NVDA goes PDF/UA! The PDF Association Steps Up to Fund Development of the World’s First PDF/UA Conforming Screen Reader

Berlin. To promote awareness of PDF/UA, the forthcoming ISO Standard for accessible PDF, the PDF Association has partnered with the non-profit-organisation Access for All to solicit its members and others to join in helping the Australian non-profit NV Access enhance their popular open source NVDA screen reader to become the first assistive technology to conform to an ISO standard for accessibility.

NVDA is a free, open-source screen reader; a type of assistive technology popular with users with visual disabilities. Screen reading software offers efficient access to many software applications and well-designed websites, but PDF files have presented special challenges for years.

For access to content, screen readers and other assistive technologies depend upon a specific feature of PDF known as “tags”. While tagging PDF files for accessibility purposes became possible in 2001, the technical specifics were ambiguous. To ensure a consistent experience software developers and service providers need a single set of technical rules for accessible PDF files. Responding to the need, AIIM started the PDF/UA Committee in 2004 to draft these rules. That process led to ISO 14289-1, the International Standard for universally accessible PDF, to be published in Q3 of 2012.

Designed to work in conjunction with WCAG 2.0, the new PDF/UA international standard allows document creation and processing software to ensure conforming files and software are capable of delivering PDF content to assistive technology users in a consistent, high-quality fashion.

Assistive technology is the means by which many disabled users interact with computers. While specific needs of assistive technology end-users vary greatly, PDF/UA requires conforming technologies to be able to process the full set of accessibility features available in PDF. A rich, detailed reading experience is possible within any user’s preferred method of interaction.

Not only can PDF files be accessible, PDF has unique strengths when it comes to accessibility. NVDA’s forthcoming support for PDF/UA means that NVDA users with PDF/UA reader software and PDF/UA conforming documents and forms will be assured of a high quality navigation, reading and usage experience, and equality of opportunity for users without disabilities. The PDF Association, Access for All and NV Access expect that assistive technology and document software developers, government agencies and corporations alike will get the message, and begin to demand conformance with the new International Standard for accessible PDF.

The PDF Association is not the first organisation to recognize and support NV Access’s mission to deliver a top-quality and fully capable screen reader free of charge. Adobe Systems has supported NV Access for several years. A member of the PDF Association Council advising NV Access in addition to providing financial support, Adobe Systems believes that the additional support for NV Access provided by the PDF Association’s initiative will accelerate the completion of PDF/UA support and further involvement of the larger community’s interest in PDF/UA.

The Swiss non-profit foundation Access for All has previously created a similar project to fund development of the free PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC)’s support for PDF/UA. Access for All will receive and process all donations and provide project coordination and oversight for the NVDA goes PDF/UA Project.

Duff Johnson, the PDF Association’s Vice Chairman and PDF/UA US Committee Chair since 2005, said, “We at the PDF Association are extremely excited to help NV Access turn the PDF accessibility problem upside down,” he said. “Historically, typical PDF files have offered AT users a poor experience. The rules of accessible PDF were fuzzy enough to stymie development of more and better tools. PDF/UA provides clarity,” Johnson said. “The new standard simplifies the task of ensuring accessibility for consumers, product developers and policy-makers,” he said.

Markus Riesch, Director of the Access for All Foundation, said, “Access for All has recognized PDF/UA as a new paradigm in universal access to electronic content for some time. We are delighted to work with the PDF Association to promote the enhancement of NVDA into the first of many assistive technologies to support this new standard. It’s important to note that when PDF/UA conforming files, readers and assistive technology are all in place, the result enables many types of assistive technologies beyond screen-readers such as magnifiers, alternative input devices and advanced text reflow systems.”

Michael Curran, creator of NVDA, said, “We’re going to show the world that PDF/UA conforming files and PDF viewers together with standards-based assistive technology such as NVDA can offer a superb experience of documents in the PDF format. If two blind guys from Australia can do this what excuse do others have? PDF is a great format for many purposes, but we believe that improved equal access to PDF content means PDF/UA.”

About the Project
NVDA goes PDF/UA is an initiative of the PDF Association. A Council of key financial and organisational supporters including Adobe Systems, callas software GmbH and NetCentric Technologies leads the project on behalf of the PDF Association and coordinates with the PDF Association’s PDF/UA Competence Center.

About the PDF Association

The PDF Association is an international non-profit industry organisation promoting awareness and adoption of open standards in digital document applications using PDF technology. The association facilitates communication, connections and the sharing of expertise and experience with interested parties worldwide. The current membership includes over 100 enterprises and numerous individual subject-matter experts from more than 20 countries. http://www.pdfa.org

About NV Access

NV Access was established in early 2007 as a result of the increasing support needs of the NVDA project. NV Access develops and supports free and open source software that facilitates access to technology for blind and vision impaired people. As a non-profit organisation, NV Access’s work is funded primarily through grants and donations. http://www.nvaccess.org

About Access for All

Established in 2000, the goal of the Swiss non-profit foundation, Access for All is to increase awareness in business, science and government of disabled people’s needs, to promote the use and development of technology to meet those needs and to track trends in assistive technology in cooperation with other disability and professional organizations worldwide. http://www.access-for-all.ch

For more information on the NVDA goes PDF/UA project contact:

In North America:

Duff Johnson
Vice Chair, PDF Association
+1 617 283 4226

In Europe:

Olaf Drümmer
Chair, PDF Association
+49 30 4439 0310

About the PDF Association
Formerly known as the PDF/A Competence Center, the PDF Association is an international organization promoting awareness and adoption of open standards in digital document applications using PDF technology.
The association facilitates networking and communication, and the sharing of expertise and experience with interested parties worldwide. The current membership includes over 100 enterprises and numerous individual subject-matter experts from more than 20 countries.
The management board includes industry leaders from callas software GmbH, Compart AG, Crawford Technologies Inc., intarsys consulting GmbH, LuraTech Europe GmbH and NetCentric US. The association’s chairman is Olaf Drümmer, CEO of callas software GmbH. Duff Johnson, President of NetCentric US is the deputy chairman.

Editorial Contacts

PDF Association
Thomas Zellmann
Neue Kantstr. 14
D-14057 Berlin
Phone: +49 30 39 40 50 – 0
Fax: +49 30 39 40 50 – 99

good news! GmbH
Nicole Körber
Kolberger Str. 36
D-23617 Stockelsdorf
Phone: +49 451 881 99 – 12
Fax: +49 451 881 99 – 29

About PDF Association

Founded in 2006 as the PDF/A Competence Center, the PDF Association exists to promote the adoption and implementation of International Standards for PDF technology.