WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: PDF, Accessibility and Quality Control


From: Robinson, Norman B - Washington, DC
Date: Jan 29, 2007 12:50PM


We have many different functional organizations creating
content. We are most likely to provide an accessible PDF if the original
document is maintained for updates and accessibility. Applying tags to
the PDF is a second-hand approach unless you expect the PDF to never be
updated and stored as the "original" document. Our policy is to always
provide and accessible text alternative along with the PDF
(http://www.usps.com/cpim/ftp/hand/as508a/508a_c6.html#508hdr59 and
http://www.usps.com/cpim/ftp/hand/as508a/508a_c6.html#508hdr79) which
I've found HTML to be the most consistently accessible.

Note that I've seen many business units create PDF versions of
anything they could normally print (e.g., Presentations, Documents,
Slides, Spreadsheets) because they think PDF is accessible and because
they (although they don't usually state this) want something that is
platform-neutral (will work on any computer or operating system) so
end-users won't generally bother them for a specific format.

I'm a little archaic in that I start with the premise that PDF's
primary purpose is for PRINTING. I keep that in mind when I challenge
individuals with why the business wants to make a PDF version of a
document. It is important to question why before we simply work on
making PDFs accessible, when the business process (e.g., document
management) is broken or non-existent. I'll get off my soap-box and wish
you the best of luck.

I hope that was useful in some way.


Norman B. Robinson
Section 508 Coordinator
IT Governance, US Postal Service
phone: 202.268.8246

-----Original Message-----
[mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of Zwack,
Melanie C
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2007 3:16 PM
Subject: [WebAIM] PDF, Accessibility and Quality Control

Can people share what they do to ensure Quality Control for Accessible
PDFs they produce?

My main question: How vigilant are you that the tags used in the
tagging, accurately represent the content? For example, in the past we
have placed content in sequential order as best we can, but pretty much
ignored the tags. For example, even if a paragraph text is tagged with a
header tag, we would just let it go, because mainly due to the fact of
how much time that it would take to correct this. Now, with Jaws 7.0
that we just got, it is actually reading 'Graphic: Then the content
here' - - so it is specifying the tag explicitly. The fact that in the
past we did not pay much attention to this, is now a problem when we use
Jaws 7.0 to Qc. Jaws is specifying each tag, before reading the
content, so it is obvious in the case when an incorrect tag is used. Any
thoughts on this?

Also, I am evaluation our Quality Control process in general for
Accessible PDFs, and would be very interested to hear of any other
people's procedures for this area. I would like to make sure our process
is where it needs to be.

I'll also start off with specifying our process:

1) We apply tags to a PDF and touchup the tags as necessary (ie.,
adding ALT tags to images, re-arranging the order of the tags as

2) Quality Control staff spot checks the PDFs to see if the tags
are reading right. (We do not use the automated Accessibility Checker to
verify correctness, but instead we have Quality Control check each file
with a Screen Reader.)