Sunday Dec 05, 2010

Updates on document accessibility: Australia PDF study & a new release of odt2Braille

Document accessibility, and support for authors to create accessible documents, is receiving a lot of attention lately.

Recently in the news is a report from Vision Australia. Titled "The Australian Government's study into the Accessibility of the Portable Document Format for people with a disability", it describes the real-world problems the people with vision impairments have when trying to read PDF documents through various assistive technologies. The Supplementary Report goes into great detail on how they conduct the study and all of the specific results they found.

In somewhat related news, the AEGIS-supported odt2braille project just list of new features. While this release includes a number of important new features, we will have to wait a bit longer to use it on platforms other than Windows...

Both the PDF study and the work of the odt2braille project (and the related, AEGIS-supported odt2daisy project) point to the most significant issue in document accessibility: the accessibility of the document depends upon the author creating it with all of the necessary document structure markup (and ancillary metadata). If the structure and metadata are there, the document can be printed well in braille, and rendered as a rich and effective DAISY book, and be read by someone with an assistive technology (though additional requirements come into play for AT use). If the structure isn't there...

Which is a good segue into noting that the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative work on version 2.0 of the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines is in "Last Call Working Draft" state, and will hopefully soon join WCAG 2.0 as a final specification of guidelines for authoring modern documents for use on the Web.

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Peter Korn

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