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Re: Optimizing PDF files for Accessibility

From: Loretta Guarino Reid <lguarino@Adobe.COM>
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 14:22:32 -0800
Message-Id: <200001252222.OAA07181@enterprise>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <charles@munat.com>
cc: "Melinda Morris-Black" <melinda@ink.org>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, lguarino@Adobe.COM, ribrown@Adobe.COM
> If you are waiting for Adobe to make your documents accessible, you are
> waiting in vain.

On the contrary, Adobe is committed to making PDF documents accessible. We are 
analyzing what needs to be added to or fixed in the PDF language definition to 
support the WAI Accessibility Guidelines. We are also developing our own 
accessibility guidelines for PDF authoring tools. We have posted an early 
versioin of these guidelines on http://access.adobe.com/.

Althouh someone can create an"Image-only" PDF, most PDF fiels are not mere 
images of documents. They re fully searchable documents with live text. The 
problem to date has been making that text easily accessible to assistive 
technology devices, such as screen readers used by the visually impaired. Our 
current guidelines indicate that image-only PDF are inaccessible. Acrobat 
Capture, which allows users to scan in paper-based documents and convert them 
to PDF, can be used in a mode that converts the image of a document to live 
text, much like an OCR engine. If a scanned document is converted to PDF this 
way, it is then more accessible.

As Adobe has stated on the access.adobe.com Web site, we are actively working 
to make PDF files more accessible and make the free Acrobat Reader more 
compatible with assisitve technology devices.

You are right that this won't automatically make all PDF files accessible. 
There will exist legacy PDF files with accessibility problems, and we'll have 
the same challenges encouraging authors to make their documents accessible 
that HTML authoring tools have. We are exploring development of tools that 
will help users check legacy PDFs for accessibility and alert them to 
problems, e.g. this is an image-only PDF.

Please read the white paper at http://access.adobe.com which provdes more 
detail on these comments.

Loretta Guarino Reid
Acrobat Accessibility Engineer
Received on Tuesday, 25 January 2000 17:23:24 UTC

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