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Updates to InDesign’s EPUB Export Bring New Accessibility Features


A working group of people deeply invested in accessible EPUB has been collaborating with the InDesign team at Adobe for two years or so to upgrade how that software exports EPUB. That work is finally bearing fruit.

Two members of the board of the Accessible Books Consortium, Richard Orme from the DAISY Consortium and Laura Brady (your author!), along with Gregoria Pellegrino, the Chief Accessibility Officer from powerhouse Italian accessibility organization, Fondazione LIA, have engaged with the Director of Accessibility at Adobe and the engineering team to document places where InDesign’s EPUB export gets in the way of accessibility. There is some urgency to this work as the European Accessibility Act is due to go into effect in June 2025. Let’s take a look at the technical details.


In Fall 2022, there was an update to how language declarations are exported from InDesign. Instead of putting the declaration on the <body> element, it now exports on the root HTML element. This implementation was a bit bumpy, but the bugs have been fixed in version 19.2 (February 2024). Now, the language declaration is in the correct place, in addition to being added to the HTML element in both the cover and navigation documents.

Language declaration in EPUB code exported from Adobe InDesign

Prior to this, many ebook developers had to invest in manual or scripted fixes to the language issues. So while small, this is a welcome, time-saving update.

Decorative Images

In Fall 2023, there was another update to how elements are exported from InDesign. Any images that had no alt text applied via Object > Object Export Options > Alt Text, would be assumed to be decorative and would be exported as such.

Alt text settings in Adobe InDesign Object Export Options

An image with no alt text would turn into the following HTML:

<img class="_idGenObjectAttribute-2" src="image/2.jpg" alt="" role="presentation" />

This is not a perfect implementation, so watch for an update in InDesign version 19.4 that will include an option to designate images as decorative rather than assuming that the lack of an image description means the image is presentational only.

Accessibility Metadata

The biggest new feature, and a real victory for accessibility and discoverability, is the addition of an Accessibility tab in the Metadata area of the Reflowable EPUB Export Options.

Accessibility tab on the Metadata window of the EPUB export options in Adobe InDesign

Most of the fields are have options to choose values from the list of properties. (For more detail, see:

Having accessibility metadata in the EPUB is a requirement of the EPUB Accessibility Guidelines and will be critical to meeting the demands of the European accessibility directive. It is also extraordinarily helpful to consumers who are starting to find content that meets their needs. (See: for more information.)

Future Updates

The recent changes are very welcome but even more are needed before we can get an EPUB export out of InDesign that doesn’t require post-export editing. But there seems to be some momentum. I am hopeful that a pagelist for reflowable ebooks, a field for an image description for the cover, and some fixes to how footnotes and endnotes are exported will be in releases later this year. Watch this space!

Laura Brady is an inclusive publishing expert whose priority is always to put users first. She has more than 25 years of trade publishing experience, creating and converting ebooks, training publishers on accessible workflows, writing a blog helping developers work more accessibly, and consulting for services organizations about how to publish inclusively while worrying about everyone's reading experience. She is on the board of the Accessible Books Consortium and chairs the International Publishers Association accessibility subcommittee.

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  • Ruben Solér says:

    This is great news, and big thanks to everyone who’ve worked hard on it! Any useful update to the export function is essentially long overdue, but very welcome.

  • Keith Gilbert says:

    Thank you for your important work on this Laura!

  • Lucy Hawkins says:

    Thank you very much for championing this! A page list would be super awesome. Also, if files could output content in sections, instead of defaulting to that would be very welcome.

  • Jim Swift says:

    Great to hear of this progress. I just looked at the new metadata tag and, found it a little daunting, as I realized how little I know about all these options.

    I am far from being a professional who would be familiar with all these terms. But as I volunteer making ebooks from InDesign files, for a very small non-profit, publisher, I try my best to make the ebooks as accessible as I can.

    What would be really valuable is a detailed tutorial about this new metadata panel and how best to use it . Particularly about what NOT to do and what is safe to do for someone who does not have certification credentials.

    • Jim Swift says:

      I could not find a way to edit the previous post.

      Sorry, Laura. I had not read your article thoroughly enough before posting the too hasty comment.
      I have now seen the link to the apln article, and found the apln site for the first time. I’m sure I will find that article and site really helpful.

    • Ruben Solér says:

      I absolutely agree with you. Although there’s documentation available in the links (as you point out in your other comment), it’s pretty technical and leaves a lot to be desired in its presentation. Most people who make EPUBs aren’t experts and it’s very unfortunate that finding accessible learning resources is still this difficult.

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