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RE: Optimizing PDF files for Accessibility

From: Charles F. Munat <charles@munat.com>
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 12:43:07 -0800
To: "Melinda Morris-Black" <melinda@ink.org>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Melinda Morris-Black wrote:
"Unfortunately, government agencies have reams of documents they are trying
to make
available via the Internet. Many were never digital documents. It is not
economically feasible to hire the legions of staff necessary to perform the
task of
keying in the information in an era of budget cuts.

"I agree that PDF technology as it stands today is seriously flawed in
meeting the
needs of the disabled. I posted the PDF links so that people would learn
that Adobe
is aware of PDF shortcomings and are making steps toward better
accessibility. It is
my hope that software makers build tools that help web developers create


The only way that PDF technology can be made accessible is if it recognizes
the text as text. If the PDF is simply an image of the original document (as
many PDF files are, I think), then there is still no way to access that
information except visually.

To convert an "image" PDF to a "text" PDF requires the same OCR or
transcription that converting it to a digital document would require. Unless
Adobe includes OCR in Acrobat, accessibility will not be improved for
"image" PDFs. And if Adobe did add OCR, how would that differ from current
OCR software?

If you are waiting for Adobe to make your documents accessible, you are
waiting in vain. Frankly, while I sympathize with your problem, there is no
solution other than OCR or transcription. Until government agencies are
willing to face this and allocate sufficient funds to moving into the
digital realm, a significant portion of the citizens of this country will be
denied access to that information, effectively relegating them to
second-class citizenship.

Speaking as a citizen, I find this unacceptable. Instead of making excuses,
I'd prefer it if you joined the ranks of people demanding that all documents
made available be made available in an accessible format. The money is
there. In fact, there is a multi-hundred-billion dollar surplus. That the
government is more likely to cut taxes for the wealthy than to make
documents accessible to everyone is a political reality, but it has nothing
to do with a shortage of funds. It has everything to do with the status quo.

I apologize if this seems harsh, but I, for one, have heard this excuse one
too many times. I don't buy it, and neither should you.

Charles F. Munat,
Munat, Inc.
Seattle, Washington
Received on Tuesday, 25 January 2000 15:44:18 UTC

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