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Accessibility experts Klaus-Peter Wegge and Markus Riesch report on their first impressions of PDF/UA and assess how it can grow from here.
Klaus-Peter Wegge, Siemens AG: Klaus-Peter Wegge is head of the Siemens AG Accessibility Competence Center in Paderborn, Germany. A trained computer scientist, he has been helping design accessible products and services since 1995. His team offers consulting services as well as developing and testing new technologies and applications in the accessibility sector, both for a wide range of projects for specific customers and for European research projects. As an accessibility expert and as someone affected by disability himself he promotes the subject in industry associations such as BITKOM and DIGITALEUROPE. He also works on global, European and domestic standardisation projects and advises government bodies on the technical issues involved in promoting accessibility in Germany and Europe.
Its high time we had a standard like this! PDF/UA is a thoroughly rigorous idea and one that just works. One hopes that PDF accessibility will now become universal, error-free and far easier than before. I see some issues with acceptance, though, unless word processing software can make it easy to directly create PDF/UA documents which the author can then immediately check. Screen readers should also start fully supporting PDF/UA as soon as possible. The NVDA screen reader is ahead of the pack here. It would be excellent if free tools existed to convert PDF/UA documents to other formats such as HTML or Daisy. We will first systematically test PDF/UA before we recommend it to our customers or start using it ourselves. It would be a real step forward for disabled users if this format became widely adopted as soon as possible; it would finally end any legitimate debates about PDF accessibility.
Markus Riesch, Access for All: Markus Riesch has been the managing director of the Swiss-based Access For All foundation since 2004. He works to promote access to ICT for people with disabilities and represents their interests in national and international bodies. Among other duties, he is a member of the Federal Working Group for Creating Guidelines for Accessible Websites (P028) and head of the eCH specialist group for Accessibility.
PDF/UA is an important step forward for PDF accessibility. Only an international standard will make it possible for authoring software, validation tools, browsers and assistive technology such as screen readers to accept the required technical specifications. PDF/UA creates a clear set of requirements which both software developers and PDF creators can use. And finally, this international standard gives a reference for legislators around the world. Wed like to be a part of that. Thats why were developing the first validation tool for PDF/UA-compliant PDFs, the PDF Accessibility Checker 2.0 for Windows. It will be released for free by the Access For All foundation in summer 2013.