More Accessible Than You Realize: What the Big 5 publishers Provide

Handouts Media

Presented at 10:30am in WB I on Friday, November 16, 2018.



  • Bill Kasdorf, Principal, Kasdorf & Associates, LLC
  • Deb Castiglione, Director, Learning Center of Excellence, Cengage
  • Rachel Comerford, Senior Director of Content Standards and Accessibility, Macmillan Learning
  • Mary Conzachi, Director of Product Management, McGraw-Hill Education
  • Jonathan Thurston, Head of Accessibility, Director of Product Management, Pearson
  • Tim Lindner, Content Operations Manager, Wiley

Session Details

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


The Big 5 higher ed publishers share their EPUB stories: How are they implementing accessibility and what features can you expect in their new titles? Moderated by Bill Kasdorf, speakers include Rachel Comerford from Macmillan Learning, Jonathan Thurston from Pearson, Mary Conzachi from McGraw-Hill, Deb Castiglione from Cengage, and Tim Lindner from Wiley.


Many DSOs/DSS offices don't realize how far the Big 5 higher education publishers have come in recent years to make their textbooks and other educational resources accessible. Today, most of them now provide accessible EPUBs that have good image descriptions, thorough structural markup (HTML-based with ARIA roles), excellent navigation, and--for STM content--MathML and well structured HTML tables with row and column headers. Yet all too often, not realizing this, a DSS office will obtain a PDF or Word file and laboriously remediate it. In addition, these publishers are working hard to ensure that non-text resources such as multimedia and interactive features are as accessible as possible. The aim of this session is to help the attendees realize the level of accessibility available from these publishers and to encourage them to appreciate the benefits that accessible EPUB can provide.


  1. The Big 5 Higher-Ed publishers have made great strides in providing accessible educational resources.
  2. DSOs often remediate PDFs when much more accessible EPUBs are available.
  3. These publishers are also working to make multimedia and interactive features as accessible as possible.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Alternate Format, EPUB Track, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Bill Kasdorf

Bill Kasdorf,, is Principal of Kasdorf & Associates, LLC, a consultancy focusing on editorial and production workflows, XML/HTML/EPUB modeling, standards and best practices, and accessibility. He is a founding partner of Publishing Technology Partners. Bill is active in the W3C Publishing@W3C activity and serves as the W3C Global Publishing Evangelist. He is a member of NISO and co-chairs two NISO Working Groups. He is a member of SSP, BISG, IPTC, and the DAISY Consortium. He is the recipient of the SSP Distinguished Service Award. He is general editor of The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing and serves on the editorial board of Learned Publishing. Consulting clients have included societies such as NEJM, NAP, and ACP; university presses at MIT, Harvard, Cambridge, Toronto, and Columbia; publishers such as SAGE, Norton, and Pearson; and organizations such as the Cochrane Library, OCLC, ORCID, and the EU Publishing Office.

Deb Castiglione

Deb Castiglione is the Director, Universal Design & Accessible Technologies at 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.

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.

Mary Conzachi


Jonathan Thurston

Jonathan Thurston is the Head of Accessibility Product Management for Pearson where he is responsible for the execution of Pearson's Global Product 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. Born in the Bay Area, he currently lives in the greater NYC area with his wife and growing family.

Tim Lindner