Accessible PDF Documents
Although we no longer do PDF remediation, we do provide consulting on the accessibility of PDF documents including strategic planning and policy development.
Karlen Communications no longer does PDF remediation. If you have PDF documents requiring remediation, please contact one of the following companies:
Karen McCall and Karlen Communications can provide training on accessible document design for Microsoft Office documents and PDF documents. The ISO PDF/UA standard is the basis for training. PDF/UA compliance meets or exceeds Section 508 in the US or the AODA in Ontario Canada.
Karen McCall's Books
Details for purchasing these books from Arogacan be found on the Products and Services web page.
Accessible and Usable PDF Documents: Techniques for Document Authors, Third Edition, by Karen McCall, M.Ed., ISBN 978-0-9868085-0-0 [Adobe Acrobat Professional is used to create and repair PDF documents for improved accessibility]
Logical Document Structure Handbook: Word 2010, by Karen McCall, M.Ed., ISBN 978-0-9782675-4-4 [Add the structure and accessibility to documents before you convert them to tagged accessible PDF] .
Tagged, accessible PDF workshops. Based on the books "Logical Document Structure Handbook: Microsoft Word 2003 and Accessible and Usable PDF Documents: Techniques for Document Authors, workshops on PDF accessibility can be customized to meet the needs of your organization and legislative criteria. Topics can also include logical document structure for Word 2007. Contact Karlen Communications for pricing and availability.
"JAWS Compliant PDF"
One of the phrases used to define accessibility of PDF documents that has emerged is “JAWS Compliant.” Variations of this are “Window-Eyes Compliant” and “ZoomText Compliant.” The core problem with this approach to accessibility – other than its non-existence – is that if it did exist, it would confine accessible documents to one adaptive technology only. It is also basing a definition of accessibility on a tool used to access information rather than on a tool to validate code, tagging, and structure…on an adaptive technology not designed to be the criteria for “accessibility testing.”
There are many variables and problems with attempting to use ONE adaptive technology to define accessibility.
- What version of the adaptive technology is the base for the criteria?
- What version of Adobe Reader is the base for the criteria?
- What settings in the adaptive technology are the base for the criteria?
- What settings in Adobe Reader are used for the criteria?
- What is the knowledge and skill level of the end-user defined for the criteria?
- What ARE the criteria?
The fundamental flaw in this approach to accessibility is that it negates universal design in favour of design for one adaptive technology at one point in its development cycle. It does not necessarily provide access to people using other adaptive technology and provides incentive to document authors to only design for one group of people with disabilities.
It also negates the work of both the adaptive technology developers and Adobe toward more accessible PDF documents.
"Clean Accessibility Full Check Compliance"
This is another phrase that surfaces frequently as a definition of PDF accessibility. It is also a non-existent validation and QA methodology.
As an example, take a scanned image of a document in PDF format and without performing OCR on it, tag it, give it a language, provide Alt Text for each page of content [which will be tagged as figures] that simply says "Page #", and the accessibility full check will pronounce no accessibility problems with the document. Anyone who has worked with tagged PDF will recognize immediately that this PDF document is NOT accessible.
As with the JAWS compliant claim, there is no specific criteria for accessibility of the tagged PDF document. There is no definition of what the "compliant" part of the phrase means. Compliant with what?
- Does a clean check mean all images necessary to the understanding of the content have Alt Text or does it mean that all images, even decorative ones have Alt Text?
- Do links have Alt Text that is contextual?
- Are form fields in their proper Tab Order?
- Do form fields have appropriate labels so that someone using adaptive technology can fill out the form?
- If the document is a form does it even have form fields? A full check cannot determine this.
There are so many elements of an accessible PDF document – even one claiming to meet Section 508 or W3C criteria for accessibility – that need to be reviewed for proper tagging and document author intent that make reliance solely on a clean accessibility full check a misguided approach to accessible PDF..
Any PDF content that originated as a document with no document structure. The result is a fragile PDF document that seemingly has a never-ending cycle of accessibility problems.
This is PDF content that was created in such a poor manner, most likely with no structure in the original document. The result is that for every repair you make, two more flaws appear. It is sometimes like a cat chasing its tail.
PDF/UA [Universal Access] Committee/Working Group
The PDF/UA [universal Access] group has a home page and blog. The group is developing specifications for accessible/tagged PDF.
Tools for Reading PDF Documents
- Adobe Reader.
- PDF Magic and PDF Magic Pro from Premiere Assistive Technologies, Inc is a conversion tool for PDF documents. You can convert a PdF document into text to read with your adaptive technology.
- PDF Equalizer from Priemier Technologies. Unlike PDF Magic, this is more like an accessible PDF Reader not a comversion tool.
- ABBYY PDF Transform will let you take scanned PDF documents, perform text recognition and view them in Word. This is an inexpensive alternative to OmniPage Pro or TextBridge.
Creating Accessible PDF Documents
- Accessible PDF and 508 Compliance, Document Solutions
- Accessible PDF Documents, Texas School for the Blind
- Adobe Accessibility, Adobe Systems
- Adobe PDF Specifications - Technical Document
- Defining PDF Accessibility, WebAIM
- Is PDF Accessible?, AccessIT
- PDF Accessibility, WebUsability
- The Conundrum of PDF Accessibility, AccessWorld
- What is PDF?, Web Accessibility for All
- What's in a PDF? The Challenges of the Popular Portable Document Format from AccessWorld.
Logical Document Structure
One of the emerging issues in trying to create a tagged PDF document that meets legislative standards and guidelines is that you can't easily create a PDF document with a logical document structure if the original document or document template has no structural elements.
Simply making content "look like" a structural element doesn't give the tagging tools information they need to derive the logical structure of the document.
For example, in word processors, a heading has specific attributes. If you create a style that is not based on those attributes; or if you simply throw formatting at text to make it look like a heading style, conversion tools will look at the underlying structural element [in most cases, a plain paragraph] and correctly tag all content as paragraph text.
Providing a logical document structure in the original document or document template will let you create PDF documents that will meet the legislative criteria for a logical document structure. It also means less repair work. Although there may be instances of confusion by the tagging tools, you will not have to build a document structure out of thin air. Repairs will be minimized.
We are just beginning to realize that if we want to be able to separate content from formatting and structure, that we have to create documents with structure, and with properly created formatting.
New Technology Developments for Creating Tagged PDF
These are announcements and may not give you access to the products....yet!
Copyright 2013 by Karlen Communications. Contact Karlen Communications