Even if publishers do widely embrace EPUB 3’s accessibility features, another big unknown is whether e-readers and other devices will support them. Amazon’s Kindle reader, for example, provides access to a vast library, including classics such as Molecular Biology of the Cell (5th edn, Garland Science, 2012), but is “still not fully accessible”, says Danielsen.
Broader access came in May, when Amazon released an application that allows many Kindle e-books to be read on Apple devices using Apple’s VoiceOver — a screen reader designed for the blind. Organizations for the blind give Apple products top marks for their attention to accessibility. Larry Hjelmeland, a blind researcher at the University of California, Davis, who studies the biology of eye ageing, says that Apple’s latest operating system has made it much easier for him to read everything from e-mails to scientific papers.
Gardner hopes that the treaty and advances in technology will also help to address the under-representation of the visually impaired in science. “These people tend to have restricted opportunities for social interaction and entertainment,” he says. “So they often are much more productive than people without disabilities.”