Facts and Opinions About PDF Accessibility

by Joe Clark

52 Reader Comments

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  1. Just to note: OpenOffice isn’t a PDF reader, it is however (since 1.1) a PDF writer on Linux/Unix, OS X and Windows. A good PDF reader for Linux would be “Evince”:http://www.gnome.org/projects/evince/

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  2. Joe, that’s an excellent piece of work – thanks!

    The main reason we are using PDFs is because “they are cheaper to create than HTML versions”. And yet, they are not tagged, nor tested for accessibility. Even worse – some of the PDFs are really just massive pictures of text.

    At least you’ve given me some hope of resolving the “PDF crisis” we have here. Step 1, tackle PDFs that shouldn’t be PDFs. Step 2, make sure the hand-authored PDFs are tagged. Step 3, see if we can’t replace FOP with PDFLib. The FOP documentation clearly states it does not generate tagged PDFs. Otherwise, start talking with the FOP guys and see if we cant start work there.

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  3. A few clarifications regarding PDFs and the Canadian Common Look and Feel standards:

    First off, a minor point: the correct URL for the CLF (Common Look and Feel) reference is “www.tbs–sct.gc.ca/clf–nsi/inter/inter–01–02_e.asp”:http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/clf-nsi/inter/inter-01-02_e.asp

    Also, it should be clearly stated that the CLF specification is now almost 6 years old.  In 1999, when the Government of Canada was drafting their specifications for Federal web “publishers”, the then current practice was to “print” text articles, spreadsheets, etc. as PDF (one button publishing) and then post these files to the web.  (There was also a tendency to convert PowerPoint presentations to “web presentations”? and then dump them upon an unsuspecting and helpless public).  Thus when the specifications were being written, better to err in favor of the non-mainstream then to continue to foster this type of detritus on the masses — in 1999 PDF was “not directly accessible to persons with (primarily) visual impairments”?.

    It is true, and you have illustrated with depth and research, that today PDFs can be made more accessible if they are done properly.  However, as your article points out, much care and “hand finessing”? is required today to ensure that these documents are accessible.  Will these obstacles be over-come?  Sure, some day, but as your article also points out, more often than not the final output can, and should be, presented in a format other than PDFand I truly hope that the readers of your article remember that more than anything else.

    Next, you neatly side-step the very real issue of PDF’s incompatibility with the current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which state clearly: “Priority 2: 11.1”:http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/wai-pageauth.html#tech-latest-w3c-specs “Use W3C technologies when they are available and appropriate for a task and use the latest versions when supported.”?  For many developers working within the confines of these “Guidelines”? (that have become, sadly, pseudo-standards — even though they were never written to be such), PDF is not a W3C technology.  Is it “open”? — yes, but is it W3C sanctioned?  No.  But time changes everything”¦

    Finally, however, a thank-you.  Well written, well researched, and relatively opinion neutral — exactly the kind of dialogue needed today.

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  4. Absolutley stellar article!

    I work for a state government agency where I’m just a minor web coding droid, but I try my best to make my code accessable as much as I possibly can.

    Accessability is touted as an important issue here but usually is just paid lip-service in practice mostly because, in my opinion, no one really understands the issue or the limits of the technology – particularly when it comes to PDF documents. I’ve been adding as much header info to all my PDF’s as I possibly could for the last few years in spite of the hassle I get from our IT folks that it’s unecessary or a waste of time. I don’t think they’ll be saying that when we change over to a content management system later, but what do I know.

    I was just recently given permission to use Acrobat 7.0 and noticed several new and useful features, but I was unaware of the tagging tools! I’m going to be spending whatever free time I have to studying this feature and I’m going to bookmark, print, read and forward this article to as many folks as I can!

    What a great article to launch this *incredible* redesign of A List Apart!

    Thanks!

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  5. John, the requirement to use W3C technologies when appropriate is merely chauvinism on the part of the World Wide Web Consortium. We’ll use whatever accessible format we like, thank you very much.
    Nonetheless, I’m sure you noticed that I gave what I think is an exhaustive list of the circumstances when using the non-W3C format of PDF is appropriate. So that’s been handled.

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  6. Thanks you for a fair and smooth running document. I believe it deserves more than one reading.

    By the way, I can’t tell you if I like the new design better than the old design. To me, the audience, they both worked. I never felt lost, or bored, or impatient, when searching for something … or just cruising. I guess there are less choices and more whitespace. I like that.

    Have a nice day. Guess I better pull out my FrameMaker 7 manual ….

    The audience thanks you.

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  7. I’d love to print this article for further reading later.  Any chance you could create a print-friendly link to the article?

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  8. First off, thanks for a wonderful article.  My comments are both pro-PDF and con-PDF.

    Re PDF is overused:

    May I nominate:

    15. Word documents with tables that people have dragged around to look nice.  They maintain the proper number of columns when converted to PDF, but become unusable hash with extra and mismatched columns when converted to HTML.

    We used to spend hours trying to fix these. Now I’m a team of one instead of a team of three, and I couldn’t survive if I had to fix these documents.

    16. Documents that are so huge that when saved as Word HTML our other authoring tools can’t clean them up.

    Re We’re not just talking about blind people:

    And of course, there are low-vision folks who need Reader’s zoom feature (which is, nevertheless, clunky for viewing wide tables).

    Re Content vs. user agent:

    There is the issue that if the PDF opens in the browser window, the browser’s Back button no longer has the expected effect when a user mistakenly uses it partway through a PDF document and suddenly finds themselves out of the document instead of elsewhere in the document.  This is similar to the AJAX problem.

    Re Authoring tools:

    One is not even home free with the tagging tools provided for Office 2000+. People need to be trained to produce clean source documents in the first place.  I’ve run into the following problems, which apply both to saving as HTML and to converting to PDF:

    1. Office is set by default (changeable under Tools > AutoCorrect) to assign styles based on your formatting.  This sometimes results in a table cell in the middle of a table being marked as <h1> or some such.  Ideally, your IT department would disable this option as part of their installation procedure.

    2. Excel spreadsheets pasted into Word documents may be output as an image.  The only way to ensure they stay as a table is to select the desired cells and paste into Word using Ctrl-V, not Paste Special.  The downside of this is that sometimes the layout of the table will get messed up, but it will be semantically sound.  (And let’s not forget folks who spread their column headings across three spreadsheet rows instead of using Wrap, or who put the title of the spreadsheet in the first row instead of in Page setup.)

    3. Some folks align tabular data using tabs instead of Word tables.  This produces inaccessible data non-tables.  Word’s Text to table can sometimes fix this, but there is often pre-and-post cleanup involved.

    4. Some folks align data in tables by adding extra table columns instead of pressing Ctrl-Tab to indent.  This produces hard-to-navigate tables, requiring tedious manual cleanup effort.

    5. As mentioned above, people drag table columns around, sometimes producing extra columns (problem for HTML only, not for PDF, so far as I know).

    6. Some people put the title of the table inside the table, making in the first row of the table.  Word’s Split Table, followed by Table to text on the title only, can cure these.

    Hope this helps.

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  9. ——
    The goal of the accessibility advocate is to improve
    accessibility for people with disabilities, period.
    ——

    Sorry for rehashing an old thread over at accessify, but I’m with Tommy on this one ( http://www.autisticcuckoo.net/archive.php?id=2005/08/24/joe-clark-on-accessibility )

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  10. ahem…love the look and feel of the site — but has anyone tried actually PRINTING anything? I get three pages of 6pt font and then a bunch of (mostly) blank pages.

    ALA seems to be slipping in its old age… :)

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  11. Hey, I didn’t know that you could do forms in PDF until I read this article, but I don’t really see why/when I should use PDF over regular HTML. The example you give – TypeBookOne – appears to be a series of ordinary text boxes (and asking for a credit card number over an unencrypted connection to boot). Why not use an HTML form?

    A good article nonetheless. I just hope it will be used by thoughtful developers to produce accessible pdf documents where appropriate, rather than by lazy developers to just dump their Word docs to the web.

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  12. Sadly, yes, Chris, Jeremy Tankard’s TypeBookOne example was less fabulous than his other PDFs, like his old order forms, which auto-calculated your total for you. I opted to leave it in and simply be ashamed.

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  13. I support Tommy Olsson’s efforts to make the Web more universal, but it is not to be confused with Web accessibility for people with disabilities.

    Go to town, but just don’t use that term to describe it.

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  14. A lot of the academic documents are written in LaTeX, and as a result, converted from PostScript to PDF.

    The majority of academic material is printed and used in the academic establishment… so it makes sense that the PDF format is used.

    However, when these academic papers get placed on the internet, they are placed online as PDF documents.

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  15. I’m with Joe: accessibility is about people with disabilities. Full stop.

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  16. Suggestion: XML and yesLogic for conversion to pdf.

    SVG remains mostly theoretical, doesn’t it?”

    Whatever you say genius.

    “Footnoted, endnoted, or sidenoted, since there is no way to mark up any of those structures in HTML.”

    XML. Warning: ‘PDF authoring software’ == Terrifying. Lame. Bad idea. Nail in coffin. Horrible Horrible. Misery.

    “An interactive form, since PDF interactivity can do more than HTML can.”

    Oh really? And I’d want that because…

    “A multimedia presentation, since later versions of PDF can truly embed multimedia rather than simply refer to or call multimedia, as HTML does.”

    Doesn’t PDF embed the ActiveX control of said ‘multimedia’ precisely (give or take) what HTML does?  The point is mute anyway because there it is in the XML permitting conversion to all things.

    “Combined accessible and inaccessible versions. A typical case is a scan of a historical document that also includes live text. (You really need that live text. The Smoking Gun’s scanned court documents wouldn’t pass muster here.)”

    What are you smoking… this is easily done in HTML and is no argument for using PDF.

    I really can’t be bothered carrying on… The author shows such an arrogant misunderstanding of the W3Cs objectives, intentions, and technology that this article was obsolete even before it was written.

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  17. Yeah, I’m so out of touch with what the W3C is doing that I’ve attended two face-to-face meetings and am an Invited Expert with the WCAG Working Group.

    Good call, genius.

    Now, does anybody have criticisms they’d like to levy that actually make sense and to which they have the integrity to sign their names?

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  18. PDF files on the net are something of a problem for me and others I’ve known…
    While there is no excusing the fact that they can be a Good Thing (thx, Martha) if used appropriately, they are often unnecessary, as Joe describes.

    My mother has taken constant issue with the PDF plugin (she is the average internet user). The issue involved, I think, is that if you must use a PDF, make sure it is properly identified as PDF! I tend to shy away from sites where I am apt to run across non-declared PDF files, linked as regular old web pages.

    Good job o nthe article for putting things in perspective

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  19. Joe,

    An excellent article indeed!

    Nevertheless, I believe that the reference of Word as an alternative option to PDF comes from the fact that Word is a more well known and used format amongst the masses. But perhaps, you could write about that?

    I know of people with visual impairments that usually copy the text from a website and pastes it into MS Word in order to increase font size or use it with a screen reader. Now if that is the best practice, hmmm I have my doubts. If Maguire were a bigger player in the Accessibility arena, it would be useful to know the context in which he commented about Microsoft Word and whether as a user or a member of the institution he works for.

    In any case, I am still to be bought into the idea of having a PDF as the sole conveyor of my content. There is an implication ons findability: if I am not mistaken, just Google indexes PDF files.

    Nevertheless, I will be doing more PDF files after reading this article.

    Cheers,

    Luis

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  20. Thank you for a very nice re-introduction into a very wide-spread, yet developer-wise, unknown territory.

    We are using PDF in production, and generate up to 200 pdf documents a day, yet noone in the organisation seems to know anything about the PDF anatomy.

    This article is sure to be an eye-opener for many people around me, thanks a lot.

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  21. “I’m with Joe: accessibility is about people with disabilities. Full stop.“

    Nonsense. Accessibility should mean “access for all”. If a local cinema has a ramp and a large automatically-opening entrance door for wheelchairs, but non-disabled people have to climb two flights of narrow winding stairs to get in (through a tiny door that sometimes doesn’t open easily and is always a tight squeeze), then the cinema is not what non-disabled people might class “accessible”. A poor example but hopefully you get the point. Accessibility doesn’t mean “it also works for disabled people”, but that it is “accessible” (as far as possible). Full stop.

    “I know of people with visual impairments that usually copy the text from a website and pastes it into MS Word in order to increase font size.“

    Why not use Firefox or Opera? Then they can enlarge the text.

    (From the main article:) “You can add XML-like tags to give structure to a PDF.” / “PDF tags are XML-like.“

    As far as I can tell, PDF tags are actual XML, not XML-like. I’ve learnt of two main reasons for them so far, but there may be others. One is to enable importing of XML, the other exporting. This means you can create a PDF template, for example a design for a menu. When your prices or products change, you can update the XML and not have to redesign a whole new template, or spend ages editing an existing one. Exporting gives you a standard XML document containing all your text and links to images etc in a way that can be reformatted any way you like (eg: turned into HTML).

    I have followed the advice in the article to view tags, but it seems the Standard version of Adobe Acrobat 7 isn’t capable of some things mentioned. I only have a “Quick Check” option, and there’s no Tags palette! (There is, however in InDesign CS2.) So I was not able to view the tags after adding them to a PDF. As Joe rightly says “for some functions you need the Pro version”.

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  22. “?I know of people with visual impairments that usually copy the text from a website and paste it into MS Word in order to increase font size.”?

    “Why not use Firefox or Opera? Then they can enlarge the text.”

    For the same reason quite a few women (and certain men) wear high heeled shoes when no bone in the human foot was designed for that kind of strain, certain designers prefer to use notepad to Dreamweaver and some people prefer to watch films at home than going to the cinema: people get used to the choices they make when they are in control.

    One could easily say, why people still read in Braille when they could have a freeware text-to-speech software installed in a Pentium II get all the classics in TXT format from the Guttenberg Project and spend the afternoons just listening to Shakespeare or Harry Potter instead.

    This is the beauty of being human after all, one can hardly distinguish an “a” from a “b” and still they use whatever they have in hand (and in their hard drives) to access the world. Within our limitations we adapt using the resources around us and this is a feat too precious to be weighed against the browser one uses to access the Web or by the technology one could be using instead.

    But yes, whenever another opportunity arises, I will be, again, the first one to advise, guide and help whoever needs the help (be them blind or just a novice user) and if they feel comfortable with the challenge, Opera will be the first addtion to their hard drives. But once again, that is just the cold part of the job; the technical elements become such nonsense when you see the face of self-accomplishment when one is able to reconnect with the world, write ‘silly’ poems, send an email, dream.

    After all accessibility in its nature is not a property of the digerati or an industry standard but more, a call for human beings in general, since the beginning of history.

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  23. In my 3 years of creating so-called accessible PDFs, I have learned that, between the limited variety of PDF tags and the capabilities of the PDF readers (by that, I am refering to the Read Out Loud functionality of Acrobat or the use of JAWS to read PDFs), the accessibility of PDFs is no better than a text-only page containing the same text. Rather than waste a huge amount of space on this forum, I decided to post my own facts and opinions about PDF accessibility in my blog at http://pen-and-ink.ca/?p=40.

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  24. I read Joe’s article with much interest. While it contains a lot that is very pertinent and interesting, I believe his aggressive, combative approach has resulted in a misrepresentation of the conversation he had with Bruce Maguire and the way the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) in Australia operates.

    I introduced Joe to Bruce in the lunchroom at the WE04 Conference and was present during the conversation they had regarding PDFs. Joe portrays the conversation as monologue by Bruce with him trying to get a word in edgewise. Joe the shrinking violet unable to get a word in? Come on give me a break!  To me it seemed more like an attack on Bruce by Joe, with Bruce desperately trying to get Joe to acknowledge his responses.

    This is how I remember the overall nature of the conversation: Joe was mainly interested in making the point that it is now possible to produce PDF documents that can be accessed by screen readers. Bruce agreed with this, but said that many PDF documents are not prepared correctly and a significant proportion of screen reader users in Australia do not use readers that can access even well prepared PDFs. (By the way, the reference to Microsoft Word was a side comment that Word was more accessible to most reader users than PDF).

    In essence, it was a classic dispute between a theoretician and a person who has to deal with something in a practical way on a daily basis. I knew the conversation was off the rails when Joe started talking about how if HREOC took someone to court over the use of PDFs, he would willing be an expert witness against Bruce (and HREOC) to say PDFs were accessible (no if, buts or maybes!).

    Protecting the rights of people with disabilities can be a difficult and unpopular task, and advances in technology often add another dimension to the problem. A quick, non-web example: In Australia, builders of large multi-story buildings are required to provide a lift (elevator) with buttons that are positioned so that they can be used by someone in a wheelchair. An increasing number of disabled people now have wheelchairs that can elevate the user up to the level of a standing adult. Does this mean that a person in a standard wheelchair can no longer claim they are being discriminated against if the buttons in all the lifts are too high for them to reach? Should we change the requirement to provide buttons at wheelchair height?

    It is not a question of what is theoretically possible or not, or a question of how much a piece of hardware or software might cost. Minimising the discrimination against people with disabilities is a question of basic rights. Unlike Joe, I do not believe the people of Australia “struggle under the yoke of lies and misunderstandings”? from HREOC about PDFs or any other matter.

    I know there is nothing like making a stir to attract a bit of attention. But, I feel it is sad that in his desire for the spotlight, Joe has found it necessary to attack someone who has done much in the fight to advance the rights of people with disabilities.

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  25. In fact, Bruce did monologuize endlessly and I barely did get a word in edgewise. Joe is not a shrinking violet and tried many, many times to interrupt Bruce’s oft-inaccurate lecturing. Everything I wrote about HREOC and my Australian experience is true and accurate. It’s great that we have a slightly-differing eyewitness account, but I was the one trying to do the talking, not Roger.

    The issue of “my device doesn’t read your accessible PDF” is a separate question, one addressed in my article. I also specifically and factually addressed the true cost of software to read PDFs, which can be zero. Nobody has ever “minized” the cost of such software; Bruce and HREOC are guilty of the opposite, exaggerating it. I researched the facts and reported them.

    The fact that “many documents are not prepared correctly” is only one part of the puzzle, as it is for Web pages. I explained why in the article. An untagged PDF may still be accessible. The non-Web example is off-topic; standing-height wheelchairs are not readily available or cheap, while PDF readers are.

    I certainly would return to Australia to testify in a hearing, at which point the exact contentions of plaintiff and respondent would be discussed. I didn’t tell Bruce I would categorically argue that PDFs are accessible, because they are no more categorically accessible than HTML is. Bruce did, however, tell me they’d get in competing experts who said PDFs weren’t accessible. As I told him then and reiterate now, the difference is I’ll have the facts.

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  26. The tendency for low-vision users to compensate for lousy page design by copying and pasting text into Word has been documented by at least two studies I’ve read, including one by Theofanos and Redish. Zoom layouts solve the problem. Or will, once retail sites start using them.

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  27. It has come to my attention that my fact checking was incomplete: the true facts negate some of the conclusions I made and I appologize to any/all who had read my own opinions on PDF accessibility.

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  28. Yes, I think PDF tags actually are XML, but I also think that they’re in a separate category from the XML inputs that were mentioned in the comment.

    Could one of my esteemed colleagues from Adobe clarify that, please?

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  29. Hold on. I just noticed that Roger Hudson essentially accuses me of hogging some kind of limelight at the expense of poor downtrodden Bruce Maguire. Sadly, no!

    Do a Google search for Maguire vs. SOCOG and see whose name comes up. Bruce’s victory against the Sydney Olympics is a notable precedent in Web accessibility that I extensively documented — because it’s important. Far be it from me to “minimi[ze] the discrimination against people with disabilities.” When did I start doing that?

    Is it just barely possible, Roger, that Bruce shouldn’t coast on his reputation, that his friends shouldn’t mistake reputation for accuracy, and that I’m not trying to boost my own reputation?

    I just wrote an article about PDFs. If this is so great for my reputation, when is it gonna start getting me dates?

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  30. Working in a bankruptcy law firm, I have to access the courts’ systems every day to get “archived” copies of documents associated with a particular case. I do so by clicking on a link in a very basic HTML 4.1 page (beside the point), and depending on the court, Adobe Acrobat eventually opens with the document I chose. For the most part, the documents that come up would be a nightmare to reproduce in HTML; row & column spanning cells, mandatory headers & footers, time sensitive dates, etc.

    As far as I can tell, your list of exempt PDF situations doesn’t include situations like the one I outlined above, at least not specificallly.

    Otherwise, great article. It always feels so good to prove the greedy nay-sayers wrong.

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  31. Thank you very much for this detailled article. However, I want to remind you, that Safari only uses Preview’s functionality to display PDFs, i.e. it can’t be mentioned as it own PDF-reader.

    Best wishes,
    Philipp

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  32. Joe,

    Can you point to a single public study involving disabled users where they find PDF documents to be usable, even if those PDFs are tagged?

    According to this American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) white paper, PDF accessibility is just theoretical

    http://www.afb.org/section.asp?SectionID=3&TopicID=135&DocumentID=1706

    Pie in the sky?

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  33. Alertbox 8/29/2005:

    Jakob says: “When using PC-native file formats such as PDF or spreadsheets, users feel like they’re interacting with a PC application. Because users are no longer browsing a website, they shouldn’t be given a browser UI.”

    —> http://www.useit.com/alertbox/open_new_windows.html

    Must be something in the water this week.

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  34. In response to the other users who had problems printing this great article, I had too had the same issue but resolved it by opening the page in Opera 8 and printing from there.

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  35. No, I don’t know of any usability studies of PDFs, with or without disabled test subjects. We could certainly use those.

    The AFB advice is outdated by several years, but will no doubt be given credence indefinitely despite new facts. Perhaps the AFB should use a strength of the Web (immediacy) and update its document.

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  36. So are you saying you wrote a long article about PDFs being accessible, yet you don’t know if disabled users can actually use PDFs that are designed to be accessible?

    Or are you saying you have no evidence that accessible PDFs are usable?

    What are you saying?

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  37. So are you saying you wrote a long article about PDFs being accessible, yet you don’t know if disabled users can actually use PDFs that are designed to be accessible? Or are you saying you have no evidence that accessible PDFs are usable?

    The author is not making either of those statments. It’s quite clear what the author is saying: he knows of no usability studies of PDFs; good ones would be welcome.

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  38. Although many different applications allow simple creation of pdfs, sadly the internet is full of pdfs with no proper title and metadata. Although google makes up for this itself, if people add their own title and metadata they have a better say in how search results for their files appear (more so if they are using some other search engine, for instance for local use). Very few applications will allow you a route to view and change the title and decription and keywords, and in some cases the conversion process will take historical data from the file and use that.

    So yes, do look at your pdf as the result of a search, preferably with your local search engine (if you have one) as well as seeing what google says about it. You may well have to buy the full version Acrobat to edit the metadata (and you can use it to add XMP as well).

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  39. C’mon. What is this?

    The article says PDFs are accessible. That means people with screen readers can use them.

    But you cannot cite a single piece of evidence from actual disabled users that they can use PDFs that are designed to be accessible.

    That was the point of the AFB white paper. Even though you can make a PDF technically accessible, in practice blind people still can’t use them, for a bunch of reasons.

    So, in the absence of any evidence that proves otherwise, everthing in this article is moot.

    Yes, you can make PDFs accessible, but why bother if the people you are doing this for can’t use them anyway?

    Get out of your ivory towers.

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  40. PDF accessibility is just like Web accessibility: We’ve got a set of technologies and guidelines we use. By doing so, we have confidence that people with disabilities can understand and use our content. There have been very few (really indeed very few) usability studies of compliant Web sites, and none thath I know of pertaining to tagged PDF, for example. This doesn’t change the fact that PDF has accessibility features, or the related fact that many of the complaints about PDF that are advanced as reasons they’re inaccessible (e.g., “my device can’t read tagged PDF”), are off-topic. Rather like your complaints, Dominic.
    Link us to your curriculum vitae and I’m sure Adobe or others would consider hiring you to do such a study.

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  41. By nature, I likes PDF.. this is a greate way to ensure that data will show exacly the same accross medias. What I hate is the browser support, they freeze a lot of browsers. I d’ont know if it’s just me but It gets me crazy when I loose my 20 opened tabs in firefox just because I didn’t notice that the link am clicking on was a PDF, wich I usually “save as” to read later in a decent PDF reader. I don’t know if it’s caused by malformed PDF tags or a bad browser implentation but IMO it happens way to often.

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  42. I received a PDF recently and thought I’d check it for accessibility. I saw that ‘Add Tags To Document’ wasn’t greyed out in the Accessibility menu. But when I tried the menu option, the following error came up. Anyone got any ideas about this?

    “Acrobat [7.0 Standard] was unable to make this document accessible because of the following error:

    Bad PDF; could not read page structure. (Bad PDF; error in processing fonts: bad font)1

    Please note that some pages of this document may have been changed. Because of this failure, you are advised to not save these changes.“

    So I checked the Properties screen but couldn’t see any problems. There was a single font used – Courier. I also noted the company logo and a box of text on the page used Times New Roman. Trying to select the text revealed it was part of an image! No way to select, copy or read out the text there!

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  43. In my job we process PDF job application forms for a leading website and we have to include db related fields into the PDF. Strangely its cheaper than HTML however the results are messy, file size is erratic and navigation is cumbersome.

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  44. Finally, on the fourth try, I’ve figured out printer settings so I can print this fine article without losing the right-hand end of each line. Could you help? I’m going to be recommending it to a couple hundred EPA colleagues, and we like to save paper. :^) Thanks!

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  45. I agree with Joe’s statement that “Some documents really should be PDFs.” Specifically, some RECORDS (locked-down documents with long-term value) should be PDF because PDF is an ideal preservation format, mainly because it is flatter than other formats. Preservation of HTML files is made easier with PDF, because HTML files, with their multi-media multi-layered nature, make it difficult to determine the boundaries of the record and use standardized metadata for the different layers and media. The problem of preserving context and record relationships doesn’t go away with PDF, though.

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  46. I went to a media briefing on accessible PDFs hosted by the RNIB on Thursday 20th October 2005. One of the impressive demonstrations was the RNIB 2005 Financial Report, all done as an accessible PDF, including tables – which are regarded as being difficult to make accessible.

    Hugh Huddy – from the RNIB – did the demonstration of navigation a Balance sheet in a PDF document using Adobe Acrobat and Jaws. He navigated the balance sheet, as far as I could tell, in exactly the same manner you would if it were done in HTML. He switched into a tables reading mode, and had access to all the information in the table along with the relevant headers for the cells. Also demonstrated was navigating using links and header structure.

    Its not an ivory tower usability study, but a practical, and live, demonstration proving we are able to create accessible PDFs. I guess it proved PDFs – even complex ones – can be created to be accessible, and they can be accessible to screen readers.

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  47. I’d just like to point out, with regards to Mike Davies comment above, that what he says is true about the outcome of the RNIBs briefing.

    What he doesn’t mention is that, after much struggling, the RNIB team of experienced developers had to bring in external consultants to enable them to properly tag their PDF files, as they just couldn’t do it..!!

    Does this really mean that PDFs are accessible? Surely that’s like saying a house without a roof will keep me dry in the rain, I just have to learn how to build a roof??

    On a more positive note, i’d love to see some independent user testing to see just how accessible properly tagged PDFs are, and also how the process of tagging can be made easier.

    My main issue with Joe’s article is that it’s now being touted around the UK public sector as validation for providing 90% of their web content in (un-tagged) PDFs, though no doubt Joe will be horrified to hear it.

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  48. What he doesn’t mention is that, after much struggling, the RNIB team of experienced developers had to bring in external consultants to enable them to properly tag their PDF files, as they just couldn’t do it..!!

    As I understood the comment, it wasn’t experienced developers that were having the problems, but their regular PDF publishers. Hugh opined that part of the problem was that either they were too afraid they would get it wrong, or too afraid to even try. Yes, the RNIB brought in some technical help.

    As I understood this, this is no difference to bringing in an accessibility consultant to help in-house web developers make their websites accessible. That does indeed happen.

    I’ve posted my notes on the event over at:
    http://www.isolani.co.uk/blog/access/RnibAccessiblePdfMediaBriefing
    As with all my live blogging attempts – mistakes are all mine.

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  49. Coming in late here… just a clarification:

    I have a current complaint lodged with the HREOC and asked if the HREOC has a role in prosecuting, and the response given was:

    HREOC is no longer a hearing commission, so we do not make determinations as to whether someone has been discriminated against or what the remedy should be. However, through our investigation and conciliation processes, HREOC may form a view as to whether or not there is an arguable case that discrimination may have occurred and we will express such a view to the parties, when appropriate.”

    So the HREOC will no longer crack down on anyone. (Which is sad when there’s a genuine grievance and the only option is to pay lawyers. No wonder I am in this situation: businesses know the little people can’t fight back.)

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  50. I don’t know if this topic is related. I honestly could not look through all the threads. ButI was looking for some advice on how to create a zoom tool on a website, like alot clothing website have. To zoom in on the item. If anyone could help that would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.

    Mendy

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  51. Look and feel the layout design of directory. web directory, yello pages directory. http://www.tradejaipur.com.

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  52. I have some web sites that we use PDF to grant more information about some subject when visitors ask.
    In this case I think it will be necessary and very useful.

    Thanks for your article and knowledge that you grant to me by reading it

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