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RE: pdf forms for print or html forms for web use?


From: Paul Bohman
Date: Jun 7, 2002 9:33AM

--For those with visual disabilities:

PDF forms can be made accessible to a certain percentage of the blind
population. Two brands of screen readers, JAWS and Window Eyes offer a
reasonable amount of support to PDF files. However, not everyone who is
blind uses these technologies, and not everyone who uses these
technologies has the latest version of them. Only the more recent
versions support PDF in any meaningful way. The other side of this is
that PDF is a relative newcomer to accessibility. Not all of the issues
have been worked out. If you have a complex form, and my guess is that
you probably do, the form may be very difficult to comprehend inside of
PDF. Screen readers have a difficult time making sense of complex
layouts in PDF, often to the point of rendering the content unusable. If
you have "simple", linear forms, you could probably make them accessible
using PDF, at least to those with the latest versions of JAWS and Window

HTML forms can be made very accessible to screen readers, and can be
used by those with low vision who magnify the screen. If you use the
proper markup, and if you design the form intelligently, you can make
pretty much any form accessible. (See www.webaim.org/howto/forms). This
assumes that the forms you are talking about can be submitted over the
Internet. If they cannot (e.g. if electronic submissions are not allowed
by your client), then someone else will have to fill out the form for
the person with the visual disability. This is *not* a recommended
approach. You might get into legal trouble this way.

The *best* approach for this group would be to offer the forms in HTML,
allowing the users to submit them via the Internet. If you need to have
forms that print well, you could *also* provide PDF files (not instead
of HTML).

--For those with motor impairments (and others):

You must make sure that the forms are accessible without a mouse
(whether in HTML, PDF, Flash, or whatever--some people are unable to use
a mouse, no matter what technology the developer uses). You must be able
to tab through the form in a logical order.

Make the forms error-tolerant. If someone accidentally submits the form
too soon, there must be a way to go back and fix the error.

For this group, HTML is usually better too, because of the greater
amount of navigational control, though PDF can also work here. For this
group, you don't have to worry as much about intermediate technologies
(e.g. screen readers) because most users are accessing the content
directly through their browser. The intermediate technologies that *are*
used are generally hardware devices such as adaptive keyboards,
specialized mice, and so on, which you don't have to worry about as
much, except to make sure that the content is keyboard-accessible.

--And in general:

Make the form as easy to understand as possible.

--So my conclusion is that you can use PDF if you want to, but you have
to do it well (see http://www.webaim.org/howto/acrobat), and, in all
honesty, you ought to provide an HTML version as well. You can make
accessible PDF files, but it won't reach everyone, due to the fact that
not everyone has the appropriate technologies to access them.

Paul Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
Center for Persons with Disabilities
Utah State University

-----Original Message-----
From: WebAIM forum [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of
Steffi Rausch
Sent: Friday, June 07, 2002 9:47 AM
Subject: pdf forms for print or html forms for web use?

Does anyone know if I a printable version of a pdf form is enough for
accessibility purposes? Maybe it is a stupid question but I have a state
site that needs to make their site accessible which I assume would mean
their forms as well - which is a lot. So in my price quote I need to
incorporate this if needed and it will be a lot of money that I have
reasons for. How do accessible people deal with printed forms? Do they
someone else fill it out? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

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