[Irl-dean] Accessibility of PDF Format Resources?

Eoin Campbell ecampbell at xmlw.ie
Mon Nov 20 15:48:51 GMT 2006

Joshue O Connor wrote:
> - Easier navigation: a  PDF document is much easier to navigate 
> For whom? What about legacy screen reader users? Or people with
> cognitive disabilities who could have great difficulty getting to grips
> with the PDF bookmark mechanism? How is this an advantage over
> accessible HTML?
I personally find it easier to navigate long reports if I have a PDF 
version which includes
bookmarks. I assume that other people with appropriate technology and 
skills do also.
The functionality of the PDF bookmark mechanism is also much better than 
anything but a very
sophisticated HTML menu, as the bookmarks are always visible, regardless 
of how far down a
document I scroll, and I can collapse and expand the bookmarks whereever 
I want.

 From a document preparation perspective, the big advantage of the PDF 
mechanism is that it is generated automatically
in an accessible PDF version, whereas I believe that in a a HTML 
version, someone must
manually create a set of links into each heading in the report.

Also, in many cases, website policy prevents a standard default 
site-wide left-hand navigation
from being replaced with a document-specific internal navigation, so 
finding a space for
such a menu is not easy.

>> - Easier searching: it is much easier to search a PDF document for a particular term and get
>>   a set of results limited to the document itself. If a long report is a single HTML page, browsers
>>   offer a limited in-page search. If it is split into multiple pages, it is difficult to limit the search to
>>   a particular document. 
> A search mechanism in an indexed website can allow the user to choose if
> they search the page or the entire site so how does PDF offer an
> advantage? How is it faster or easier to use?
Some sophisticated sites might offer this feature, but I have not come 
across them.
The NCBI site itself has documents I would like to download and read 
such as the News Magazine at
 - I cannot download a copy of the newsletter to read offline,
- I cannot search a particular issue,
- I cannot navigate between articles in the same issue.
- I cannot conveniently print a copy of an issue.

To me, a perfect example of all the limitations of the
"HTML good, PDF bad" philosophy.

Eoin Campbell, Technical Director, XML Workshop Ltd.
10 Greenmount Industrial Estate, Harolds Cross, Dublin, Ireland.
Phone: +353 1 4547811; fax: +353 1 4496299.
Email: ecampbell at xmlw.ie; web: www.xmlw.ie
YAWC: One-click web publishing from Word!
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