News Flash: PDF Files can be Accessible!

By, Suzanne Cohen Share, M.A.
Access (SCS) Consulting Services o/b 0623921 Ontario Ltd.

I was asked to be a guest speaker to discuss Internet Accessibility in the nation’s capital, Ottawa. While writing my speech, I was about to use PDF files as an example of documentation that is not accessible for people with vision or hearing loss. I spoke to the conference organizers who told me that a focus of the conference was to demonstrate how PDF files can be accessible. I stayed at the conference and true to the organizers words; demonstrations for programmers
explained Adobe’s accessibility features.

As a disability advocate who has had the pleasure to have conversations by way of the internet among many people with disabilities, all I have known is that each group has agreed not to send PDF files unless they are converted and user friendly. Many times I have been frustrated reading important documents in PDF, knowing I would have to ask someone to convert the document or I would have to provide a summation. Now all of us can stop complaining about the
company Adobe who has provided accessibility features since Version 7 and improved them with their latest Version 9.

I am writing from the position of the end user not as a programmer. The question you may be asking is what does this mean to everyone now? We are now all in the position to go directly to the source of the document and ask that their PDF file be converted to an accessible format. Adobe is working rapidly to spread the word that programmers
should pay attention to their accessibility features, learn them and use them regularly.

On a go forward basis there is no reason for new PDF files to be written without using accessibility features. Old PDF files are still a problem. Feel free to ask for a conversion and the government is aware of legal obligations to fill your request. When someone with a vision and or hearing loss encounters an inaccessible PDF file, ask the writer to convert the document.

I would like to close this conversation with a cheer for advocacy, democracy and capitalism. People with disabilities combined with seniors are a significant percentage of the population. Everyone, keep up the pressure in the removal of barriers. Programmers and end users with disabilities should feel free to judge a product and ask for accessibility features. As an advocate, I would suggest that positive feedback to companies that comply is as important as requests for change. When we identify barriers we can send respectful thoughts and insights asking for adjustments. Equally as important is to thank
those people who have removed barriers.

People with disabilities are finally getting recognition in market strategies for future growth. In this uncertain economic time everyone is looking for a quick way to correct market losses. Take advantage now while the public is realizing that persons with disabilities have rights and a serious potential to aid the economy.

Copyright @ Suzanne Cohen Share, M.A.

Tel: 416-561-7942