My esteemed colleague Greg Pisocky of Adobe is paraphrased as saying “If a PDF isn’t tagged there’s no chance of it being accessible.” False as written.

Accessible to whom? Mobility-impaired people can read untagged PDFs. So can deaf people and those with low vision. If the document contains text (actual encoded characters), the right tool can read it to a blind person. (Blind people using screen readers are the implicit audience in this discussion.) Even a few rather old Acrobat-and-screen-reader combinations can do that; it is, after all, the user agent’s job.

I found a lot of other questionable little statements in the coverage:

  1. Searching for the keywords download PDF on Google returns 400 million hits. Searching for PDFs [sic ] returns 360 million hits, all of that without having accessible standards.

    So is it 360 million or 400 million? And how can you say that “all” of them lack “accessible standards,” by which you probably mean “accessibility standards”?

  2. Publishers… have fun creating them.

    “Fun” isn’t involved. PDF export is an easy process that does indeed preserve visual appearance. That’s why they use PDF – and of course PDFs are used as print files.

  3. Accessibility is the fourth editorial component of creating PDFs.

    What are the first three?

  4. Millions of people believe a screen reader can read any document even if it’s a picture.

    People who know what a screen reader is do not number in the millions.

  5. It reads headers like HTML table-browsing mode. This works very well with uniform tables – but designers dislike uniform tables, probably because they look boring. Designers prefer nesting subheadings and titles.

    Authors (not “designers” – stop insinuating that graphic design is a hindrance) use “nest[ed] subheadings and titles” because the semantics of the table demand them. PDF tags are not great at marking up these “complex” tables, and HTML is only a bit better. (See Ferg’s discussion.)

  6. The average publisher won’t be able to create such an accessible PDF at this point.

    Depends on what you mean by “publisher.” It seems to mean “print publisher” or “book publisher.” Producing a tagged PDF is a zero-effort option in InDesign for all PDFs after the very first one you produce, where you had to go to the massive trouble of ticking a box in the output settings. I have produced many multicolumn PDFs that pass the accessibility checker without modification using InDesign. (Adding alternate text is something you must do in Acrobat. Tables I haven’t tried yet.)

My Delicious tags of and are well-maintained linklists.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.10.28 16:52. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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