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RE: Accessible PDFs?

From: John Foliot - bytown internet <foliot@bytowninternet.com>
Date: Mon, 2 Dec 2002 07:38:22 -0500
To: "Scarlett Julian \(ED\)" <Julian.Scarlett@sheffield.gov.uk>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <GKEFJJEKDDIMBHJOGLENEECACPAA.foliot@bytowninternet.com>

The issue is akin to this.  We re-engineer sidewalks with cut curbs, so that
those in wheel chairs can get all the way to the steps....

If you believe that the web can be truly accessible to all citizens, then
promoting a technology that has inherent obstacles in it becomes
problematic. Remember too that PDFs are not accessible to thin client
technologies such as cell phones and PDAs, tools which more and more are
entering into the mainstream as browsing devices.

If authors are going to go all the way to make PDF files accessible, why not
complete the steps and make it HTML (or other appropriate "ML" format - the
key is in the "marking up")? To make PDFs accessible, you need to ensure
that the logical, semantic structure is there so that the conversion process
is complete.  You also need to ensure that any image has alternative text
assigned to it, etc.  Sounds a lot like HTML development to me...

The danger of course is that too many authors bang together their documents
willy-nilly in Word, or Word Perfect (or whatever - worse yet is when it is
done in a graphics program...), and then hit "print" (or "convert") and
choose PDF, without the required effort noted above, thus making a document
that is inaccessible.  Human nature being what it is, this is the "normal"
process, especially in large institutions with decentralized publishing
rules.  And there's the rub.

By "forbidding" the creation of PDFs as the primary means of distribution
large institutions can avoid this haphazard "rush" to publishing
(POSTING!!!) content to their web sites.  There may be times when PDF *is*
the preferred method of delivery (Institutional posters for example), but
most times the effort required to make the PDF accessible would be better
spent ensuring that it was made as HTML.  If there is a need to control a
"print" output, make it *also* available as an alternative download.

Just my $0.02


> Bob
> that's a less than useful answer in that it doesn't really give a true
> picture of the situation. Yes, it's true that AT cannot read pdf documents
> created using Acrobat 4 but (correct me if I'm wrong) it *is*
> possible using
> version 5 to produce documents that are accessible if the creator
> knows what
> they're doing. We are now in a situation where pdf holds similar ground to
> html in that unless the developer knows what they're doing the resulting
> documents will be inaccessible to some extent. Given that people
> will still
> continue to use pdf shouldn't we be giving a more upbeat message about how
> to create accessible versions otherwise we're going to be stuck with
> documents that theoretically can be made accessible but aren't because the
> creators don't know that it can be done. This is an *interest*
> group and to
> my mind that means exploring possibilities and trying to produce
> solutions.
> Or am I yet another who has seriously misjudged the remit of the list?
> Julian
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Access Systems [mailto:accessys@smart.net]
> > Sent: Monday, December 02, 2002 1:11 AM
> > To: Matthew Smith
> > Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> > Subject: Re: Accessible PDFs?
> >
> >
> >
> > On Mon, 2 Dec 2002, Matthew Smith wrote:
> >
> > nope, rarely, hardly ever
> >
> > Bob
> >
> >
> > > Can anyone tell me if Assitive Technologies are able to read PDF
> > > documents?  More and more "offline" content is being held
> > on web sites
> > > in this format, so it would be nice to think that it is actually
> > > accessible...
> > >
> > > Cheers
> > >
> > > M
> > >
> > >
> >
> >    ASCII Ribbon Campaign                        accessBob
> >
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> > accessys@smartnospam.net
> >     NO MSWord docs in e-mail                    Access
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Received on Monday, 2 December 2002 07:38:42 UTC

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