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Accessibility Toolkit for Open Educational Resources (OER): Pressbooks [New 2024]

Accessibility guide for creating OER



What is Pressbooks?

Pressbooks is a free and open source book content management system that allows users to publish books to the public web and produce exports in multiple formats, including EPUB and PDF.

Pressbooks is built on top of WordPress Multisite but makes significant changes to the admin interface, web presentation layer and export routines of a standard WordPress installation.

Pressbooks is typically installed with a suite of complementary plugins and themes which extend the tool’s default publishing capabilities.

Because Pressbooks is built on WordPress, Pressbooks benefit from WordPress’ Accessibility Coding Standards, which require that “All new or updated code released in WordPress must conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 at level AA.

Pressbooks have been tracking the development of Gutenberg, WordPress’ block editing interface and will not integrate Gutenberg with Pressbooks until the accessibility issues raised in its 2019 audit have been resolved.

Accessibility Statement from Pressbooks

Pressbooks believes that education should be available to all people regardless of abilities and that everyone should have equal access to publishing tools that allow them to share their ideas with others. That is why accessibility is at the forefront of our minds when we build tools, create resources, and offer solutions to some of today’s most urgent educational challenges.


VPAT and Compliance with Accessibility Standards

In 2019, Pressbooks published their first Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), which documented their compliance with WCAG 2.0 at the A and AA levels. Recent audits have focused on ensuring that Pressbooks Create and their reading interface comply with WCAG 2.1 guidelines at level AA.

Make Your Book Accessible and Inclusive

When it comes to publishing material with Pressbooks, accessibility and inclusion must be considered at

  1. The publishing platform level (largely Pressbook's responsibility) and
  2. The content level (which is largely the creator's responsibility as the book’s creator).

Basic Pressbooks Accessibility

Pressbooks webbooks are designed to be accessible for users of all abilities and compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies. Focus on producing clean mark-up and pay special attention to the following practices:

  • Use chapters, headings, and subheadings to organize content. In Pressbooks, chapter titles will appear as H1 elements. Use headings of an equal or higher rank to indicate the beginning of a new section, and headings with a lower rank to start a new subsection within the higher ranked section in which it occurs. Use headings in descending rank order (beginning with H1 and descending through H6, if needed) and avoid skipping heading ranks whenever possible (don’t jump from an H2 to and H4, for example).
  • Determine whether each image you include has a functional or purely decorative role. Add alternative text to functional images that clearly describe the content.
  • Check the colour contrast for any images/figures included with your text and whenever using a shaded or coloured background with text.
  • When using links to other web content, include descriptive link text for the link. The link text should  describe the content of the link; “our guide chapter on Navigation” is better than “click here” or “read more” as link text. If you are linking to non-web content (file downloads, for example) or causing a link to open in a new tab or window, consider telling the user this in the link description.
  • When using tables, provide properly tagged table titles/captions and table headers/footers where appropriate, and avoid using merged or split cells wherever possible.
  • Include captions and/or transcripts for any multimedia you include with your text.

Pressbooks User Guide Copyright © 2024 by Pressbooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Student Accessibility & Usability Barriers

Alt-text Issues

  • Pressbooks doesn’t prompt authors to include alternative text (alt-text) when they are entering images and graphics.
    • Not including alt-text for images and graphics causes accessibility issues. Make sure to include alt-text.

Image descriptions issues

  • Throughout the publication, image descriptions are in italics which is harder for users to read.
  • Image descriptions text fail color contrast tests for accessibility.

TIP: Instead of using the image descriptions text, consider using regular paragraph text and identifying images by a figure number in the text description, alt text, and heading of the image.

Videos captions & audio transcripts

  • Pressbooks doesn’t prompt authors to include captions when video is embedded in the content.
  • Pressbooks also doesn’t prompt users to provide transcripts when audio media is embedded.
  • make sure to include captions for video and transcripts for audio content,

Source: University of Wisconsin IT Accessibility and Usability (2023-09-13)

Major Resources on Pressbook Accessibility

BCcampus information on Pressbooks Accessibility

When it comes to creating open textbooks, Pressbooks is a powerful tool. And applying inclusive design practices to the OER that we are creating in Pressbooks can help ensure that the book is easy to use and navigate in all formats.

-Accessibility Toolkit - 2nd Edition by BCcampus is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 Deed

In February 2019, BCcampus hosted a four-part webinar series on inclusive design. Each webinar focused on a different topic to address the varying ways that inclusive design practices can influence post-secondary education.

Inclusive design is never something that we complete. Nor is it something that can be perfected. It is not a finish line we can cross. Instead, it is something to practice, integrate with our everyday work, and continually revisit and reevaluate. And we hope that these webinars can act as a starting place for that process.

Open Educational Network video on Pressbook Accessibility

In this OEN community session, join Amy Song, PressbookEDU’s customer success manager, as she demonstrates creating content on the Pressbooks authoring platform, including key accessibility features, subject-specific approaches and best practices. Transcript of OEN session (Google doc)

Citation: Open Educational Network (Jul 7, 2021) Disciplinary and Accessibility Considerations for Publishing with Pressbooks