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Re: Research proposal: Accessibility support for PDF, Flash, etc.

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From: Moore,Michael (DARS)
Date: Feb 23, 2010 9:12AM


Mark,

I like this research area but I disagree with the with the following statement from your proposal. "But interactive forms in PDF (even when properly tagged) can only be read and filled in by the latest access technologies. Few users have or can afford these latest technologies, so the use of PDF for interactive forms cannot currently be considered accessibility supported for a general web audience."

We have been successfully building and deploying PDF forms using Adobe Designer since 2005. (JAWS 5/6 era). Our testing indicates that they are supported when properly developed even in older technologies. PDF forms offer some advantages over HTML depending upon how they are to be used. For example if a form requires an original signature, or email distribution. Print style sheet support, particularly for older browsers can be an issue and following links in emails is considered a security risk. What your research may reveal is that the best support is provided by offering multiple options for a user. We currently maintain most of our forms in at least two formats. If the primary version of a form is HTML we generally also provide access to the form in PDF or MS word for example.

Support for older technologies will always be an issue, and a thorny one for accessibility given that people with disabilities are disproportionally represented among the population with lower incomes and less access to more advanced technologies. In my opinion these digital divide issues should remain separate from accessibility issues. However if you wish to consider digital divide issues along with the accessibility issues then research into the effectiveness of open source solutions like NVDA, Orca and Ubuntu may be worthwhile.

Mike Moore