Maribel Steel: New Focus on Accessible Publishing

Maribel Steel is an Indie author, online content writer and inspirational speaker. She lives in Australia and is legally blind. She is an advocate, mentor and peer advisor for VisionAware (American Foundation for the Blind, USA) and currently writes for the network as the ‘expert’ on Vision Loss. The following article is republished with permission of the author.

Photograph of Maribel Steel

Without doubt, the world of digital publishing has created such an explosion of options for Indie authors in getting their books out into a worldwide marketplace, many can celebrate having such choice at hand.

Yet their books can often sadly remain inaccessible to millions of readers.

Standard print and eBook publications are not reaching the eyes, ears and hands of so many people who would love to experience the immense pleasure and importance reading brings into our lives due to having a ‘print disability’.

As a visually-impaired person and Indie author myself, I am not fond of placing people into categories but it is worth pointing out that this group includes those living with a physical or sensory disability (such as being blind or vision-impaired), as well as those having a cognitive and learning disability – with Dyslexia affecting a staggering one in ten people globally.

Therefore, it is highly probable that potential readers are not accessing our books and it doesn’t have to be this way.

A brand new professional tool offering a comprehensive guide to empower authors in understanding the first steps towards making their manuscript accessible for millions has arrived!

As Indie authors, we can now take full advantage of a free and comprehensive publication written by Dave Gunn, Accessible eBook Guidelines for Self-Publishing Authors.

This easy to read guide is published by the WIPO Accessible Books Consortium in conjunction with the International Authors Forum (IAF), and is a tremendous resource that every Indie author/publisher who is keen to create accessible eBooks should peruse. Not only is this set of guidelines the FIRST of its kind, but it also provides a highly practical overview of the world of accessible publishing, complete with a helpful checklist and a further resources list.

All this strengthens an author’s sense of confidence in creating their next manuscript in an accessible publication format, and reading through the set of guidelines opens one’s eyes to key terms while raising one’s awareness to current software options when considering the design of an accessible eBook.

One of the highlights of reading through the guidelines as a vision-impaired author is knowing that I can also take advantage of a set of guidelines accessible to both author and reader.

I am so grateful to our industry ‘watchdogs’ such as the International Authors Forum (IAF) and the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) who are dedicated to creating a global network empowering Indie and traditional authors with a set of standards for making more books accessible to all. If the seeking of knowledge and the freedom to read books is important to you, I encourage all writers and publishers to seriously consider how creating eBooks in accessible formats is the next frontier to publishing: by taking up the recommendations set out in these guidelines, we open the way forward to create more possibilities for a worldwide readership.

Be a proud link in the chain which enables people like myself to stay connected through our passion for our craft. Together, we can support each other and bring the focus on reaching a whole new audience by designing our manuscripts in an accessible format available for everyone to enjoy.

More about Maribel

Maribel’s nonfiction stories and essays appear in numerous journals online and in print (including IAF website, Changing the Way We See Books excerpt) and she has been nominated for several awards. Maribel was one of the judges on the recent panel for the Accessible Books Consortium 2016 International Excellence Awards for Accessible Publishing. She has recently been nominated for the ‘Inspire’ Award by Women with Disabilities (VIC) for the Australian National University Best Achievement Award in Writing (Non-Fiction and Journalism) 2016.

“I believe each one of us has huge potential to effect extraordinary change in our personal lives and interpersonal relationships – when we have the courage to create a brilliant vision for our shared future.”