WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: PDF on websites + PDF is *not* accessible


From: Shawn Henry (uiAccess projects)
Date: Jun 30, 2013 5:27PM

Hi all,

Background from previous comments is below [1].

The problem is that PDF is currently *not sufficiently accessible* to many people with low vision, dyslexia, and related conditions and situations that impact reading - because Adobe Reader and other PDF viewers lack sufficient text customization functionality.

Even well tagged PDF that is more accessible to screen reader users is still *not accessible* to many people with other print disabilities. Accessibility is more than screen reader access.

Unfortunately, "tagged PDF" started getting called "accessible PDF" -- that is inaccurate and a harmful misnomer. It perpetuates the lack of awareness, even among accessibility specialists, that PDF is actually not accessible to many people with print disabilities.

> My job is to communicate one person's ideas to another person.
> I want to provide what is both legally required and what is desirable to the users.

While PDF is a useful medium for some situations; when it is used, there must be a more accessible alternative provided in order for the information to be available to people with disabilities.


I've been fairly quiet about this for many years (except to Adobe product managers :) because the accessibility of PDF has improved from years ago, but I'm deeply concerned about the *misconception that PDF is accessible*.

For more info, please see:
* Text Customization for Readability <http://www.tader.info/>;
* PDF viewers section of Support for Text Customization <http://www.tader.info/support.html#PDFisNOTaccessible>;

(That is a work in progress and I welcome feedback directly.)

~Shawn Henry

Note: Please be careful in referencing the information on the tader.info website and e-mails from uiAccess.com as from the individual Shawn, not her employer.

[1] Background from previous comments:
> Here's the Access Board's current standards, effective December 21, 2000.
> http://access-board.gov/sec508/standards.htm
> Subpart A General, Section 1194.1 Purpose.
> "Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain,
> or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with
> disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is
> comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not
> individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on
> the agency." [next sentence includes the general public]
> I think the key words are "have access and use of information and data that
> is comparable."
> If the PDF is truly accessible, then it meets this requirement. Nothing more
> needs to be done.
> If the other hand, the PDF wasn't accessible (and therefore not providing
> comparable access and use of the information), then alternate accessible
> versions would be needed.

> A better, more effective strategy for WebAIM is to get Adobe, Microsoft, and
> the AT manufacturers to create better tools for PDFs (and other documents)
> accessibility software/technologies. A well-made PDF can be accessible and
> can equally match accessible HTML, but today's tools sometimes make it
> difficult and costly to achieve that.
> As a communicator, I want better tools so that I can successfully
> communicate with everyone, regardless of whether they have a disability or
> not.