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RE: Optimizing PDF files for Accessibility

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 12:59:27 -0500
To: "Melinda Morris-Black" <melinda@ink.org>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Cc: "Charles F. Munat" <charles@munat.com>, <lguarino@Adobe.COM>
Message-ID: <002801bf68f0$408bb280$1aac66a7@151877>

I want to echo some of Charles' conclusions, namely:
>> If you are waiting for Adobe to make your documents accessible,
>> you are waiting in vain.
>> OCR is going to take place, it would be just as easy to convert
>> the documents to HTML or another format as to PDF.

There was no reply when you recently posted the information about Access
Adobe.  Frankly, that is old news here on the WAI IG list.  What is "new"
with their stance?  The inaccessible nature of PDF has been thoroughly
discussed as well.  Please review the threads mentioning PDF found at URL:

IMHO, in this day and age, just about the only reasonable use of PDF is to
distribute "official" forms that are printed, filled out by hand, and
submitted (in person or by snail mail).  This use, of course, begs the
question as to why the agency that demands the "official" paperwork doesn't
have a way to submit the information electronically.  The IRS changed, can't
other entrenched bureaucracies?  Other people have suggested other rare
situations where PDF makes sense.  Again, see the threads cited above.

IMHO, resources like Access Adobe are counter productive and harmful.  It is
very easy for people to believe that access to PDF is a non-issue since,
obviously, Adobe has gone to great length and expense to make these services
available.  Take it into consideration that I am also of the opinion that
"text-only" web pages are harmful and counter productive!  Both are "better
than nothing" but neither are (usually) acceptable.  We should continue to
demand better.  The various PDF access strategies only work for relatively
simple and straightforward PDF documents, and sometimes those that are
publish using the latest tools.  Obviously, in both cases, such documents
are the very ones that would have made better sense to publish in HTML in
the first place!

I am looking forward to some of the interactive accessible form-based tools
that Adobe has been promising for about a year and a half now.   In the
meantime, anyone who has faith in the utility of Access Adobe should try
parsing a few representative documents through their HTML conversion
services.  It's not pretty.  The WCAG is unambiguous:  "11.1 Use W3C
technologies when they are available and appropriate for a task and use the
latest versions when supported."  PDF is explicitly used as an example of
formats that create barriers.

Bruce Bailey

> -----Original Message-----
> From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
> Behalf Of Melinda Morris-Black
> Sent: Tuesday, January 25, 2000 6:08 PM
> To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> Cc: Charles F. Munat
> Subject: Re: Optimizing PDF files for Accessibility
> Charles, your comments reflect many of my sentiments. It appears
> that my post
> has been taken out of context. I do indeed believe that all
> documents should be
> accessible. It is my personal goal to help accomplish this at the
> state level in
> Kansas. The current reality, wrong as it may be, is that no money has been
> allocated to tasks of this nature. Kansas state agencies are only
> now developing
> guidelines for state webmasters regarding accessibility. Many
> states have yet to
> take this step.
> The Federal budget surplus will most likely not be allocated to Kansas to
> correct this problem. :) We (the developers) are looking for
> solutions now,
> despite our limited resources, as opposed to waiting for state
> legislators to
> allocate funds, which may take awhile. Software makers tend to
> release products
> much quicker than government acts, so that was our first step
> when looking for
> solutions.
> We are exploring OCR programs to accomplish our tasks. It appears
> that Adobe is
> moving in that direction with Acrobat, to some degree. I found
> their website's
> new stance significant only as a signal of industry change.
> Realizing that there
> is money to be made on accessibility is always an incentive.
> Hopefully, software
> makers will get down to it.
> --
> Regards,
> Information Architect
> Information Networks of Kansas
> FON: (785) 296-5143
> PCS: (785) 550-7345
> FAX: (785) 296-5563
> melinda@ink.org
Received on Thursday, 27 January 2000 13:01:36 UTC

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