A call for text-to-speech functions to be included on all electronic book platforms to improve their accessibility has been issued by a group of publishing and literary organisations.
The Publishers Association, The Society of Authors, The Association of Authors Agents and The Right to Read Alliance – itself an umbrella campaign group, whose members include The Royal National Institute of Blind People – grouped together to issue the joint statement. It recommended that speech functions, which help many print-disabled readers access a range of otherwise inaccessible e-books, “is routinely enabled on all e-books across all platforms, at least where there is no audio-book edition commercially available.”
The statement continued: “It is in the interests of publishers for their published content to be available and accessible to as many people as possible. This includes the broadening of the market to those with visual impairments or other disabilities”.
The recommendation follows ongoing disputes over the inclusion of text-to-speech functions on e-book readers. Last year US manufacturer Amazon allowed publishers to disable the feature on an early version of its Kindle e-book reader, after an authors’ rights group claimed that the text-to-speech function effectively breached a royalties agreement ( see E-Access Bulletin issue 110: www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=244 ).
However, Amazon subsequently agreed to incorporate extra accessibility features into the Kindle after several American universities rejected the device as a potential teaching-aid, citing inaccessibility to blind students ( see www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=383 ).