[Irl-dean] Accessibility of PDF Format Resources?

Eoin Campbell ecampbell at xmlw.ie
Tue Nov 21 23:49:33 GMT 2006

I would like to alter the thrust of the discussion slightly, to move 
away from
the specific issue of PDF vs. HTML, where I think we all agree that 
is better than inaccessible, regardless of which particular format is used.

The Summary Recommendation of the Rince White Paper contains the following:
"Based on the above considerations, our recommendation is that, in the 
cases of the
great majority of documents currently being published on the web in PDF 
these should be either accompanied by, or substituted by, fully accessible,
X/HTML+CSS versions, conveying all the same content and functionality."

The class of documents under discussion is "documents currently being 
on the web in PDF format". In general, this class of documents encompasses
longish reports of from 50 to 500 pages, which are also published in 
print format,
and which are then made available electronically for the publishers 
(saving print costs, allowing people serve themselves, etc.).

The question in my mind is then:
"What is the best way to publish a long report electronically on a website?"

Another way of phrasing this question is to ask: "What do I want to do with
the information in the report?"
As a reader, I want to be able to do the following things.
a. Print out the full report so I can read it on the bus, stick post-its 
on important
    pages, underline sections, etc.
b. Search it so I can look for mentions of particular topics in the report
    (and only in the report).
c. Download it so I can read it online, even when not connected to the 
    (because I only have dial-up access at home).
d. Navigate it easily so I can jump around the document (particularly for
    reference documents that I use a lot).

Purely as a reader, regardless of my level of ability, and even though 
my company
offers the service of converting such publications into accessible HTML,
I honestly believe that for these particular requirements, accessible PDF
better suits my needs than accessible HTML.

The other issue that I want to raise is regarding cost.
For long reports, the cost of preparing accessible versions varies wildly,
depending on the tool used.
If the report is typeset using Adobe InDesign, then preparing an 
accessible PDF
version is reasonably easy to do, cheap, and within the competency of a
typesetter (with an understanding of the issues), because InDesign 
supports it.
Preparing an accessible HTML version from the Adobe InDesign typeset 
file is
much more difficult, and therefore more expensive, and also outside the 
of most typesetters.

If the report is typeset in QuarkXPress, then creating either an 
accessible PDF
or an accessible HTML version is difficult and expensive. Unfortunately 
most typesetters
are still using QuarkXPress, although this is beginning to change.

If the report is 'typeset' using Microsoft Word, then creating an 
accessible PDF
or an accessible HTML version is also reasonably easy and cheap.

This is a very important issue when considering what advice to give to 
Irish public sector
organisations. Telling them that the best delivery format for the web is 
accessible HTML
isn't much use when they have a Quark-generated PDF file in their hand.
We should focus more on getting these organisations to adopt
publishing procedures and guidelines that will make it easier for them to
publish information in an accessible way, by
a) ensuring that the report is prepared using an application that 
supports the creation
    of accessible PDFs (whether prepared internally or externally), and
b) considering which reports should be 'expensively' typeset using 
InDesign, and which
    would be both cheaper and as accessible if done using Microsoft Word
    (plus PDFWriter) instead. (therefore allowing more budget to be 
allocated to
    creating an accessible HTML version from the Word original too).


If, as Barry claims, preparing the publication in accessible HTML and 
PDF is approximately equal in cost and effort, then for this particular 
class of
documents (long reports),

I think the important issue is to

Barry McMullin wrote:
> Roughly then, I am saying that I think "accessible HTML",
> without *any* PDF version, might typically score about 95%;
> and "accessible PDF" without any HTML version is more like 90%.
> So *if*, for whatever reason, a publisher is *only* going to
> provide one or the other, then I would advocate HTML.
> *Whereas* I think Eoin is inclined, "on average" to give that
> scoring the other way around (?); and conclude that, if only one
> "accessible" version is to be provided, then it should be
> (accessible) PDF.

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!
YAWC Online: www.yawconline.com

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