I was recently asked my thoughts on the Accessibility Support Documentation for PDF. Reading through the document is quite reassuring, with every single success criterion (even the AAA ones) either supported by Adobe, or the responsibility of the document author.
It’s only when one reads the Appendices that it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems. Adobe PDF does fail in some serious ways, it just seems to have escaped the author of the Accessibility Support document.
But firstly, let’s look at the actual testing undertaken.
Testing was incomplete
Testing was conducted on the following:
- Windows XP, JAWS 9, IE 7
- Windows XP, JAWS 9, FF 3
- Windows XP, WindowEyes 7, IE 7
- Windows XP, WindowEyes 7, FF 3
- Windows XP, Zoom Text 9, IE 7
- Windows XP, Zoom Text 9, FF 3
What about other operating systems?
It all seems a little Windows-centric doesn’t it? What about Mac users? In fact the Mac operating system has a very large range of assistive technologies and is often used by people with disabilities in preference to Windows.
What about other browsers?
IE 7 and FF 3 are not the only browsers out there. There’s other versions of these products and there’s Safari, Opera and Chrome. And that’s just the popular browsers.
What about other assistive technologies?
JAWS and WindowEyes are not the only screen readers around. What about NVDA, BrowseAloud and the Apple’s inbuilt screen reader? What about Read Out Loud- Adobe’s inbuilt screen reader? And testing on only one version of each assistive technology seems short-sighted in the least.
What about other disabilities?
This is my biggest concern, and I’ve left it to last. What about other assistive technologies that are for people with disabilities other than those with vision impairments? It is generally accepted that PDFs can be used by vision impaired users, but they are not the only people with disabilities out there. Firstly, PDF was not tested with other assistive technologies such as an onscreen keyboard, joystick, touchscreen or thumb switch (and that’s only some of the other assistive technologies out there). Secondly, from the testing that was conducted, it seems that the success criterion were not reviewed in relation to how they affected other people with disabilities, such as cognitive disabilities (the largest group of people with disabilities on the web), physical disabilities and hearing impairments.
In the next post
In the next post I will be talking about exactly why PDF isn’t as accessible as HTML, and which success criteria in WCAG2 PDF does not meet.