Adobe, makers of the popular PDF applications Acrobat and Reader and the Creative Suite design applications, spoke to Media Access Australia about accessibility and recent improvements in its software.
The accessibility of PDF (Portable Document Format) files is something of a bone of contention within the accessibility community, and an ongoing source of frustration among those working to improve document accessibility in their own organisation or industry.
The document format can be complicated to make accessible, and has many known issues—such as being difficult to correctly tag page elements, being incompatible with screen reading software, and jumbling up the read order from the source file.
But, imagine the accessibility challenge that occurs when you embed an inaccessible Illustrator file inside a PDF then try to make the whole document accessible.
Let’s illustrate this with an example.
Last year I was involved in the organisation of the Western Australia Web Accessibility BarCamp, a great event with many excellent speakers, a great vibe with around a hundred people in attendance and lots of great information on accessibility.
As part of the event I organised a mock debate titled ‘PDFs are AWESOME!!’ in which the affirmative side struggled semi-intentionally to make a good case for the use of PDFs, while the negative side had plenty of ammunition about why PDFs should be avoided at all costs. Unsurprisingly the entire room voted the negative team the winner and the affirmative team weren’t particularly disappointed.