WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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


From: Olaf Drümmer
Date: Jun 30, 2013 6:05PM

Hi Shawna,

On 1 Jul 2013, at 01:27, Shawn Henry (uiAccess projects) wrote:

> 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.

except you have for example
- Adobe Reader with at least JAWS and NVDA to provide a very decent user experience for people with vision disabilities
- free VIP PDF Reader for people with low vision
- free pdfGoHTML for people wishing to to redirect PDF content to their default browser and use it as they see fit, including low vision users and dyslexic users

> 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.

absolutely - and that's why the above mentioned tools exist. And more are to come...

> 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.

Complaining about language other people use, I think you should be more careful with your own language here - the sentence "that PDF is actually not accessible to many people with print disabilities" in this form just doesn't hold water. What you probably wanted to say is that PDFs that are neither tagged nor prepared with accessibility in mind are not accessible to many people with print disabilities (though personally I wouldn't limit this to *print** disabilities, but that's just my view here...)

>> 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;

... except hat the zillions of documents out there will never ever be converted to HTML. More and more of them are being provided in an accessible fashion though.

> when it is used, there must be a more accessible alternative provided in order for the information to be available to people with disabilities.

To be honest - I consider this statement in this form 100% unacceptable. Wake up! The world has changed.

People in this community will have to choose - either ask for something that will never happen (and continue to try to block PDF altogether), or join those who are (more and more successfully) nudging PDF towards a pretty decent degree of accessibility. It should be acknowledged that there even was an ISO standard for accessible PDF (ISO 14289-1) before there was an ISO standard for accessible web content (ISO 40500). ;-)

PDF is a format for documents. HTML is not a format for documents. The world is not a disk, and there is content outside of web sites. Maybe rich text format or Word files or OpenOffice files could serve as a carrier for accessible documents, but HTML as of today is not in a position to serve as a document format. And as a consequence nobody is preparing and exchanging their documents in HTML format, but a substantial portion of users is creating, exchanging, sharing, publishing their documents in PDF form. It is not clear to me how this can be denied?

And one more thing: PDF itself is an ISO standard (for five years now, actually). Adobe is just one out of many companies dealing in PDF (albeit a very important company). Talk (also) to other PDF developers, not just Adobe, whenever you wish to further the accessibility of PDFs.


PS: BTW - personally, I find it easier to make my PDFs accessible than to make the websites accessible that I am responsible for... ;-)

> ---
> 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.)
> Sincerely,
> ~Shawn Henry
> <http://www.uiaccess.com/profile.html>;
> 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.
> ###
> > >