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About the contributor
Duff Johnson

A veteran of the electronic document space, Duff Johnson is an independent consultant, Executive Director of the PDF Association and ISO Project co-Leader (and US TAG chair) for ISO 32000 and ISO 14289.
More contributions
Have we passed ‘peak PDF’?

How do we gain insight into how users’ views of documents are shifting? Google Trends is an increasingly interesting source of high-level marketplace data. By aggregating Google’s search data over time, reporting a term’s popularity as compared with all other searches.

Participating in the PDF Techniques Accessibility Summit

The PDF Techniques Accessibility Summit’s objective is to establish a broad-based understanding of how PDF files should be tagged for accessibilty. It’s an opportunity to focus on establishing a common set of examples of accessible PDF content, and identify best-practice when tagging difficult cases.

Members supporting PDF features!

The typical adoption curve for PDF technologies until approximately 2007 tended to track with that of the original PDF developer. Since then the marketplace has shifted; it’s no longer clear that Adobe drivesPDF feature support worldwide. Accordingly, we are happy to report that adoption of PDF 2.0 continues apace, with new vendors announcing their support every month.

Modernizing PDF Techniques for Accessibility

The PDF Techniques Accessibility Summit will identify best-practices in tagging various cases in PDF documents. Questions to be addressed will likely include: the legal ways to tag a nested list, the correct way to caption multiple images, the appropriate way to organize content within headings.

Refried PDF

My hospital emailed me a medical records release form as a PDF. They told me to print it, fill it, sign it, scan it and return it to the medical records department, in that order. In 2018? To get the form via email (i.e., electronically), yet be asked to print it? Did the last 20 years just… not mean anything! So I thought I’d be clever. I’d fill it first, THEN print it. Or better yet, never print it, but sign it anyhow, and return it along with a note making the case for improving their workflow. The story continues…

The Value of Tagged PDF

PDF was originally intended to serve as electronic paper; a properly rendered page irrespective of software or operating system.  Pages, however, aren’t just for reading. Since people like to add notes, draw lines and fill forms, Adobe Systems, the inventors of PDF, decided to cater to these uses as well. PDF rapidly accumulated new features beyond faithfulness to the rendered page – it began to mirror the interactive capabilities of real paper.

The first generation of interactive PDF features consisted of annotations of various types. Some allowed users to add text, others allowed users to draw lines and boxes onto the page. Still others go beyond the paradigm of the page, making it possible to add hyperlinks,  audio and movies to PDF.

The second generation of interactive PDF brought the ability to deploy a PDF’s content outside the page-based world.

Tagged PDF provides the means to effectively deploy a final-form document to a mobile device. It’s the same means by which PDF files may be made accessible to users who requires Assistive Technology (AT) to read.

One of the primary motivations for tagged PDF was to achieve compliance with regulations that require electronic documents to be accessible to users with disabilities, but implementers can leverage tagged PDF to accomplish or enhance a wide range of end user activities.

The following table indicates the utlity of untagged vs. tagged PDF content.

Untagged Content Tagged Content
No semantic types or ordering; content is ordered solely for rendering purposes Semantic type and order is determined, content may be reused accordingly
Search engines cannot reliably access words and phrases Search engines get reliable access to content.
No reliable means of reflowing page content onto smaller devices Includes information necessary for reflow
“Real” content and “artifacts” aren’t distinguished Consuming software can choose to utilize or ignore artifacts
Content copying and extraction is unreliable Content may be extracted with confidence
Not eligible for PDF/A conformance level A May conform with PDF/A conformance level A
Cannot comply with WCAG 2.0 or Section 508 May comply with WCAG 2.0, Section 508 and other accessibility regulations
Inaccessible to disabled users Accessible to those with PDF-aware Assistive Technology

Tags: Section 508, WCAG 2.0, assistive technology, mobile, tags
Categories: PDF, PDF/UA