What makes an Audiobook accessible?

What makes an Audiobook accessible?

The general belief is that an eBook or an audiobook is already accessible.

When they’re not.

Although audiobooks have been a catalyst for change in the accessible publishing world, the book industry still has a long way to go to achieve true equity for people with print disabilities.

Accessible audiobooks must go beyond reading the text aloud, and many factors must be accounted for when considering what makes an audiobook fully accessible.

Many people can benefit from audiobooks, not only people living with sight loss.

Audiobooks can make a significant impact on those living with print disabilities. For readers who can’t engage with traditional print books, accessible audiobooks are crucial.

Print disabilities include a variety of visual, physical, and cognitive disabilities, all of which can make it difficult for a person to read print books for different reasons.

A jar of pencils sits on top of a stack of books
Audiobooks must reflect the needs of all people with print disabilities

What are some accessibility features that can make an eBook or audiobook more accessible?

Easy Navigation

Just as a sighted reader could flip back and forth through the pages of a book, take a glance at the appendix, or read a particular section over again, navigation systems in accessible audiobooks allow readers to pause, go back in their reading, or navigate to footnotes.

A user-friendly reading experience is possible with DAISY (Digitally Accessible Information Systems) files. A DAISY reader is a machine that allows a reader to pause, fast, forward, rewind, or skip through sections of a CD-recorded audiobook.

Newer DAISY reader systems operate on a computer using keyboard shortcuts and highlight text on-screen as it is read aloud. DAISY audiobook files are split into chapters or sections that are labeled so that readers can skip through large portions of the book with ease.

Visual Descriptions

Thanks to visual descriptions, readers can understand any images, illustrations, maps, tables, or graphs that are included in the text.

Visual components are often necessary for the understanding of the text and contribute to the enjoyment of a book.

Descriptive Metadata

Metadata (or data used to describe other data) enhances books for readers with sight loss.

In addition to author and publisher information, bibliographic material, copyright, and abstracts are usually unavailable from conventional audiobooks.

Metadata can also help when browsing through DAISY files, as each section, subsection, and piece of media can be identified when skipping through different parts of the text.

Human Narration

Most eBooks come with Artificial Intelligence (AI) read-aloud option. However, human narration is the top choice for readers of all ages.

AI cannot replicate the appropriate cadence of the human voice. All books (even nonfiction) require rich tone, dynamics, pace, and emotion to convey complex ideas and meanings.

For young readers and those with cognitive disabilities, human-narrated books represent a rich world of meaning. There’s much more to a book than what’s printed on the page!

Free and Easy Access

To make audiobooks easily discoverable, accessible spaces must exist where readers can find a variety of reading materials.

An image of the pages of a braille book
Accessible spaces must exist where readers can find a variety of reading materials

💡Did you know? CNIB Beyond Print advocates for the accessibility of all Canadian books and magazines to ensure everyone has equitable access to information.

Final Thoughts

It is critical to invest resources in alternative formats to ensure everyone can read, learn, and interact with the world around them, regardless of a physical or cognitive disability.

An audiobook cannot be considered fully accessible until financial barriers are also removed. This is why CNIB Beyond Print requires publishers to allow the DAISY audio master recording to be provided at no cost to the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) and other organizations that provide accessible materials for people with print disabilities in Canada and worldwide.

CNIB Beyond Print also works in collaboration with public libraries and organizations such as the National Network for Equitable Library Access (NNELS) to provide materials in alternative formats to anyone with a library card.

Are you a publisher or author looking to make your audiobook accessible? Contact Us.