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Re: Accessing PDFs

From: Aaron Smith <aaron@gwmicro.com>
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 12:33:22 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
But we have NEVER said that ALL PDFs would be accessible. In fact, we say 
just the opposite whenever we are asked about our PDF support. We say the 
same thing for our Macromedia support. I'm very curious to hear where the 
popular opinion that we claim TOTAL PDF support originated.

We have always stated, up front, that unless a PDF is tagged correctly, it 
may not read in a desirable way. In fact, let me quote directly from our 
Adobe FAQ found on our support page (http://www.gwmicro.com/support):

"8. A friend of mine sent me a PDF he created with Adobe Acrobat 3, but I 
can't get it to read. Why not?
The truth is, not all legacy (that means older) PDF files are going to 
read. The accessibility options included in the new version of Adobe 
Acrobat, however, will allow a PDF author to make their PDF accessible. So 
if you have an older PDF file that doesn't read, contact the author, inform 
him or her that the new version of Adobe Acrobat is available, and ask if 
they can make their PDF files accessible.
Now with ability to change the reading order of a PDF, even more PDFs can 
be read. But we still do not claim, nor has ANYONE who supports PDFs, nor 
has ANYONE from Adobe ever claimed total accessibility."

We go on to say:

"9. I have a PDF file that doesn't work, but I don't know who wrote it. 
What can I do?
E-mail the PDF file to us at support@gwmicro.com. We will work with Adobe 
to figure out why your PDF isn't working properly, and provide you with an 

I can understand that information can become confusing. Take, for example, 
your statement that Window-Eyes claims, "for making pdfs accessible." That 
statement is false because Window-Eyes has no control over whether a PDF is 
accessible or not. That is a task for the technology of Acrobat and the 
Acrobat Reader. Window-Eyes simply conveys the information presented from 
Acrobat to the end user.

But I am even more bothered by the fact that you were in a situation 
overcome with confusion, and you did not (to my knowledge) contact us for 
clarification. Not to mention the FAQ noted above, or the following links, 
also on our support page:

Adobe Acrobat 5 Information:
* Adobe Access Page - access.adobe.com
* Booklet: How To Create Accessible Adobe PDF Files [PDF Version]
* Adobe Accessibility Courseware
* Booklet: How To Create Accessible Adobe PDF Files [HTML Version]
* Booklet: Advanced Techniques for Creating Accessible Adobe PDF Files [PDF 
* White Paper: Enhancing the accessibility of the Web with Adobe Acrobat 
software [PDF Version]
* White Paper: Enhancing the accessibility of the Web with Adobe Acrobat 
software [HTML Version]

Adobe Acrobat 5 and Accessibility Video Series:
* Working with Microsoft Office 2000 Files
* Working with Existing PDF files
* Working with Forms
* Usability Enhancements of Acrobat 5.0
* Working with Screen Readers

Adobe Acrobat 5 Downloads:
* Acrobat Reader 5.1 Download
* Acrobat Make Accessible Plug-in

In this age of endless knowledge, how does confusion like this exist when 
you can go right to the source for answers?

At 12:14 PM 10/28/2002 -0500, David Poehlman wrote:

>I agree that partial accessibility is a solution but it should be stated
>in exactly that way and I guess that is what we are trying to clarify.
>Working down here in the trenches, I saw a lot of confusion when window
>eyes claims for making pdfs accessible turned out to be confusing and
>disheartening to so many people who cannot choose what they use.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Aaron Smith" <aaron@gwmicro.com>
>To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
>Sent: Monday, October 28, 2002 9:52 AM
>Subject: RE: Accessing PDFs
>At 08:11 PM 10/26/2002 -0400, Access Systems wrote:
> >>I'm confused at how our (or anyone's) support for a product or feature
> >>can then be blamed for the rest of the market not doing their part. I
> >
> >no only about your "Claiming" that now pdf is accessible, it isn't and
> >won't be with existing technology,  for your product to read it it must
> >marked up correctly and anyone who hasn't purchased your product can't
> >read it at all.
>I just opened up Word, typed a couple of lines, converted the document
>to a
>PDF, loaded the PDF with Window-Eyes and read the lines that I typed
>through the 5.1 Reader. That to me is accessible. I also opened up a
>document that I received from a customer some time back only to hear a
>message telling me that there was no accessible text in the document
>though I could visually see it. That to me is  inaccessible. But to stop
>there (to make a black and white, blanket statement stating that an
>either is accessible or is not accessible) leaves no room for
>We didn't launch toward, arrive at, and walk on the moon in one shot. It
>took several tests and refinements before we achieved that goal. Step
>and take a look at the big picture; having some accessible PDFs and some
>inaccessible PDFs is a great stride in goal of making even more
> >>providing features for our customers, as well as features to attract
> >>customers. Are you saying that if a developer decides to be lazy
> >>of a feature that we have added, we are then responsible for that
> >>developer's laziness?
> >
> >nope, and I'm not trying to stop your development, I wish you the best
> >luck, BUT I think your advertising is somewhat, ??? overstated.
>Our advertising states, "Support for Adobe Acrobat PDFs." How is that
> >>I disagree. I believe that any operating system is going to require
> >>upgrading, and conversely, any piece of software (designed to do
> >>complicated tasks such as hooking the OS like screen readers do) will
> >
> >upgrading software and hardware upgrades do not always go hand in hand,
> >nor do upgrades always have to be expensive
>Exactly my point. There is always an initial investment of some sort,
>then you have upgrades. No one said that upgrades had to be expensive.
>past two upgrades of Window-Eyes have been free (one of those upgrades
>included fixes to make reading PDFs more stable), and the next upgrade
>Window-Eyes will also be free.
> >> >??? emacspeak is considerably less than yours
> >>Exactly. Yet another choice for consumers. Since emackspeak is a
> >>option, a consumer could could weigh the option of a *nix box with
> >>emacspeak, or a Windows box with Window-Eyes, or a Windows box with
> >>other screen reader, or a Mac with Outspoken. Choices.
> >
> >choices but ONLY Window-Eyes on a windoze PC will even partially read
> >that is the problem.
>That's completely false. Window-Eyes (Std. $595/Pro. $795), JAWS (9X
>$895/NT $1195), and HAL (Std. $695/Pro. $1095) all have PDF support.
> >heck have the VCR's in the USA are blinking 00:00, but that is another
> >story.
> >  I happen to have a somewhat different perspective on accessibility, I
> >don't accept what I can get. "If you take what they give you, you
> >what you get"
>And if you wait for perfection, you're never going to have anything. My
>point in saying that I take what I can get doesn't stop at that. Believe
>me. When it comes to accessibility I am very greedy; I want all that I
>get and then more. But I also have the intelligence to realize that I
>to start with something and grow from that point. "The greatest
>masterpieces were once only pigments on a palette." --Henry S. Hoskins
>If support for PDFs -- even if you want to call it partial support, or
>limited support, or whatever -- is not embraced and challenged in a
>constructive manner, then you will NEVER achieve the kind of
>you're looking for. There are too many people sitting high and mighty
>elitist view exists of how accessibility should be, and not enough
>down in the trenches actually working with the individuals who NEED
>accessibility, and doing the dirty work to make accessibility what it
>should be.
> >>Window-Eyes. What would be the point of our company (or any company
> >>determined to find a meaningful compromise between making a difference
> >>and being profitable) be if all of our trade secrets where available
> >>the public? How would we pay the gas bill?
> >
> >hmmmm, seems Red Hat isn't doing too badly, and IBM has chosen "open
> >source"
>We are a very small company with one main product which pays the bills.
>Hat and IBM have are corporations with multiple ventures spawning
>projects spinning out multiple products.
> >>Aside from the definition of accessible, I agree. It is an
> >>to say that education is the most important key.
> >
> >afraid I don't quite get what you are saying here???
>Education is important -- that's an understatement.
> >Bob
> >
> >   ASCII Ribbon
> > Campaign                        accessBob
> >    NO HTML/PDF/RTF in
> > e-mail                   accessys@smartnospam.net
> >    NO MSWord docs in e-mail                    Access Systems,
> > engineers
> >    NO attachments in e-mail,  *LINUX powered*   access is a civil
> >
> >THIS message and any attachments are CONFIDENTIAL and may be
> >privileged.  They are intended ONLY for the individual or entity named
> >above. If you are not the intended recipient, Please notify the sender
> >soon as possible. Please DO NOT READ, COPY, USE, or DISCLOSE this
> >communication to others and DELETE it from your computer systems.
> >
>To insure that you receive proper support, please include all
>past correspondence (where applicable), and any relevant
>information pertinent to your situation when submitting a
>problem report to the GW Micro Technical Support Team.
>Aaron Smith
>GW Micro
>Phone: 260/489-3671
>Fax: 260/489-2608
>WWW: http://www.gwmicro.com
>FTP: ftp://ftp.gwmicro.com
>Technical Support & Web Development

To insure that you receive proper support, please include all
past correspondence (where applicable), and any relevant
information pertinent to your situation when submitting a
problem report to the GW Micro Technical Support Team.

Aaron Smith
GW Micro
Phone: 260/489-3671
Fax: 260/489-2608
WWW: http://www.gwmicro.com
FTP: ftp://ftp.gwmicro.com
Technical Support & Web Development
Received on Monday, 28 October 2002 12:33:33 UTC

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