Re: PDF accessibility guidelines. WAS: Re: PDF's and Signatures

Dear WAI-IG Folks,
I really did not want to give the impression that PDF is inaccessible
junk.  PDF can work with accessibility support in some contexts.

My comment was directed at the original question from Rachel. She is from a
university setting looking at media for instructional materials in the
United States.  That is a very different  issue from general accessibility
of PDF.

Academic instructional material is governed by stricter law than section
508. It is covered by Section 504 of the  1973 Rehabilitation Act.  Under
that law it doesn't matter if WCAG 2.0 is formally met.  If your student
cannot use the medium, then you have to pay for a reasonable
accommodation.  This can cost anywhere from one day of work by a salaried
employee to $40,000 for an advanced math book.

In general, PDF requires more intervention to create an accommodation than
other file formats, and that is usually a lot more intervention.  So, in
Rachel's case, PDF is generally a bad bet.  It is hard to teach faculty how
to make accessibly marked up PDF.  Accessibility support is spotty.  This
translates into higher accommodation costs for the disabled student
services center.
I don't know about other contexts, but I do know academic needs.  I think
John Folliot understands these issues.  I actually wasn't commenting on the
accessibility of PDF, just whether it was worth while using it as a
dominant medium in an instructional support web environment.

If I sounded strident I didn't mean to be iconoclastic.  I just thought
that an academic coordinator for accessibility could use a warning
conderning the effectiveness of PDF for instructional materials at a
 Sincerely, Wayne Dick

On Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 2:39 PM, Duff Johnson <> wrote:

> > one of the problems I face is not the big players universities and
> companies but the small volunteer groups that just upload pdf documents and
> that's as far as they go,  churches and affinity groups want to be on line
> but the volunteers running the websites rarely have any training or even
> know what the W3C is much less what they say.
> >
> > one reason I just say "avoid pdf" to these groups.
> Well, if they use MS Word or OpenOffice to create the PDFs, tagging them
> to at least basic standards is 99% proper structuring of the document
> (i.e., a skill they’d have to know, whether publishing in PDF or HTML) and
> 1% using the “Add tags” checkbox.
> As for testing PDF files for free, VIP Reader, for both Windows and Mac,
> offers an HTML “preview” of the PDF as experienced by AT. It’s available
> from the Swiss National Association of and for the Blind (SNAB):
> > as you say is a real shame the tools are behind a paywall (which is
> technically illegal in the USA) small groups churches volunteers etc $88
> may be a significant part of their budgets
> Like everything else, it takes some effort, but if cost is really the
> issue then it’s nice to know that tools are available to make and test
> tagged PDF are available for free.
> It will only get better from here. But it’s important to let the goliaths
> (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Adobe) know that you want to be able to make and
> consume tagged PDF, dammit! Just ask!
> What’s funny to me about this is that is that in general, PDF
> accessibility is SO much simpler than HTML. Instead of a thousand crazy
> tweaks like infinite scrolling, PDF’s content and tag paradigm is very
> stable. Get it done, and it’ll stay done. PDF belongs to an ISO committee
> now, so the investment is safe.
> Duff.

Received on Saturday, 24 January 2015 01:25:40 UTC