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PDF access (was Screen-reader updates)


From: Joe Clark
Date: Feb 28, 2006 1:00PM

>I do not believe that the burden of responsibility for accessibility
>lies exclusively with the document author.

Indeed not. The software also has something to do with it, where
"software" includes file formats and applications.

>PDF is the worst offender in this category.


Tried to read a Visio file lately?

>PDF reading is free for able bodied and it is costly for disabled.

Acrobat Reader is free, as is Preview on OS X and as are a number of
programs for Linux.

>Maybe Adobe should charge $25.00 for Acrobat Reader and use the
>revenue to pay for real accommodation.

How about a few hundred for Acrobat Pro?

>Adobe has claimed that PDF is a "default standard",

It is.

>but PDF does not play by the rules of a real standard. W3C has
>created real standards.

W3C is a failure at creating real standards *for accessibility*.
Meanwhile, two PDF variants have gone through the international
standardization process. The PDF/Universal Access committee, whose
telephone call I will be joining in four minutes, intends to do the

> The difference is that W3C expends lots of energy and time making
>its standards effective.

The precise opposite is true. The W3C can't be relied up on for any
help whatsoever.

> The PDF community has waited for accessibility to be demanded.

I don't know how to parse that ungrammatical sentence, but I assume
it means Adobe didn't take accessibility seriously until the
complaints became serious (and Section 508 came into effect), which
is of course true.

>The user agent, Acrobat Reader, produced by Adobe really does not
>provide equal access in quality. Listening is good when you have no
>other option, but a lot of material is terse and requires some kind
>of static medium so the information can be absorbed at the reader's
>pace of understanding. That is why static formats like Braille and
>alternative print are needed.

I agree that Braille support in Acrobat is poor.

> Adobe provides only one access for individuals with limited or no
>sight, voice output.

No, you can reflow documents and change colours.

>The format manufacturer, its author, has the responsibility to make
>a format that is accessible to the level of the highest current
>public standards.

No, we're gonna do better than that.

> It is also a manufacturer's responsibility to make it easier to
>produce accessible material than inaccessible material. This applies
>most to manufacturers of authoring tools, but manufacturers of file
>formats must take responsibility if it is trivial to produce and
>disseminate documents that are profoundly inaccessible. PDF images
>of text documents are major violators. Adobe's excellent image
>compression algorithms make this process efficient, and it is used

[shrug] PDFs are databases and you can put pretty much whatever you
want into them. If you're thick as a brick and use scans of text,
then there's not much we can do for you except attempt to educate.
Some software, like InDesign, enables tagged-PDF production
automatically, and I have produced many two-column documents that
pass the accessibility checker on the first go. Application support
is poor but *not nonexistent*.

>My purpose is not to bash Adobe or PDF. Adobe's contributions to
>computing are among the greatest in the industry, and PDF is a
>brilliant format. I would just like to read my information at a
>comparable level of quality, effectiveness and price. That is not
>too much to ask. Right now the PDF community does not make that

I just don't know what you mean by "PDF community."

Off to help fix the problem.


Accessibility <http://joeclark.org/access/>;
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