6 Step 4: Determine Access

At this point in the editing process, you’ll want to decide where and in what format students can access your revised open textbook.

Students appreciate having textbooks available in multiple formats, so that they can choose what works best for them. Some students prefer reading a printed version; others prefer reading online. Still others prefer using an e-reader. Offering multiple formats means your content is more accessible. (See Step 2 for format types.)

If you produce multiple formats, remember that what works well in one format may not work well in another. For example, students who use print copies of your textbook need QR codes or short URLs to access content that students who read online can simply click on.

Regardless of the formats you produce, you need a stable place to keep your textbook so that students can access it. Options include distributing the open textbook via your:

  • Institutional repository
  • Learning management system (LMS)
  • Personal website
  • Campus bookstore
Some faculty prefer to provide separate chapter-by-chapter files in addition to the complete file.


Offering multiple formats of your open textbook is a key way to ensure greater access to it.

Campus communities can consult with their disability resource centers for guidance and assistance. Disability resource centers commonly facilitate student accommodations by ensuring access to:

  • Portable electronic and large-type textbooks for people with mobility limitations or low vision.
  • Read-aloud files for text-to-speech software for people with learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, or others who may benefit from listening to an audio text.
  • Tagged texts, images, and tables to enable screen-reader navigation for people who are blind or low-vision. Tactile graphics and braille are also useful.

The EPUB format is often considered the most accessible for screen-reading software.

Three ways to improve accessibility of your open textbook:

  • Ensure that digital text is machine-readable.
  • Tag navigation elements, including headings and subheadings.
  • Tag and describe images and tables.

If you have questions about open textbook accessibility, contact your disability resource center. You can also consult the DAISY Consortium’s guide to Making Publications Accessible for All and the International Digital Publishing Forum’s EPUB 3 Accessibility Guidelines.

Testing and Generating Accessible Formats

If you want to test the accessibility of your open textbook, or convert your textbook into different formats, there are online tools you can use.

NonVisual Desktop Access: Free screen reader that enables user testing. It’s an open source, Windows-based software available in more than 40 languages.

PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC 2): Free program displays a PDF preview in a web browser. The PAC preview shows PDF tags and presents the accessible elements as they’d be interpreted by assistive technologies. PAC also provides an accessibility report, which lists the detected accessibility errors.

DAISY Consortium’s Pipeline Download: Cross-platform, open source framework for converting text documents into accessible formats for people with print disabilities.

Additional Resources

Many of the following resources on making your open textbook accessible include step-by-step instructions. Further information on accessibility can be found at the following Open Textbook Network partner institutions:

In addition, you can consult the BC Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit. The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities also provides a number of videos on making accessible documents.

Further Reading

National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS): Standard developed in the United States to assist with the production of accessible content in higher education. The NIMAS standard is based on the DAISY standard.

Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act: Requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview from W3C: Aims to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.

International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF): Maintenance agency for EPUB.

Special thanks to Krista Geear at the University of Washington for her contributions to this section.


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Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need to Know Copyright © 2016 by Open Education Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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