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RE: PDFs and accessibility

From: Steuerwalt, Jon C. <jon.c.steuerwalt@Maine.gov>
Date: Thu, 16 Jan 2003 17:16:48 -0500
Message-ID: <959A750D16C8D211AFB7006097199A86014EB85C@brs-data.brs.dol.state.me.us>
To: "'Matthew Smith'" <matt@kbc.net.au>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Hello.  I agree with Matthew's approach in general - to deploy two different
formats - though my tool set for doing this is different.  As someone said
on this list some time ago, the important thing is to make the information
accessible, not the PDF.  

PDF is great for what it was initially designed to do, but that was not to
present information on the web.  All the additional work required on the
author's part to make a PDF document "web accessible" plus all the work
required on the part of those users of screen readers who do utilize the
correct technologies to then make that PDF document usable still won't make
that PDF document accessible to all users.  

Why not make a [X]HTML version that's accessible for viewing on the web
almost without exception no matter what technology is employed to access it
AND post a version that can be easily converted to hardcopy instead?  Here
in Maine (USA) that's how we have decided to proceed with state government
web sites.  Jon

-----Original Message-----
From: Matthew Smith [mailto:matt@kbc.net.au]
Sent: Thursday, January 16, 2003 4:42 PM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Re: PDFs and accessibility

Hi Lisa/All

> I am thinking of putting up either a simple HTML page or a text file as 
> an alternative to the PDF.

Following a similar enquiry that I made not long ago, I have decided to 
go the dual-format route.  For those who want good hard copy and for 
whom accessibility isn't an issue, I prepare a PDF version; in addition 
to this, I prepare an accessible, XHTML 1.0 compliant Web version.

I still haven't finalised a solution to produce the two documents 
because, in many cases where I am required to do this, the original 
document was passed to me as Microsoft Word.

I convert the Word to PDF by firstly changing to standard fonts (makes 
it easier for my software), then printing it to file as PostScript and 
then using the ps2pdf utility (part of GhostScript) to convert to PDF. 
The XHTML is a simple cut-and-paste into a text editor, where I add all 
the markup by hand.  I use Amaya to check the XHTML for errors.

This is a bit of a long-winded process - one thought is to get the 
source into Tex, which can convert to both PDF and HTML directly.  The 
only problem is that very few of these older tools seem to generate 
decent markup.

For your case, can you grab the source before it gets turned to PDF?  I 
would imagine that it started off life as Word (or something) which then 
gets "printed" to PDF.  Rather than try to make a second (PDF to HTML) 
conversion on the same data, I would try to back-track and convert from 
the original source.

Converting to plain text from the original source would probably be the 
easiest answer, but using a markup language ([X]HTML) would probably 
make the document easier to understand if it is being read by a screen 
reader or talking browser.

Hope this helps.



Matthew Smith
IT Consultant - KBC, South Australia
Received on Thursday, 16 January 2003 17:19:40 UTC

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