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Thread: Testing PDfs for accessiblilty

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From: Alan Zaitchik
Date: Mon, Jul 17 2017 4:28PM
Subject: Testing PDfs for accessiblilty
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I have finally convinced my superiors that it¹s time we look at tools
other than Acrobat Pro for testing and remediating issues with PDFs.
They prefer, obviously, not to spend money, but might be cajoled into a
small investment. I¹m sure better tools will save money almost immediately
given the inordinate amount of time I am spending at present with Acrobat.

My question is: what would you recommend as an alternative to Acorbat Pro
for the various aspects of accessibility testing and remediation, in
particular the tags structures?

We get PDF documents from various sources: InDesign, Word, Powerpoint,
sometimes Excel ‹ and sometimes we have no idea where. There is always a
crushing amount of work required to straighten out the tags, and of course
any subsequent edit of content seems to play havoc with the tags and spoil
the work done up to that point. I rely on Role Mapping, and so on, but the
fact is that the tag structure is often (usually) wildly broken. We are
very frustrated by both the Autotag feature of Acrobat as well as the
³Save as PDF² plugins in Word and Powerpoint, assuming that they bear some
of the responsibility, too, for the bad results. No matter how we try in
Word and InDesign and Powerpoint, when the document is brought into
Acrobat (and auto tagged if need be) the results are always unacceptable.

Can anyone recommend a tool that autogenerates clean tag structures that
conform to HTML5-like semantics? Is there a better way to generate PDFs
from Word, Powerpoint, etc. than the usual Save as PDF options in those
products?

Thanks for suggestions.

Alan Zaitchik

Center for Social Innovation
200 Reservoir Street
Needham, MA 02494

From: Angela French
Date: Mon, Jul 17 2017 4:30PM
Subject: Re: Testing PDfs for accessiblilty
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Hmmmm, I might have written this myself! Eager to see the suggestions.

Angela French

-----Original Message-----
From: WebAIM-Forum [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Alan Zaitchik
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2017 3:29 PM
To: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
Subject: [WebAIM] Testing PDfs for accessiblilty

I have finally convinced my superiors that it¹s time we look at tools other than Acrobat Pro for testing and remediating issues with PDFs.
They prefer, obviously, not to spend money, but might be cajoled into a small investment. I¹m sure better tools will save money almost immediately given the inordinate amount of time I am spending at present with Acrobat.

My question is: what would you recommend as an alternative to Acorbat Pro for the various aspects of accessibility testing and remediation, in particular the tags structures?

We get PDF documents from various sources: InDesign, Word, Powerpoint, sometimes Excel ‹ and sometimes we have no idea where. There is always a crushing amount of work required to straighten out the tags, and of course any subsequent edit of content seems to play havoc with the tags and spoil the work done up to that point. I rely on Role Mapping, and so on, but the fact is that the tag structure is often (usually) wildly broken. We are very frustrated by both the Autotag feature of Acrobat as well as the ³Save as PDF² plugins in Word and Powerpoint, assuming that they bear some of the responsibility, too, for the bad results. No matter how we try in Word and InDesign and Powerpoint, when the document is brought into Acrobat (and auto tagged if need be) the results are always unacceptable.

Can anyone recommend a tool that autogenerates clean tag structures that conform to HTML5-like semantics? Is there a better way to generate PDFs from Word, Powerpoint, etc. than the usual Save as PDF options in those products?

Thanks for suggestions.

Alan Zaitchik

Center for Social Innovation
200 Reservoir Street
Needham, MA 02494

From: Allayne Woodford
Date: Mon, Jul 17 2017 5:31PM
Subject: Re: Testing PDfs for accessiblilty
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Hi Alan,

I'm a frequent user and fan of Commonlook. Granted, it's an Acrobat plug-in and is quite costly but for the volume of work I have I think it's well worth it, and I was skeptical at first. It allows for super quick markup of tables, one-step removal of empty tags, removal of role maps from InDesign styles (love this feature!) an undo feature, and the ability to tag something once then tag all the same text styles in one go. This is great for headings.

Commonlook doesn't auto-generate tags, you would still need to do that in Acrobat for a 'No tags available' PDF but it gives you something to work with. Using just Acrobat Pro for PDF remediation, particularly when you don't have the source document, is not something I'd want to go back to.

Ally Woodford
Accessibility Services Manager
Media Access Australia
Direct Line: 02 8378 5003   Mobile: 0419 460 797
Level 3, 616 – 620 Harris St, Ultimo NSW 2007   Ph: (02) 9212 6242
www.mediaaccess.org.au   www.digitalaccess.com.au  







-----Original Message-----
From: WebAIM-Forum [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Angela French
Sent: Tuesday, 18 July 2017 8:31 AM
To: WebAIM Discussion List < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] Testing PDfs for accessiblilty

Hmmmm, I might have written this myself! Eager to see the suggestions.

Angela French

-----Original Message-----
From: WebAIM-Forum [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Alan Zaitchik
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2017 3:29 PM
To: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
Subject: [WebAIM] Testing PDfs for accessiblilty

I have finally convinced my superiors that it¹s time we look at tools other than Acrobat Pro for testing and remediating issues with PDFs.
They prefer, obviously, not to spend money, but might be cajoled into a small investment. I¹m sure better tools will save money almost immediately given the inordinate amount of time I am spending at present with Acrobat.

My question is: what would you recommend as an alternative to Acorbat Pro for the various aspects of accessibility testing and remediation, in particular the tags structures?

We get PDF documents from various sources: InDesign, Word, Powerpoint, sometimes Excel ‹ and sometimes we have no idea where. There is always a crushing amount of work required to straighten out the tags, and of course any subsequent edit of content seems to play havoc with the tags and spoil the work done up to that point. I rely on Role Mapping, and so on, but the fact is that the tag structure is often (usually) wildly broken. We are very frustrated by both the Autotag feature of Acrobat as well as the ³Save as PDF² plugins in Word and Powerpoint, assuming that they bear some of the responsibility, too, for the bad results. No matter how we try in Word and InDesign and Powerpoint, when the document is brought into Acrobat (and auto tagged if need be) the results are always unacceptable.

Can anyone recommend a tool that autogenerates clean tag structures that conform to HTML5-like semantics? Is there a better way to generate PDFs from Word, Powerpoint, etc. than the usual Save as PDF options in those products?

Thanks for suggestions.

Alan Zaitchik

Center for Social Innovation
200 Reservoir Street
Needham, MA 02494

From: Philip Kiff
Date: Wed, Jul 19 2017 5:42PM
Subject: Re: Testing PDfs for accessiblilty
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> My question is: what would you recommend as an alternative to Acorbat Pro for the various aspects of accessibility testing and remediation, in particular the tags structures?

My impression is that there are really only two tools that are worth looking at for doing advanced PDF remediation:

CommonLook "PDF GlobalAccess"
http://commonlook.com/accessibility-software/commonlook-pdf-globalaccess/

and

axesPDF "QuickFix"
https://www.axes4.com/axespdf-quickfix-overview.html

Neither of these pieces of software replaces Adobe Acrobat DC. CommonLook is a plugin for Acrobat. AxesPDF is standalone software but like CommonLook, it only supplements and augments what you can do with Acobrat Pro. There are essential editing functions for PDF remediation that are only available in Acrobat Pro DC. And if you are not using DC, then your cheapest first step would be to upgrade to DC. And upgrade to Word 365 or 2016. And the latest version of InDesign. Those upgrades alone could save you countless hours.

I have extensive experience with axesPDF but limited experience with CommonLook. I keep meaning to find the time to do a proper comparison and review of the two tools, but never seem to find that time - oh, by the way, each of them will run you around $1000 USD (or more).

Allayne Woodford wrote:

> Commonlook doesn't auto-generate tags, you would still need to do that in Acrobat for a 'No tags available' PDF but it gives you something to work with. Using just Acrobat Pro for PDF remediation, particularly when you don't have the source document, is not something I'd want to go back to.

My experience with axesPDF is similar to what Allayne writes about
CommonLook: I would never, ever want go back to editing PDFs just with
Acrobat.

> Can anyone recommend a tool that autogenerates clean tag structures that conform to HTML5-like semantics? Is there a better way to generate PDFs from Word, Powerpoint, etc. than the usual Save as PDF options in those products?

This is a multi-prong question.

First, neither axesPDF nor (as Alan notes) CommonLook will autogenerate tags in a separate process from what Acrobat does.

Second, yes, there are better ways to generate PDFs from Word and InDesign in particular. The better way is to make better source files! If you follow all the recommended techniques from Microsoft and Adobe for creating accessible files in those programs along with some additional advice from this list and elsewhere, then you should be able to generate PDFs from those pieces of software that don't require an inordinate amount of retagging or remediation. There will be exceptions for particular structures of course, but those two programs have come a long way in the last 5-10 years and if files from recent versions of those programs are generating tag soup, then there are probably significant problems with the way the source files were created.

Both CommonLook and axesPDF offer Word plugins that claim to be able to give Word editors the possibility of generating PDF/UA compliant PDFs directly from Word. They may prove useful for files that require ongoing updates and that require regular conversion of substantially the same file to PDF.

Regarding the autotag function in Acrobat DC, it seems to me that different PDF editors have different approaches about when and where to use it most efficiently. I personally don't use it on most files that already have a tag structure in place - even if that tag structure is flawed. I find it faster to fix the tag structure in most cases, rather than starting fresh. Or to edit the source Office/InDesign file and then recreate the PDF before editing it further. But as with most things related to PDF remediation, it depends on the content.

Lastly, I've seen multiple references on this list to HTML 5 and connecting it to PDFs. I would keep those issues separate. HTML 5 elements don't always correspond to PDF tags. There is a loose relationship, and some patterns and tags are similar, but PDF structure is its own little world with its set of rules and sometimes bizarre quirks.

Phil.

On 2017-07-17 7:31 PM, Allayne Woodford wrote:
> Hi Alan,
>
> I'm a frequent user and fan of Commonlook. Granted, it's an Acrobat plug-in and is quite costly but for the volume of work I have I think it's well worth it, and I was skeptical at first. It allows for super quick markup of tables, one-step removal of empty tags, removal of role maps from InDesign styles (love this feature!) an undo feature, and the ability to tag something once then tag all the same text styles in one go. This is great for headings.
>
> Commonlook doesn't auto-generate tags, you would still need to do that in Acrobat for a 'No tags available' PDF but it gives you something to work with. Using just Acrobat Pro for PDF remediation, particularly when you don't have the source document, is not something I'd want to go back to.
>
> Ally Woodford
> Accessibility Services Manager
> Media Access Australia
[snip]