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Re: Accessibility of Microsoft Word Documents

From: <tina@elfi.org>
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 20:11:21 +0100 (CET)
Message-Id: <200303171911.h2HJBM020791@localhost.localdomain>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

 [17th of March 2003 - Lynn Alford wrote]

> Just as a note, I've found that a little utility called upcast (review at 
> http://www.pibweb.com/software/upcast.html) can quite nicely transform a well

   In addition, both OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org/) and antiWord
  (http://www.winfield.demon.nl/index.html) do a respectable job of reading
  and, in the case of the former writing, Microsoft Word documents.

   With apologies to Lynn, I'd like to take this opportunity to sum up a few
  comments and answers to the list.


 [17th of March 2003 - Andy Heath wrote]

>>   I'm afraid I don't feel like paying money for a machine on which to run
>>   Microsoft Windows, not for the explicit purpose of reading Word-documents.
> I agree with you.  The trouble is you can't work
> together with people in the business world (who do
> have *some* good ideas :)) ) unless you do.

   This confuses me, Andy. Would you, then, say that "The trouble is you can't
  work together with people in the business world ... unless you do [install
  and run Internet Explorer]" as well ?

   Some Intranet- and even Internet-based applicates are constructed in such
  a way as to accommodate only Windows- and Explorer-using people. A case in
  point is - sadly still - http://www.scottishpower.co.uk/

 [17th of March 2003 - Dan E. Nissen wrote upside down]

> 3. Back to something most of the people who post to this list always
> dismiss, but is very important to many, that the printed form of the output
> is more controlled in the Word than in HTML.  PDF is even better at making
> that work.

   I'm sorry, but that sounds like too large a generalization. Most of us
  simply put a higher priority on other media - and I would claim that quite
  a few do our best to make our (X)HTML as printable as possible.

   May I suggest that you look at


  in, for instance, Opera 6 'Print Preview' ? I'm sorry that I have not tested
  it in IE ditto, but all the same: MANY browsers today support printer
  stylesheets that allow for quite some effects in making printed copies much
  easier to handle - and which springs from an allready accessible source.

> 2. For many of us, Word is our primary word processor, and thus we like to
> write with it.  It produces less than accessible HTML when I ask it for the
> HTML.  I'll have to look into upcast to see if the HTML it produces can be
> more accessible. Of course, it is not free software. 

   May I then suggest, as John Foliot also mentioned, that when the 
  collaboration and word processing is done - save it as HTML. Yes, it will
  produce, sadly, inaccessible such, but even under Windows it is possible to
  run Tidy on the result.

   It might not print as pretty as if you'd made it a really neat HTML file
  with printer CSS, but it will be *available to be read*. Which, I hope, was
  the entire idea of publishing it.

> 1. I can set "Track changes" and then update the document, and send it back
> to the author and he can easily merge my changes with his, and I'm not
> trying to verbalize where and what I'd like changed.  Is there a tool for
> this in HTML? How do you handle cooperative updates in the HTML world?
> Maybe I am ignorant here.

   May I suggest that, for your own and your organizations sake, using a
  system which is independent of the actual files involved ? After all, can
  Word track changes in, for instance, TIFF ? In C source code ? In Claris ?

 [17th of March 2003 - Julia Collins also wrote upside down]

> I hate the gates monopoly as much as the next woman, but, like a war no-one
> except a handful of cowboys wants, isn't it a sad fact of life?

   As with Andy's comment above, this confuses me - are you saying that we
  shouldn't fight a fight that almost noone cares about ? If so, what exactly
  is the purpose of the WAI-IG list ?

   I hope there is no need for me to remind the audience of


  which, granted, does not mention Word directly, but does illustrate some of
  the points.

> They say that they can't imagine some normal screen reading punter who
> hasn't got word on their set up.

   Jaws Standard 4.5 - $895 American. I'm sorry, Julia. If the user group or
  the UK Goverment claim that someone who cannot afford $895 for Jaws plus the
  cost of Windows in addition to the hardware needed isn't "normal", then I
  don't know what to say.

   There *are* blind users of Unix and Mac who cannot easily get the
  combination "decode Windows proprietary formats" and "speech reader" to
  work - and not all blind users are helped to buy the needed equipment.

   And why should they ? By using HTML, the content is accessible with tools
  that doesn't cost much at all.

   But if their definition of "normal" is "those using Windows", I can't
  really find anything to say. Well, except that I don't hate Windows.

   To wrap it up - and to comment on the part of the discussion sent only to
  my private address - no, this is not a case a system administrator stopping
  accessibility. This is a case of, quote, 

    "What ? You mean one of your everything-should-be-accessible-geek-friends
     distribute information about accessible websites in a proprietary,
     closed, binary format ? MUAHAHAHAH!" - anonymous system administrator.

   Sorry, guys. It was difficult getting him to stop laughing long enough to
  install OpenOffice. But now I *can*.

   So once I've written and sent this, I'll shut down everything running on the
  machine so that I've got the necessary RAM and CPU to run it. But, perhaps,
  I really should accept that it's a part of life that I, as one who cannot
  afford a new, 3Ghz, 1024MB RAM, computer, cannot and should not be able to
  read information because "Word prints prettier".

   Or is it because I am an 'un-natural' screen reading user ? Or is it
  because "accessibility" is, very slowly but surely, being watered down ?

   Or perhaps because I am simply unable to understand why the original article
  couldn't have been written in OpenOffice, then saved as Word, exported as
  HTML and Tidy'ed, printed to a file as Postscript, and automatically
  converted to PDF with Ghostscript. Or any of a number of other methods for
  creating a multitude of formats.

   Critical ? No - then you need to re-read this article. I am weary, and I'm
  abit sad that I need to go jumping through hoops just to get to the content
  of an article on how people have difficulty getting to the content of

   Perhaps I should write one and put it up in my own, proprietary, format ?

 Tina Holmboe           [Windrose@DALnet] [tina@elfi.org] [tina@htmlhelp.com]

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Received on Monday, 17 March 2003 14:13:05 UTC

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