Why do we publish books? For money, obviously. Some of us would like to believe we are also handmaidens of literature — or maybe some more moderate expression like “bringing valuable writing to a discerning public”. Well you know what I’m trying to say. We spend, however, little time thinking about those who can’t read. And I don’t mean so much that (happily decreasing) band of illiterates; I refer to those who physically cannot, or find it difficult to, read. The term “print disabled” was originated around 1988-1989 by George Kerscher to describe people who could not access print. A print-disabled person is someone who cannot effectively read print because of a visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability.

Braille is probably the technology which leaps to mind (the Braille Wikipedia entry is extensive), but there’s obviously more to it. Large print is obviously a relatively low-tech part of the story. Rachel Aydt writes a piece in Publishing Perspectives on 14 March, encouraging publishers to pay attention to the needs of the print disabled. She mentions the DIAGRAM project. This link to the Bookshare blog gives practical advice on how to prepare EUB3 files to make them maximally accessible to the print disabled. Here is a link to a Galley Cat story about a font designed to help the dyslexic read.

One wonders if this is something publishers will spend money on. It’s obviously right, but but will it pay for itself? If we can do it at little or no extra cost, of course we will. But however idealistic we are, there are financial ramifications consequent on every decision we make.