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RE: PDF Alternatives?

From: Waddell, Cynthia <cynthia.waddell@ci.sj.ca.us>
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2000 09:15:28 -0700
Message-ID: <0A005268C8DED311A23E0008C75D1EFF476777@sj-exchange.ci.sj.ca.us>
To: "'Dave J Woolley'" <DJW@bts.co.uk>, "'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Mr. Woolley,
The problem with PDF at this time is that screenreaders are unable to read
the text as well as fill in the forms of PDF documents.  This is the basis
for the US disability rights concern that the PDF form prevents "effective
communication" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)and serves to
effectively discriminate against people with disabilities utilizing
screenreader applications.  

Adobe has committed to finding ways to incorporate structure into a PDF
document upon creation and we all welcome that effort.  The first website
ADA complaint against the City of San Jose was precisely because we had
posted our city counsel documents in PDF format.  As a result, my office had
to develop an accessible web design policy in 1995 to manage ADA complaints.
The outcome was a compromise.  If City webmanagers posted a document in PDF,
they also had to post an equivalent accessible document in HTML.  This
policy has been adopted by the US Department of Justice - the enforcement
authority for the ADA - and is consistent with current practices of the
USDOJ and the US Access Board.

Again, I am sure that all of us are looking forward to Adobe improving their
product.  Until then, disability discrimination laws will continue to be the
basis for complaints filed against covered entities posted documents and
forms only in PDF.

Thankfully, the accessibility effort is not totally reliant upon Adobe.  It
is extremely helpful that the W3C WAI has approached accessible web issues
from multiple fronts - not only through the Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines but also through the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines and the
Web Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines.  Developers of screenreaders
will benefit enormously from the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines.  As
you probably know, some of the benefits of the User Agent Guidelines include
improved inter-operability, functionality and accessibility helps.

I apologize for this long post.

Best regards,
Cynthia Waddell

Cynthia D. Waddell   
ADA Coordinator
City Manager Department
City of San Jose, CA USA
801 North First Street, Room 460
San Jose, CA  95110-1704
(408)971-0134 TTY
(408)277-3885 FAX

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave J Woolley [mailto:DJW@bts.co.uk]
Sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2000 3:57 AM
To: 'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'
Subject: RE: PDF Alternatives?

> From:	Waddell, Cynthia [SMTP:cynthia.waddell@ci.sj.ca.us]
> It is not necessarily true that a person who is blind or has low vision
> would require assistance in completing a form.  If you noted the Section
> 508
> proposed rule, an online form designed to be accessible would enable
> someone
> using a screenreader to fill out the form.
	[DJW:]  I don't see that this is particular 
	incompatible with PDF.  In fact PDF text is
	more likely to be real text than the text
	on typical commercial web pages.  The only real
	problem with the text in PDF files is it is
	often produced by word processors that think
	they can do a better job of spacing characters
	than PostScript can do.  That means that you
	normally get individually placed characters,
	rather than whole words with a horzontal stretch 
	factor, as allowed by the PDF primitives.  This 
	can confuse tools that try to extract words from the  
	text (I predict that the same problem will happen 
	with SVG if, as I suspect, people use it for whole 
	pages, not just graphics).

	(It seems to me that there is a place for tools to
	help marginally reformat PDF to take out the detailed
	microspacing and replace it by stretch factors.  It's 
	possible they are already in the commercial Acrobat 

	PDF does have a fill the forms facility, even in
	the version before last of Acrobat, and you can 
	print the result.  This is not an ideal example 
	from a size or accessibility point of view, but
	it does demonstrate the feature - it needs the 
	latest Acrobat reader:
	(please destroy any printout if you are not a 

	Once you impose a constraint that the layout should
	exactly match that of the printed form, I think PDF
	becomes the format of choice.
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Received on Wednesday, 2 August 2000 12:16:47 UTC

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