EPUB Face Off – Publishers Getting it Right or Wrong

Handouts Media

Presented at 9:15am in Cotton Creek I on Friday, November 22, 2019.



  • George Kerscher, Chief Innovations Officer, DAISY Consortium
  • Rachel Comerford, Senior Director of Content Standards and Accessibility, Macmillan Learning
  • Jonathan Thurston, Head of Accessibility, Pearson
  • Mary Conzachi, Director Product Management, McGraw-Hill Education
  • Deb Castiglione, Director, Universal Design & Accessible Technologies, Cengage

Session Details

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


The panel brings together key educational publishers to expose details of the accessibility features consistently present in their digital publications. They will receive a set of questions in advance and will be required to show the accessibility feature in their publication. The moderator will dig deeper to possibly uncover shortcomings.


Eighty percent of Higher Education publications come from five big publishers. With the rise of EPUB 3 as the dominant format in publishing, we also enjoy an emphasis on the Born Accessibility of digital books. Now accessibility claims are being made, but what is really inside the cover?

It is in our best interest to have publishers compete on the accessibility of their products. This panel will provide a platform for the publishers to showoff just what they have! The moderator, with a team of accessibility experts, will prepare a set of directions and questions for the panelists well in advance of AHG 2019. Each publisher will provide one or more titles in EPUB 3 to be put through the paces. All titles will be available on the presentation computer, and each title will be demonstrated, and publishers will be asked to answer specific questions. The team of experts, who will have reviewed the titles for accessibility for all disability groups, will prepare questions for follow up.


  1. Publishers are creating Born Accessible digital Publications with discoverable accessibility
  2. Quality of digital publications differ between publishers and they are competing on accessibility.
  3. Purchase of Born Accessible publications rewards publishers and will increase availability.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, EPUB Track, Procurement, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

George Kerscher

George Kerscher Ph.D.

“Access to information is a fundamental human right.” 2003 to the United Nations George Kerscher began his IT innovations in 1987 and coined the term "print disabled." George is dedicated to developing technologies that make information not only accessible, but also fully functional in the hands of persons who are blind or who have a print disability. He believes properly designed digitally published materials and web pages can make information accessible to all people. George is an advocate for semantically rich content which can be used effectively by everybody. As Chief Innovations Officer of the DAISY Consortium, Senior Advisor, Global Literacy to Benetech, and member of Publishing Groups in the W3C, Kerscher is a recognized international leader in document access. In addition, Kerscher chairs the DAISY/NISO Standards committee, Chairs the Steering Council of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI, and also serves on the Advisory Board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Rachel Comerford

Rachel Comerford is the Senior Director of Content Standards and Accessibility at Macmillan Learning where she spearheads cross-functional efforts to ensure customer satisfaction and access for all. Recent projects include the implementation of a company-wide accessibility training initiative, accessibility authoring and quality assurance guidelines, and a new customer outreach and response plan. 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.

Jonathan Thurston

Jonathan Thurston Jonathan Thurston is the Head of Accessibility for Pearson higher education where he directs their 'born accessible" program. As such, he is an internal customer advocate responsible for the execution of Pearson's holistic higher education accessibility initiative, and overall management of their higher education accessibility requirements and standards. His past experience includes managing the eBook and accessibility programs for several large publishing houses in addition to teaching design and digital media for different universities and working as an Interactive Designer with numerous agencies and startups.

Mary Conzachi

Mary Conzachi is the Director of Product Management for the Content Design and Delivery team at McGraw-Hill Education, where she leads a team of technology specialists who focus on the tools, training, and implementation of digital content. Mary’s team ensures that the authoring platforms and workflows are designed so that authors and vendors can effectively and efficiently build content that successfully meets the needs of all students. Key areas of focus for her team include expertise in accessibility, metadata, eBooks, adaptive content, and assessment. Prior to her current role, Mary spent many years as a project and program manager, as well as a manager of design and content licensing teams.

Deb Castiglione

Deb Castiglione is the Director, Universal Design & Accessible Technologies for Cengage. She was previously the Universal Design & Instructional Technology Specialist at the University of Kentucky, where she earned a doctorate in distance learning. Deb brings skills, knowledge, and experience in instructional design/development, universal design, accessibility, and assistive technology. She has worked with children and adults with disabilities. She has developed and taught courses in instructional design, assistive technology, universal design, distance education delivery, and instructional technology for the University of Kentucky, Gateway Community & Technical College, the University of Cincinnati, and Northern Kentucky University.