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Adobe Acrobat Revisited

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From: Joel Ward
Date: Nov 16, 2001 10:41AM


Hi Everybody,
[First off, I apologize for the cross posting. This issue has been
discussed on both of this excellent listservs, so I wanted to be sure all
the smart people were included.]
I was just asked by someone on my team what my recommendation for using PDFs
with regards to Section 508. Below is the "short" answer I gave her. This
answer is based a few years of experience with web accessibility and from
comments made in the past few months from users of these listservs.
Here is my suggestion:
---cut here
If you create all of the PDFs using Acrobat 5 and make sure they include
accessible features, then they can technically pass the 508 test. You also
need to include a link to the Acrobat Reader 5 download page to be
compliant.
However, if the PDF layouts are complicated and/or there are old PDFs, it is
a better idea to provide text or HTML versions of the documents alongside
the PDFs.
PDFs are ideal for printing but often horrible for on screen reading and
assistive technologies (like screen readers). It also requires that the
users system includes the Acrobat Reader. The Reader is available for free,
but some users may have trouble downloading and installing it (and it's not
accessible on anything but Windows at the moment). Plus, it can be a pain
to set it up properly (you need to make sure to download the accessible
version of the Reader; if you make a mistake download you are in trouble).
You can also take into consideration how broad your audience is. (E.g. Are
there a lot of dial-up users or is everyone on the LAN? Etc.) If the users
are confined to an intranet, it's safer to use PDFs. If it's a public web
site, alternate versions are preferable.
---cut here
My question to y'all: Have I summarized the intent of the Section 508 law
and merged it with reality adequately?
Much thanks,
Joel

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