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Re: Screen-reader updates

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From: Wayne Dick
Date: Feb 20, 2006 11:30PM


Dear Joe Clark,

I don't see much purpose served in
sending this to the whole list.

Regarding PDF- I am open to the
possibility that PDF can be made
accessible, but I'm having trouble
making it work for me. Maybe it can be
made as accessible as XHTML but it is
not there yet in my experience.

There are several reasons for my
skepticism.

1) The standard for equal access to
data is that the data should have the
same quality with the same ease of
access and use. Now, for able bodied
users, access to PDF is free. It costs
me lots of extra time and more than
zero money. That's not equal.

Getting second rate data that costs
extra money irks me especially since
PDF owes much of its success to the
large audience created by cost free
use by able bodied users.

2) I like to change the font family,
font size, line spacing, word spacing
and letter spacing. Changing color
also helps. Most people with central
retina damage like these
transformations too, as well as having
the option of listening and reading
simultaneously. WebAdapt2Me from IBM
does this, especially with some help
from personal style sheets.

I cannot get the change of font style,
line spacing, word spacing and letter
spacing with PDF. Please help me know
how if it is possible. Do I need to
learn a new type of CSS or XSL for PDF
to do it? Do such transformations
exist? I am an expert any way you look
at it, and I find PDF a much greater
challenge than XHTML. How does a
genuine amateur do it?

Note: Neither WebAdapt2Me nor personal
style sheets are free in money or
time, but it's a one time expense that
seems to increase in value as markup,
style sheet languages and user agents
improve. So, I don't begrudge the
cost because I can read effectively
with these tools. Can I have the same
expectation with PDF?

3) While MathML is not complete and
not even the ACM uses it, it can be
translated easily to just about any
medium human beings use to read. Right
now I can't make any sense out of
mathematics in PDF. Am I missing
something? Is a way to enlarge
notation gracefully and to read it out
loud together available for PDF?
Pease let me know. It would really
improve my life. I'd really love to
start reading Foundations of
Algorithms and Computing with some
degree of comfort. While PDF may work
pretty well with screen readers, as a
user of seriously modified print
(size, spacing and font family), I
find PDF much harder to use.

I think there is one other problem
with PDF that is not as prevalent as
with XHTML. It seems even easier to
produce bad PDF than bad XHTML. There
are teachers and professors all around
the world banging out terrible PDF for
class reading and assignments.
Scientists really like it for
notation. Hot discoveries usually
come out in bad PDF.

I stand as living proof that partially
sighted people can understand and
create advanced mathematics, but it is
not easy. I think PDF is really
making the situation worse.

So, Joe, I appreciate your views on
PDF. It can be made accessible, but
it will have to improve a lot before I
don't feel sick when I see the file
extension PDF on a hyperlink.


Wayne Dick PhD
Chair Computer Engineering and
Computer Science,
Director WebAdapt2Me Project at CSULB