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RE: PDF in WCAG 2

From: Patrick Lauke <P.H.Lauke@salford.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 11:23:38 +0100
Message-ID: <3A1D23A330416E4FADC5B6C08CC252B9FD6A97@misnts16.mis.salford.ac.uk>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

> It is sometimes necessary to use pdfs exactly because equivalent
> HTML files don't exist

What type of content within a PDF is there no HTML equivalent for?

> or is too expensive to make available

Fair enough, cost can indeed be an issue, particularly when there's a
large backlog of legacy documents.

> Very often we need pdf files because they are an easy and handy way to
> make a lot of important information available to most users 
> at almost no
> additional costs.

"Most users" certainly depends on the target audience of your site.
Also, if it is so important, I'd see that as an extra incentive to actually
devise accessible alternatives.

> Think of archives from The Second World War 
> written on
> a typewriter with hand written comments in the margins, handwritten
> dairies, etc. You can make such material available for most 
> users (99%)
> in its original historical look and feel at almost no costs.

Again, I'd object to the 99% statistic.
 
> Making the same material available also in HTML, the material 
> would not
> only loose all its historical authenticity,

How so? Yes, it may lose its visual/presentational values, but the
content should not lose anything, no?

> We can make
> fast and dirty pdfs as easy as using a copy machine.
[...]
>  making the material
> available in the newest brand of accessible tagged pdf files, 
> is also a
> multi million dollar project.
[...]
> Pdfs in WCAG-1 was also far from ideal since we still have a lot of
> material that is pdf in origin. Just think of glossy annual paper
> reports, fact sheets about products, etc. With almost no extra costs
> such material, originally used as print files, can be served 
> also on the
> net.
[...]
> Such material has a lot of pictures, a lot of data tables, 
> and a lot of
> graphs and descriptive statistics still difficult to convert to
> accessible tagged pdfs in an automated process or into 
> accessible XHTML.

So, if I understand you correctly, you're bemoaning the fact that to
achieve WCAG1.0 is not fast, dirty or cheap, and cannot by done simply
by automated means?

> We need
> some rules of thumb that can help us in the decision making 
> process when
> and how and during what circumstances it is acceptable in the final
> analysis to serve a quick and dirty pdf even without an 
> equivalent HTML
> file.

That final analysis rests with you, and in my mind it's quite simple:
if you want to be able to claim compliance with WCAG1.0, you need to
address the issue of PDFs. If you don't have the resources, time,
technology, whatever to convert your PDFs to an equivalent, here's a
crazy thought: don't claim WCAG1.0 compliance for that particular section.
You could easily write an accessibility statement clarifying that your
site complies with WCAG1.0 AA, except for the PDF archive - but that
you're willing and able to provide the content of the PDF in alternative
format upon request on a case by case scenario, perhaps (much in the same
way that, say, you would not convert all your paper based literature to
braille and keep it in stock, but have mechanisms in place to provide
braille versions upon request, within a reasonable time scale).

> How then has WCAG-2 clarified the use of pdfs? Are we getting new and
> better guidelines that can help us out in our daily work for a more
> accessible internet?
> 
> Nothing at all. The original pdf-issue has even died without 
> a whimper

Maybe I'm over-interpreting, but: I would class PDFs as non-text content
(particularly if the PDF is merely a container for scanned documents), in
which case the very first guideline, 1.1, would apply. This possibly needs
clarification in the current WCAG2.0.

> and is no more to be found anywhere in the accessibility guidelines
> proper or in the supplementary documents about HTML and CSS.

As PDFs are not a W3C technology, and they're not HTML or CSS, then I sort
of see the logic of them not being mentioned in the HTML or CSS documents...

Patrick H. Lauke
________________________________
Patrick H. Lauke
Webmaster
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University of Salford 
Greater Manchester 
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Received on Tuesday, 17 August 2004 10:25:14 UTC

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