The Evolution of Accessibility Metadata

In 2019, wannounced our Content Transparency Initiative to provide users of our various storefronts, sampling sites, and catalogue feeds with the ability to see the accessibility markup that was present in newly submitted EPUB content. This year, we are expanding this program to provide: 

  • Visibility of the accessibility tab for every title (both EPUB and PDF) 
  • Simplified methods of providing accessibility markup metadata for existing titles in our system   


In 2017, the W3C posted the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 specificationAlthough great work had been done on many fronts to help content creators provide a high degree of accessibility in their documents, this specification provided formal requirements for evaluation and certification. These requirements were then formulated into a User Experience Guide for Displaying Accessibility Metadata and Display Techniques for EPUB Accessibility Metadata. 

In 2019, VitalSource released its Content Transparency Initiative to display this accessibility metadata using the W3C’s recommendations. From that point, content that was submitted to our platform containing this metadatwas displayed in the product detail page of our storefronts, branded stores, sampling site, and catalogue feeds. Currently, any content following our content submission guidelines has the ability to use the appropriate metadata to claim accessibility for many areas, including: 

  • Navigation structure & page numbers 
  • Read aloud (text to speech) 
  • Screen reader support
  • Textual adjustments (foreground & background colours, line spacing, and font changes) 
  • Images and alt text 
  • Mathematical content 

How to Submit Metadata 

By following the W3C specification details above, any new submission of content to our platform can provide the associated accessibility markup metadata for us to display to end-users.   

Starting today, That metadata submitted inside your EPUB files will be live within a few hours.   

Later this summer, we will also provide a spreadsheet to upload metadata for existing titles in our platform, or for PDF titles that have the appropriate markup included.  This template will contain instructions and formatting examples and will be available on this page, or in our Upload platform.  

Prior to the start of the 2021 Academic year, we will display the Accessibility tab for all titles in our system, adding an explanation for those without any metadata. 

Examples of Best Practices 

In addition to the examples included in our accessibility metadata template, you can find great resources for how to craft good accessibility metadata on the web.  

A few of these resources are:  

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