WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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


From: Ted
Date: Feb 24, 2010 3:30AM

I agree.

With a little care, PDF forms can be made accessible to older screen readers
(ie JAWS pre version 10). Even blocks of explanatory text can be made
available in "forms mode" relatively easily (and much more so than in HTML).

Ted Page

-----Original Message-----
From: Moore,Michael (DARS) [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
Sent: 23 February 2010 15:13
To: <EMAIL REMOVED> ; WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] Research proposal: Accessibility support for PDF,
Flash, etc.


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

Mike Moore