new improvements to their eBooks based on the evolution of the certification.

VitalSource has been a leader and an active participant in the accessible digital book ecosystem for more than 20 years, promoting accessible reflowable eBooks and their accessibility metadata. We will share how the industry has shifted from fixed Layout PDF to reflowable EPUBs as the primary choice and best accessibility option for every customer.


  1. Hear from a conversion vendor, publisher, and the leading distributor about their eBook accessibility journeys
  2. What is GCA and how is it changing how students can buy and read accessibly.
  3. Learn about some of the most common issues facing publishers and vendors in producing accessible EPUBs.

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Vision

Topic Areas

EPUB Track, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Charles LaPierre

Charles LaPierre, Benetech: Principal, Accessibility Standards, and Technical Lead, Global Certified Accessible. Charles has over 25 years’ accessibility development experience and has been a pioneer in accessible product development since 1993. Charles currently a member of the following W3C Working Groups: Publishing Working Group, MathML Refresh, ARIA, APA / Personalization Task Force, as well as a member of the EPUB3 W3C Community Group, and co-chair of the Accessibility Metadata W3C Community Group. Charles is the technical architect of the new Global Certified Accessible initiative at Benetech to certify publisher content as conforming to the new EPUB 1.0 Accessibility Specification. Charles has a bachelor's and master's degree in Electrical Engineering from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Rachel Comerford

Rachel Comerford is the Senior Director of Accessibility Outreach and Communication at Macmillan Learning where she leads cross-functional efforts to ensure students of all abilities have access to their course materials. In 2020, BISG awarded Rachel the Industry Innovator award for her work helping Macmillan Learning to become the first Global Certified Accessible publisher by Benetech. Under her leadership, Macmillan was recognized by WIPO’s Accessible Book Consortium with the International Excellence Award for Accessible Publishing in 2020 for their work towards providing educational materials that any student can use. She has over a decade of experience in the print and digital publishing world. Prior to coming to Macmillan as an editor, she held a variety of editorial and sales positions at WW Norton and Pearson.

Blake Perdue

Will Awad

Will is an experienced professional with a background in the Academic Publishing information technology and publishing services industries and a W3C member. I have in-depth skills and expertise in a number of different areas including, EPUB, XML, HTML, negotiation management, business strategy, outsourcing/offshoring, W3C Accessibility, WCAG, and Accessibility Regulation. I am a problem solver by nature, with strong analytical, communication, and team motivation experience.

Will works as a consultant for NewGen, where I pioneered their digital accessibility division, expanding business development and securing contracts with publishing houses across various business sectors. I have advised on digital accessibility compliance per W3C/WCAG guidelines – and overseen access audits and remediation of digital documents (i.e., EPUBs and PDFs) ensuring it meets the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as the European Accessibility Act (EAA).