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Carsten Luedtge

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Participating in the PDF Techniques Accessibility Summit

The PDF Techniques Accessibility Summit’s objective is to establish a broad-based understanding of how PDF files should be tagged for accessibilty. It’s an opportunity to focus on establishing a common set of examples of accessible PDF content, and identify best-practice when tagging difficult cases.

Modernizing PDF Techniques for Accessibility

The PDF Techniques Accessibility Summit will identify best-practices in tagging various cases in PDF documents. Questions to be addressed will likely include: the legal ways to tag a nested list, the correct way to caption multiple images, the appropriate way to organize content within headings.

Refried PDF

My hospital emailed me a medical records release form as a PDF. They told me to print it, fill it, sign it, scan it and return it to the medical records department, in that order. In 2018? To get the form via email (i.e., electronically), yet be asked to print it? Did the last 20 years just… not mean anything! So I thought I’d be clever. I’d fill it first, THEN print it. Or better yet, never print it, but sign it anyhow, and return it along with a note making the case for improving their workflow. The story continues…

Slides and video recordings of PDF Days Europe 2018

You missed the PDF Days Europe 2018? Never mind! Here you can find the slides and video recordings of all 32 stunning sessions!

Using PDF/UA in accessibility checklists

PDF/UA, like PDF itself, is internally complex, but used correctly, actually makes things easier.

The Push for Barrier-free Documents

Electronic documents are proliferating, and Portable Document Format (PDF) is an established output management standard for both printed and electronic documents in many industries. A number of specialized PDF versions have been adopted as ISO standards already, and additional versions are in the wings.

With the growing volume and diversity of electronic documents, ensuring barrier-free access for anyone and everyone is taking on an additional sense of urgency. An individual with impaired sight has the same right to access document content as a sighted person. In fact, providing barrier-free access to electronic documents is not just a “nice-to-have” feature. In many jurisdictions, it is a legal requirement.

The focus for output management today  has moved from  producing as many documents as possible as fast as possible to building intelligent documents with content that is both generally and inclusively accessible. Freedom from physical barriers is the goal.

Metadata and Intelligent Document Output

Intelligent, efficient output management that supports universal accessibility requires one thing above all: metadata that can be read and saved as it travels with the document throughout the entire generation and conversion process. Metadata provide the foundation for downstream or parallel processing, such as when a document not only needs to be printed but also must be output as an electronic communication, interpreted by a screen reader, presented on a refreshable Braille screen, or archived.

Accessibility Starts with Document Design

The electronic PDF  format provides an inherent advantage over paper documents for total accessibility, since electronic PDF documents can be designed to accommodate synthetic speech or refreshable Braille. A new PDF version, PDF/UA (universal access) is emerging as an industry standard for providing barrier-free document access.

Although PDF/UA is not yet an official ISO standard, it addresses several important – and essential – design requirements for creating barrier-free documents. Underlying document design is essential to making a document accessible. Key design requirements for creating barrier-free PDF documents include:

  • A logical structure and reading order. Tags define reading order, and tell a screen reader how to interpret elements such as headings, tables and multiple columns on a page.  Screen readers depend on tags to enable presenting documents in a way that makes sense to a listener hearing the text read aloud.
  • Text descriptions for figures, forms, and links.  Visual elements such as graphics, figures and forms need to have descriptive text associated with them in order to present their content to listeners and Braille screen users.
  • Navigational aids such as links, bookmarks, and tables of contents. These make it possible for users to direct the screen reader or Braille screen to a particular location in a document rather than requiring going through the document in page-by-page order.
  • Security that doesn’t interfere with creating a barrier-free document. Sometimes security restrictions placed on use of documents can limit screen readers or interfere with conversion of a document for reading on a refreshable Braille screen.  All content must be available for the interpretation that creates accessible documents to take place.

A Document Format and Much More

With its expanding range of versions and applications, there is no doubt that PDF is far more than a pure document format. Because of its ability to include attributes such as the document structure, reading direction, and alternative explanatory text for images, PDF is well suited as the vehicle to deliver barrier-free documents. It is a valuable and high-power format with the flexibility to accommodate evolving requirements, as its emergence as the standard for universal accessibility attests.

Tags: Barrier-free documents, document design, metadata
Categories: PDF, PDF/UA