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RE: washingtonpost.com 'Talking' Tax Forms For Blind Developed

From: John Foliot - bytown internet <foliot@bytowninternet.com>
Date: Fri, 30 Aug 2002 13:10:21 -0400
To: "Nissen, Dan E" <Dan.Nissen@UNISYS.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <GKEFJJEKDDIMBHJOGLENKEMHCKAA.foliot@bytowninternet.com>

Thank you Dan.

Tax Forms, Applications for Visas and Passports, as well as numerous other
documents still require that they be printed and usually signed or in some
other way authenticated via human intervention.  I think that the American
IRS folks should be commended for attempting to move the envelope ahead,
albeit in small steps.  I agree that they should be encouraged for
continuing to improve what they have (which does have some serious flaws),
BUT they should also be recognized for what they have attempted to
accomplish.  Sometimes working within a system is harder to do than
re-writing the rules to your own particular slant on things, or railing
aginst the "system" without offering partical alternatives (with the
emphasis on PRACTICAL).

In a perfect world, everything we do we would be able to do via the web (so
goes the mantra).  But until we can guarentee interoperable Personal Digital
Signatures with iron-clad authentication I for one can understand the IRS's
reluctance to go full hog.  Even Dan has indicated that he is reluctant to
eFile, preferring to print off and mail his final return.  Here in Canada, I
have authorized my accountant to eFile my returns, and true to Murphy's Law
they "lost" it.  It was finally "found" but not without some gnashing of
teeth, so Dan's reluctance is not 100% ill-founded.

I have a friend who works for the Canadian Passport Office, and their office
faces similar hurdles to overcome.  They are experimenting with a multi-step
process whereby an HTML form is submitted to the server and "processed",
outputting the results as completed fields within a PDF document, ready for
printing.  It also "writes" the fields to a db, but the fields must first be
"authorized" before being accepted - a process which requires that the user
print out the completed PDF, sign it and manually submit it to a passport
office (along with photos, references, etc.).  (Note, they have gotten this
to work in a lab, but have not rolled it out yet... she tells me that it is
extremely server processing intensive and there are overhead concerns there.
But the experimentation continues).

Is this perfect?  No.  But is it a creative attempt to further extend
accessibility?  You bet (or at least I think so), and IMHO even a little is
better than none at all.

Just my $0.02 worth.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
> Behalf Of Nissen, Dan E
> Sent: August 30, 2002 12:28 PM
> To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> Subject: RE: washingtonpost.com 'Talking' Tax Forms For Blind
> Developed.ht m
> All,
> I think there is a bit of "jumping to conclusions" here.  First, the IRS
> forms online are not usually filled in online, they are set up to
> be printed
> and filled in offline, even by non-disabled people.  Then, they are sorted
> into the correct paper form order by number, and you add the W2 form, and
> any other paper forms, documents, explanations, you may be required to
> supply, put the mailing label on the front page from your
> mailing, put it in
> a big envelope and mail it to one of the many service centers.
> There, they
> run huge Kodak scanners, and read the forms and the data and file
> the paper,
> etc.  This is not an online service.  And, the forms that are
> printed on the
> personal computer should look just like the forms you get at the
> post office
> or in the mail, thus the use of PDF that is very capable in
> getting scanable
> documents.  Accepting tax returns from the Internet is a good
> idea, but one
> that has not come to the IRS center near you yet.
> I don't do much of that any more.  I use TurboTax to do the forms filling
> in, because it handles the arithmetic, is hooked to Quicken where
> I keep my
> personal financial records, downloads the financial records from
> some of my
> brokers, etc. If I was brave, I'd do the eFile that is included in the $20
> or so I pay for TurboTax each year.  But, I'm not brave, so I print the
> schedules front TurboTax and mail them.
> So, I'd be more concerned about whether we are getting an
> accessible version
> of TurboTax available, or if the IRS is going to build a web site
> that does
> all the things that TurboTax does.  I'd like to have the IRS replace
> TurboTax, not supply accessible ways to print paper forms.  But, they have
> chosen to do that through partners.
> Regards,
> Dan
> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Poehlman [mailto:poehlman1@comcast.net]
> Sent: Friday, August 30, 2002 10:37 AM
> To: Simon White; WAI List
> Subject: Re: washingtonpost.com 'Talking' Tax Forms For Blind
> Developed.ht m
> in the case of these particular pdf documents, they are not accessible
> outside their environment.  In the case of pdfs in general, you must
> create them with specific mark up in specific tools in order that they
> are optimized for accessibility which in this case means that there are
> two screen readers whose more recent itterations allow some sort of
> access.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Simon White" <simon.white@jkd.co.uk>
> To: "WAI List" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
> Sent: Friday, August 30, 2002 10:49 AM
> Subject: RE: washingtonpost.com 'Talking' Tax Forms For Blind
> Developed.ht m
> Dear All,
> Slightly off the topic, but this minimum accessibility seems to be the
> problem with UK government sites as well. By this I mean that PDF meets
> the minimum requirements for accessibility on government sites (usually
> a minimum of single-A compliance) also noted by the statement that Joel
> cut and paste onto his last email:
> "As new publications become available
> in Acrobat 5.0, which is 508 compliant, they will be posted on the
> site."
> So, Acrobat is 508 compliant but is it accessible? I would state that it
> is not fully accessible, like HTML, and therefore it is not the best
> solution for filing tax returns online. In the UK we have a single-A
> compliance threshold, although I do want to say that the vast majority
> of UK government websites use HTML for forms rather than PDF (or offer
> both so that the user can choose).
> I guess it is the usual <interpretation of standards> that is at play
> here.
> In addition, aren't PDF documents only accessible if they have been
> created correctly in Acrobat and the client-side reader only plays a
> small part in allowing access to the information with assistive
> technologies?
> Just a bunch of my thoughts on the subject, I am not au fait with
> American tax filing so I cannot comment on the systems they might be
> using or what might best apply in your Tax system.
> Kind regards to all
> Simon
> -----Original Message-----
> From: SHARPE, Ian [mailto:Ian.SHARPE@cambridge.sema.slb.com]
> Sent: 30 August 2002 15:26
> To: WAI List
> Subject: RE: washingtonpost.com 'Talking' Tax Forms For Blind
> Developed.ht m
> Am I missing something? Firstly, the article doesn't explain how the
> technology works or what the technology used is? I can't see what is
> going
> on from "he clicked on the form and the he heard, First Name"?
> Secondly, for $2,000 per form I'll offer them a full HTML conversion
> service
> and pay someone else to take the information and fill out the form!! OK,
> there's privacy issues but it wouldn't be hard to automate a process to
> automatically fill out the PDF forms anyway. As someone else has pointed
> out, it depends how they are storing the information back end anyway? If
> they're storing it in another system then it surely doesn't matter how
> the
> information gets there?
> Cheers
> Ian
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Joel Ward [mailto:ward_joel@bah.com]
> Sent: 30 August 2002 14:40
> To: WAI List
> Subject: Re: washingtonpost.com 'Talking' Tax Forms For Blind
> Developed.htm
> > easy answer to your last question, that is what the decided to do
> years
> > ago so rather than find a real solution they decided to cludge.  Html
> > would have been vastly superior and there are many other things they
> > could have done and can do, but dispite frequent pounding on them,
> they
> > like some other agencies have stayed a particular course for what ever
> > reasons but the bottom line is that the consumer looses in the end.
> The
> > gains in this case apparently are the same forms can be served to all
> > and pdf is their favorite route so they can still use it.  They have a
> > lot of money tied up in it apparently.
> Could they provide both a PDF forms and HTML forms to cover all the
> bases?
> And both would integrate into the same back-end system?
> Maybe they do?
> Maybe they're going that way?
> Standard web forms would no only help assistive technology users, but
> also
> text browser users, PDA users, WebTV users, and anyone else who can't
> run
> Acrobat.
> BTW, I found this on the IRS web site's accessibility page:
> http://www.irs.gov/accessibility/display/0,,i1%3D43%26genericId%3D10167,
> 00.h
> tml
> <snippet>
> Persons using screen-reading devices, who generally cannot directly read
> documents in PDF format, will find a HTML version of many of the forms
> and
> the publications on the IRS site. Over the next several months, the IRS
> plans to make all PDF files accessible. As new publications become
> available
> in Acrobat 5.0, which is 508 compliant, they will be posted on the site.
> For information on Forms and Publications Accessibility:
> The IRS Alternative Media Center has prepared hundreds of its most
> popular
> tax forms, instructions, and tax publications using full text
> descriptions
> where needed and is making these files available for download through
> the
> IRS web site. Adobe Acrobat PDF format has been used as a means of
> distributing government forms as well as other documents.
> </snippet>
> BTW, I checked their forms section and selected a few forms to see what
> formats they had available.  Of the dozen I selected, none had any other
> formats than PDF.  Where are the HTML versions they speak of?
> Even the "list of forms you can fill-in using your computer" are all
> PDFs.
> I guess the eFile program offers some forms online.  But none are
> through
> the IRS itself, and some cost money.  Maybe that's why the IRS is
> reluctant?
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Received on Friday, 30 August 2002 13:10:25 UTC

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