Friday, March 06, 2009

PDFs can be accessible!

I've previously applauded the efforts of the Human Rights Commissioner to draw attention to government websites who provide inaccessible content via WebWatch.

Even where an agency's overall site may be designed according to accessibility guidelines, when certain key information is presented only in PDF format, this information can be inaccessible.

However I've also been a little cautious of the 'PDF is bad' approach.

The PDF format can be made accessible. If you use Adobe's software to generate PDFs there are a set of tools for ensuring documents are accessible, including the ability to assess the accessibility, tag images with alternate text and set the reading order for content.

Correct formatting of the original document (such as the use of standard heading levels) also goes a long way to improving accessibility, as does some thought around colour contrasts and use of text rather than graphics of text. These approaches apply as much for PDF as they do for HTML content.

So I'm pleased to see that Stap Isi has posted about several presentations where people have been explaining to public servants how to create accessible PDF documents in the article, My name is b3rn and I make PDFs.

I don't think government is likely to abandon PDF any time soon, so ensuring that public servants are trained to generate accessible PDFs is crucial.

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