WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: PDF access (was Screen-reader updates)


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Feb 28, 2006 11:20PM

On Tue, 28 Feb 2006, Joe Clark wrote:

>> PDF is the worst offender in this category.
> Hardly.
> Tried to read a Visio file lately?

I never encountered a Visio file on the Web, or on a CD-rom.

PDF is one of the top five accessibility problems (obstacles), since it is
so widespread and causes serious problems to so many different groups of
people. Even people who have no particular disability frequently encounter
problems with PDF, starting from the fact that opening a PDF file takes
much longer than opening an HTML document with comparable content.
It all too often freezes the browser, and this is not just an
inconvenience if the user does not see or does not understand what is
happening. It also prevents changing font face and size. (Zooming should
not be confused with font size changing.)

Several recommendations have warned against using PDF as the only
format for delivering information on the Web, but its use has grown a lot,
and the recommendations are being watered down.

The reason is simple: when first priority is to have documents _printed_
(and when people are used to using tools that generate PDF), just putting
PDF files on the Web is a simple way of dealing with the dual publishing
problem. The publisher does not care about the implications and does not
even see them. Besides, he can present excuses like references to Adobe
statements that say that PDF is OK.

This is more or less the answer you'll get from the officials if you get
any answer when asking questions like "your recommendations say that
PDF-only material is no-no, so why do you have so much PDF-only material
on your site?"

Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/