The Pre-certification Process

This is a summary of what to expect from the eBound–Benetech pre-certification process.

  • Subject(s):

    Ebook Production

  • Resource Type(s):


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Suggested Prerequisite

Before reading this, you might want to review:

Step 1: Signing Up 

After reaching out to the team at eBOUND and being accepted, you will be connected with the pre-certification team at the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS). The team at NNELS will then send you an introductory email that provides an overview of the steps to “pre-certification.”

What Is Pre-certification?

Pre-certification is intended for publishers who are newer to accessibility. NNELS works to create accessibility reports that are extremely readable and user-friendly, and give plenty of detailed examples from the books provided. The steps are very similar to the certification process, but pre-certification provides publishers with two key things: additional training, meaning that more books will be reviewed (as they will take part in both pre-certification and certification, with different books), and pre-certification reports, which are less technical and build a bridge to the more technical reporting offered in the certification stage. Pre-certification helps publishers build up a knowledge base around accessible publishing. 

Step 2: Participating

The welcome email from the NNELS team will ask you to submit up to two (2) EPUBs for pre-certification.

While any two reflowable EPUB files can be submitted for evaluation, it is good to keep the following in mind when selecting your files:

  • The books must be in reflowable EPUB file format. Children’s picture books and other fixed layout EPUB files cannot be evaluated as part of the GCA certification. This is due to their limitations of accessibility and lack of published standards specifically for these file types.
  • The EPUB files should ideally reflect the most complex genre or style of book you publish. Some common examples include poetry, textbooks, and other non-fiction books that include elements such as complex images, tables, lists, endnotes, bibliographies, and more.
  • It is recommended to avoid sending books with a close publishing date. Pre-certification can take more than a couple months, depending on the complexity of the books and the time available to work on the required changes.
  • The books can come from different production workflows—in fact, this may be desirable if you are working on deciding between two different workflows/conversion houses, etc. The reports will provide insight into which workflow has resulted in a more accessible title.

If you are uncertain about which books to submit, ask the NNELS team for clarification. Once the two books are submitted, your certifier will do a quick review of each book’s contents and complexity. They will then confirm the books have been received and begin evaluation.

Step 3: Ebook Evaluation

Using a template created in-house, the NNELS team evaluates each book in detail and writes an in-depth report. The report highlights what has been done well, and offers both recommendations and requirements for improvement. 

The areas covered are:

  • EPUB File
    • EPUB Version
    • Language Declarations
    • Reflowability
    • Metadata
  • Image descriptions (cover page, title page, logos, other images, and decorative images)
  • Navigation
    • Page navigation
    • Document <title> elements
    • Headings
    • Navigation pane (nav.xhtml / toc.xhtml file)
    • Textual table of contents
  • Markup and structure
    • Table formatting 
    • Styling (inline styling vs. CSS)
    • Math formatting 
    • Use of <section> elements
    • Use of <aside> elements
    • Footnote/endnote markup
    • Use of <blockquote> elements
    • Use of <figure> and <figcaption> elements
    • List formatting
    • Context break formatting 
  • Links
    • Link styling
    • Link text
    • Correct footnote/endnote linking 
  • Styling
    • Emphasis
    • Drop caps
    • Capitalization

Tools Used in Testing

To conduct the evaluation, the NNELS team uses the following tools:

  • Ace by Daisy Consortium: Ace by DAISY is a free desktop program that anyone can use to check the accessibility of their EPUB files.
  • NVDA: NVDA is a free screen reader for Microsoft Windows that helps people who are blind or visually impaired to use computers.
  • Narrator on Windows 10: Narrator is a screen reader that is part of Microsoft Windows.
  • JAWS: JAWS is a commercial screen reader available for Microsoft Windows.
  • Bookshelf on iOS with VoiceOver: VitalSource bookshelf is an ebook reader designed for VitalSource content, but other books can be sideloaded and read in the app.
  • Thorium Reader on Windows 10: Thorium Reader is a free reading application accessible to readers with print disabilities.

Step 3: Review and Revision 

After a few weeks, the NNELS team will send you a full report (a Word document) on one or both of your books. They will ask you to the review the report and revise the books as well as your production workflow (so that all future books are as accessible as possible). 

When the revised books are submitted, the NNELS team will review them and provide feedback—either in the form of a short report or by congratulating you via email and “graduating” you to the certification stage.

Next Steps


Wondering about certification?

The Value of Certification

Publishers might opt to get certified because of the education and support they get in the process, and to show their commitment to accessibility.

Subject(s): Ebook Production
Resource Type(s): Foundations and Rationale

Step-by-step guide to the process

How the Certification Process Works

If a publisher is confident in their workflow, they might consider getting certified accessible. This post explains how that process works.

Subject(s): Ebook Production
Resource Type(s): Standards and Best Practices

More about this sophisticated DAISY tool

Simplified Manual Accessibility Reporting Tool (SMART)

SMART is a robust accessibility checking tool that tests content against a number of metrics to support making ebook content.

Subject(s): Ebook Production
Resource Type(s): Tools

External Links to More Information

Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible Program

Benetech’s GCA certification is the first-ever independent third-party digital accessibility certification program. Their goal is to help publishers build born accessible content that meets the needs of all readers. The program accomplishes this by helping adjust publisher workflows to ensure that content they produce is accessible from the start.

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