[Irl-dean] Accessibility of PDF Format Resources?

Gerry Ellis gerry.ellis at feelthebenefit.com
Tue Nov 21 07:07:29 GMT 2006

Hi, Barry,

Here are a few further thoughts to consider when deciding if PDf is a suitable format for document presentation.

1. Hardware and Software Used
It should be noted in the context of my comments that I am using the latest version of JAWS for Windows and the latest Verssion of the Adobe Acrobat reader. I am using Windows 2000 and a powerful laptop. thus, I believe that my hardware or software setup are not significant barriers which cloud my observations.

2. Accessibility of PDF
It is my experience, as you point out in your paper, that most PDF documents are not maximised for accessibility. Even those which are accessible tend to be slow to open and difficult to navigate as the software tends to be sluggish. This is not noticeable for a small document, but usually is for a larger one.

I had occasion recently to review some eforms documents. these are PdF documents with buttons, radio buttons, edit boxes etc designed to allow information be input into the document so it acts like a form. Part of the process involved talking for over an hour with Andrew Kirkpatrick, who is one of Adobe's top accessibility gurus in the States. The eforms documetns, which came from a third party, were awful. Even the samples sent to me by Andrew were, at best, difficult to use.

My conclusion is that PDF is not yet at a stage of accessibility where it could be considered generally acceptable. A group in the States including Adobe and the National Federation of the Blind are working on this, but it still has a long way to go in my opinion.

3. The user
It is frequently noted that people with disabilities and households headed by a person with a disability are typically less well off than the population in general. also, they are described by the Information society Commission as late adopters of technology, plus there is a great lack of training for such users to master the basic skills of technology use and the extra skills required to master the use of assistive/adaptive technologies.

Add all of these together and you come to a number of conclusions:
1. The hardware available to such users is likely not to be up to date. It may be second hand or may have been purchased some time ago and the user could not afford to upgrade it.

2. Assistive and adaptive technologies are very expensive. Again, the user is not likely to be able to afford to continually upgrade to the latest version.

3. Although the Acrobat Reader is free, it is a very large download. For those with dial up connections and those with poor technology skills, it is highly unlikely that they have upgraded from whatever version of the software they happen to have when they receive their PC.

Thus, such users are not likely to have up to date hardware, assistive/adaptive technology or the latest version of the Acrobat Reader.

4. DAISY Format
DAISY is by far and away more accessible than PDF. It has become enormously popular in the States, Europe and in Japan. It is based on XML and HTML and uses the Sychronised Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) to allow various elements be brought together in one document. Thus, the needs of many groups can be addressed with relative ease.

All books made available from organisations like Bookshare in the States and the RNIB are now made available in DAISY format. I was told at the weekend by Dolphin systems that a new law now exists in the States that requires every book published there be also published in DAISY format; I can't confirm this as of yet.

DAISY reading software is now available for free. The software to produce DAISY documents is not free, but is not very expensive, particularly for large organisations.

DAISY is the future. This is not my opinion, it is bourne out by its enormous and increasing popularity. I believe that we in Ireland, and Irl-DeAN in particular should take a very close look at DAISY and promote it at all times.

take care,

Gerry Ellis
t/a Feel The BenefIT

Tel   (+353-1) 282-7791
Mob   (085) 716-8665
email gerry.ellis at feelthebenefit.com

If you don't know where you're going,
How will you know when you get there?

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Barry McMullin" <mcmullin at eeng.dcu.ie>
To: <irl-dean at list.eeng.dcu.ie>
Cc: <mcmullin at eeng.dcu.ie>
Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2006 1:51 PM
Subject: [Irl-dean] Accessibility of PDF Format Resources?

> Hi Folks -
> This has been on the backboiler for a while, but I have finally
> produced a brief white paper on the vexed question of PDF and
> accessibility.  It's available here:
> <http://eaccess.rince.ie/white-papers/2006/pdf-eaccess/>
> I *think* it presents a fairly common sense and realistic
> statement of the situation; but I haven't been able to locate any
> existing resource which clearly addresses the points I raise, so
> I thought it was worth putting out into the public domain.
> Anyway, I would greatly appreciate any feedback!
> Best regards,
> - Barry.
> _______________________________________________
> Irl-dean mailing list
> Irl-dean at list.eeng.dcu.ie
> http://list.eeng.dcu.ie/mailman/listinfo/irl-dean

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