WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

PDF/UA Quandary 1 - Bullets in LBL tags - Does this interrupt current expected screenreader flow of text?


From: Philip Kiff
Date: May 29, 2018 10:21AM

As my understanding of the PDF/UA specification increases, I'm starting
to run into some small-detail technical quandaries where following the
spec to the letter seems to slightly degrade the experience of an actual
screen reader.

I have two examples that I am currently wondering about. I'll start a
separate thread to discuss my second example. Here's the first one.

Quandary 1: Bullets in LBL tags

When I correctly follow the PDF/UA requirement to tag bullets with LBL
(Label) tags, I have received feedback from an actual screen reader who
complained that the tagging causes a pause after the bullet. In my
testing, I think this is by design. When using the cursor down key to
listen to the text supposedly "line-by-line" in both NVDA and JAWS, the
reading stream will pause after reading a bullet in an LBL tag. But if
instead you just leave the bullet inside the LBody (List Item Body) tag
and don't add the LBL tag at all, then the bullet is still read at the
start of the List Item without requiring the screen reader to press the
cursor key twice. Note that this latter, less obtrusive behaviour is
actually what you get by default if you use Microsoft Word to produce
your PDF since MS Word doesn't currently insert LBL tags at all.

It seems to me then that when I properly follow the PDF/UA spec, I am
actually producing a degraded user experience for some users, making it
more of a hassle for them to listen to the document. To make matters
worse, since the vast majority of PDFs are produced by Word, if I "fix"
those documents by adding LBL tags, then I end up actually getting
negative flack from our screen reader assessor for not matching their

Is this an accurate assessment of the current state of things, or am I
doing something wrong?
Do any of the screenreaders have plans to improve the way lists are
handled in order to deal with this pausing issue? Or perhaps the pausing
is needed when dealing with certain ordered lists where the Label value
may actually carry some meaningful content?

It crossed my mind that it would be possible to surround both LBL
bullets and LBody content with spans and thereby eliminate the pauses by
simulating in-line text. But that seems crazy and inefficient, when
there are already correct tags in place.


Philip Kiff
D4K Communications