Accessibility in pdfs

timd's picture

I am wondering if anyone has managed to create an accessible pdf (tagged for a screen reader) which allows footnotes to function as they should – by that I imagine that a footnote would be reached, read out and then return to the main text, possibly with an option to ignore the footnote and continue with the main text.

The document will have superscripted footnote number(s) in a single column of text with the footnote(s) at the base of the page.

The only vaguely pertinent piece I can find on the internet is Joe Clark’s article here
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/pdf_accessibility/

I am hoping that there might have been more recent developments.

I would appreciate any information/workarounds/ideas

Tim

aluminum's picture

workaround = HTML

Otherwise, you can dig through Adobe's info:

http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/

Gus Winterbottom's picture

It's a lot of manual work, but what about using links (the tool is on the Advanced Editing Toolbar)? For each body text superscript and corresponding footnote, you'd create a pair of links that point to each other. That is, when the user clicks on the superscript in the body text, they'll be taken to the footnote text. Then, by clicking somewhere in the footnote text, they'll be taken back to the body text superscript. Kind of a kludge, but it works. The only thing to watch out for is that if a link points to something too close to the bottom of a page, Acrobat sets the link to the top of the next page. Unfortunately, it's not easy to tell when something is "too close;" you have to set the link and then switch back to the hand tool to try out the link.

Also, since the body text superscript might be a little small, you can select one or more words in the text and create the link on them.

Linda Cunningham's picture

I'll second Gus -- you want to make sure that the bottom of your footnotes is at least 6p from the bottom of the page.

Does work nicely though.

(And welcome back.)

timd's picture

Apologies, I didn't make myself clear – the problem is that when a pdf is tagged so that the computer converts text to speech for visually impaired readers, there doesn't seem to be a satisfactory way to allow for footnotes. So far the only option seems to be to make it into a and have the footnote read out as though it part of the text by changing the reading order, which isn't ideal.

An HTML version of the document will also be available, this is a Government document and they like to cover all the bases, so I have to create a tagged pdf. The links option doesn't seem viable as I am not sure that a speech converter allows for this (and I should consider the most basic equipment might be used), I do appreciate the advice though.

It would help if I actually knew, from a visually impaired reader, the limitations of the technology and how they liked to read (hear) documents but so far I haven't had any feedback from other tagged documents that I have done.

Linda, thanks for the welcome back, I have been reading a few threads but haven't had much time to usefully contribute (and I have been diving in the Maldives – it's not all work, work, work).

Tim

aluminum's picture

"An HTML version of the document will also be available"

Then why bother with the PDF?

If the issue is screen reading, most folks will NOT choose the PDF. They'll take HTML or Word DOCs first, as both are easier to make accessible and both are easier for the major screen readers to parse. (to be fair, maybe Adobe and the Screen Reader developers have both made massive improvements in their respective technologies and that's not as true anymore, but as of a few years ago, in talking with a blind web developer who taught accessibility classes I was in, the demos they showed convinced me that PDFs are pretty much useless for that type of accessibility requirement.)

IMHO, PDFs are great as snapshops of a print document and for prepress. All of the other uses are just inane wishful thinking on Adobe's part to make it more relevant than it actually is.

FYI, to get more specifics on this, this is a great mailing list for accessibility issues:

http://www.webaim.org/community/

Linda Cunningham's picture

It would help if I actually knew, from a visually impaired reader, the limitations of the technology and how they liked to read (hear) documents but so far I haven’t had any feedback from other tagged documents that I have done.

My vision's not so poor that I need to have things read, but I did tinker around with the technology for PDFs a bit when I was working on my thesis, as well as working on some governmental documentation. The footnote situation was a minor issue for me (and the linking did well in letting me choose to listen or not), and virtually non-existent for most of the folks who did use the technology that I questioned.

The general consensus was that if you simply wanted to include a bibliographic reference, that it was probably better handled by endnotes (one needed to keep track of what the number of the note was, which was pretty minor), but that extensive footnoting was better dealt with by simply including it in the main text -- frankly, not a bad suggestion for constructing documents for readers in general. :-)

All of the other uses are just inane wishful thinking on Adobe’s part to make it more relevant than it actually is.

The concept is a good one, and if that's the eventual goal, so much the better.

But "inane" it isn't.

Gus Winterbottom's picture

> Then why bother with the PDF?

I think he means that his government customer wants both HTML and PDF.

Tim, some thoughts:

1. Are you using the Read Out Loud feature of Acrobat? If so, maybe you could put the footnotes in as comment boxes or alternate text descriptions.

2. Have you tried reordering the tags (View > Navigation Tabs> Tags > Order)? The tags determine the reading order.

3. Do articles work with text-to-speech?

timd's picture

Whoops, I tried to indicate a note there and it has been interpreted as an HTML tag, let’s try again (square brackets would be replaced by > arrows)
So far the only option seems to be to make it into a [note] and have the footnote read out as though it part of the text by changing the reading order, which isn’t ideal.

I have just read the BBC guidelines on the same subject and they offer tagging the footnote number as a figure and then using the figure description to hold the content of the footnote which might be workable and Gus' first thought would work in a similar way.

Then why bother with the PDF?
Given the choice I would prefer to avoid it altogether it takes an age to do and the HTML would work just as well (or so I am told), however the client gets what the client wants and it is possible that some readers will only use pdfs I suppose.
I will examine the webaim website.

a bibliographic reference, that it was probably better handled by endnotes
Unfortunately not an option in this case, it has been difficult to persuade them that using a tinted colour coded system might not work for partially blind and colour blind readers, but I will be passing on information/advice to clients.

Thank you,
Tim

aluminum's picture

"I think he means that his government customer wants both HTML and PDF."

Which I'd toss back at the customer as 'why?'

Regardless, if they do want both, then there's not a whole lot of reason to worry too much about the PDF in terms of accessibility if the HTML one is accessible. IMHO, of course.

Just seems redundant to have both. HTML is so much more universal in terms of disseminating information in an as accessible manner as possible.

"Given the choice I would prefer to avoid it altogether it takes an age to do"

Exactly! ;o)

That goes back to my 'inane' statement. PDFs are great for a few base things, but Adobe has been piling on feature after feature that a) can usually be handled better by another technology/format and b) aren't easily created in any easy/intuitive fashion via Acrobat's odd UI.

Ultimately, HTML is often more adept and handling most of the 'other' features found in a PDF, so it becomes a 'why reinvent the wheel' kind of thing.

That said, as a dot-gover myself, I certainly understand the odd request, as I deal with it all the time myself.

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