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Re: Relationship Between Accessibility, Screen Readers and Security Clarified

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From: Andrew Kirkpatrick
Date: Jan 26, 2011 1:42PM


I didn't want to chime in on this but I just can't help myself. This statement strikes me as the sort of quote that sounds really good and people naturally want to assume helps justify work on accessibility, but I don't think holds up under scrutiny.

Anna Shubina says "..if a screen reader can't extract text out of a file then it's an indicator that there's a lot in that format and there's a lot of stuff in that file that could do bad things...".

She may be thinking about PDF or Flash, but since screen readers can read both she must not be.

Perhaps she's thinking about image files? Screen readers can't get text out of an image file. Many images even have metadata that a screen reader could read, but the screen reader and common image rendering tools don't present that information to be read. So are image files necessarily more of a security risk? Probably not.

Perhaps she's thinking about SVG? SVG can have text and has poor support by screen readers, due to user agent and AT support, but this doesn't translate into a greater security risk either.

Bottom line, I wish that there was some evidence to support this statement, but I can't think of what that could possibly be.

Thanks,
AWK

Andrew Kirkpatrick
Group Product Manager, Accessibility
Adobe Systems

<EMAIL REMOVED>
http://twitter.com/awkawk
http://blogs.adobe.com/accessibility


-----Original Message-----
From: <EMAIL REMOVED> [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of Terrill Bennett
Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 11:49 AM
To: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: [WebAIM] Relationship Between Accessibility, Screen Readers and Security Clarified

For your enlightenment:

"Lack of accessibility usually indicates that there are potential
security problems. If a screen reader can't extract text out of a
file, then it's an indicator that there's a lot in that format and
there's a lot of stuff in that file that could do bad things to your computer."

That statement came from a post-doctorate associate at the Department
of Computer Science at Dartmouth College named Anna Shubina, Ph.D.
You can read her remark in a story concerning online access at
Dartmoth University, here:

http://thedartmouth.com/2011/01/26/news/online

Don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.

Enjoy!

-- terrill --