UP Week 2023: A Conversation with the UBC Press Accessibility Committee

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2023

In celebration of 2023 University Press Week and this year’s theme – Speak UP – we spoke with our Accessibility Committee about how we strive to amplify our authors’ voices by making our publications accessible. Here’s what they shared about past, present, and future projects.


“We have a responsibility to our authors, and to our audiences, to make UBC Press publications accessible to the most inclusive range of readers possible.”

- Melissa Pitts, Director


Accessible Ebooks

As of 2022, UBC Press is a Benetech Global Certified Accessible™ (GCA) publisher. Benetech’s GCA publisher certification program is the first ever, third-party EPUB certification program to verify ebook accessibility. UBC Press demonstrated that it could consistently produce files in accordance with Benetech’s GCA certification standard, meeting the EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery specification and exceeding a publishing standard level of WCAG 2.0 AA. Benetech recognizes UBC Press as a creator of fully accessible EPUBs. eBOUND Canada, a GCA international partner, completed the evaluation.

In addition to our Benetech certification, UBC Press is constantly working on improving our book accessibility. Here are some changes that we have integrated into our regular workflows:

  • We have made it a requirement that all incoming manuscripts either have alt-text written for all images, or that the authors are prepared to pay to have it prepared in production. About half of our authors elect to write it themselves, following guidelines prepared by the production department. The rest pay a rather nominal fee to have it done for them.
  • We create alt-text for our covers that is more than just formulaic, and are embedding these descriptions using the IPTC Alt Text (Accessibility) This ensures that the alt-text is included any time we send the file to our trading partners and it will be used on our own website to improve screen reading experience.
  • Our web PDFs include accessible linked indexes and tables of contents.
  • We are also turning our attention toward the EU’s Accessibility Act of 2025, which will require that any book we wish to sell in the EU have an accessible edition.


“The features of accessible EPUBs not only support equal access but also enhance the reading experience for everyone.”

- Katrina Petrik, Editor



We have created our first fully accessible audiobooks (The Shoe Boy and Indigenous Storywork – coming December 1), which contain image descriptions and other accessible features.


The Future of Accessibility at UBC Press

Accessibility metadata

We are working on improving the accessibility metadata that we store and distribute on our ebooks, making it easier for trading partners to highlight accessible titles or filter for certain accessibility features.

We have started storing font information (size, style) about our physical books and will be including this in our ONIX feeds, allowing booksellers to respond to customer enquiries about this information.


“Most importantly, we are taking a proactive approach – constantly looking for ways we can improve our workflows to make our books more accessible – rather than putting the onus on those who will benefit from these improvements to tell us what they need.”

- Krista Bergstrom, Digital Publishing Coordinator



We have developed a classification system for our ebooks that describes the accessibility features a reader can expect to find. These classifications will be used on our website to allow potential customers to make informed decisions about whether or not a book will meet their accessibility needs.

Social media

We’re making it our goal to include alt-text for all images used on our social media accounts.


“We are leading the charge on accessible publishing in Canada and on accessible scholarly publishing worldwide, alongside presses like University of Michigan Press and House of Anansi. Every time I interact with employees from other presses, I’m surprised to learn that I’m able to educate them on some aspect of accessibility or other.”

- Carmen Tiampo, Assistant Editor


The UBC Press Accessibility Committee is comprised of Krista Bergstrom, Katrina Petrik, Melissa Pitts, and Carmen Tiampo. To learn more about accessibility at UBC Press, please visit the accessibility page on our website.

Posted by Megan M.
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