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Adobe PDF Accessibility - Why do I have to pay?

New Here ,
Jul 30, 2022 Jul 30, 2022

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Hello Adobe,

 

My question to you is if I need to create an accessibile document for my fellow friends who use screen readers such as I do; how can I do this for free?

 

I do not have the funds to purchase a month subscription but I would love to be able to create documents that my friends could then review  through their screen reader accessible programs.  I have noticed all I can do for free is create a title and a tag on the save file.  I cannot create a root tag tree,  or ensure headings are at the correct level, or even create links that will be picked up by their screen readers.

 

I understand others should pay for your tool but I wonder if there is a way it could be free to CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) clients?

 

How can I create an accessible pdf document so not only my friends can use their screen readers but myself?

Signed a fellow student, advocate, and community member of the Deaf/Blind Community.
Why Assistive Technology Matters to Me: Jaclyn Pope - AdaptiVision (lowvisionsource.com)

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Create PDF , Export PDF , How to , Share PDF

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LEGEND ,
Jul 31, 2022 Jul 31, 2022

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Adobe are not the only people making PDF software; their business model is commercial. There are other tools. Some much more expensive, some presumably less. You can also make accessible PDF directly from Word (which, I know, isn't free either). Good luck with your task.

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Community Expert ,
Jul 31, 2022 Jul 31, 2022

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Hi Jaclyn @Jaclyn25458020esug,

 

There  really are only 2 software companies that have put R & D money into making accessible programs and export utilities that create accessible PDFs from those programs. They are Microsoft and Adobe. OK, I'll add in FoxIt, somewhat, because they create Word's built-in export utility to create accessible PDFs, and it now does a decent job. Not as good as Adobe's export utility — called PDF Maker — but good enough to work for typical office documents.

 

You have 2 ways to make accessible documents:

  1. Use MS Word because when used correctly by the author, it is fully accessible to those using screen readers, braille devices, and other assistive technologies. You don't need to export a PDF if you give the native Word file to colleagues; just give them your Word file and they can take it from there.
  2. Export from Word to a tagged, accessible PDF. You can do this from any MS Office program, not just Word. You can use Microsoft's built-in export-to-accessible-PDF utility, or use Adobe's PDF Maker plug-in. MS Word's built-in utility comes free with MS Word. Adobe's PDF Maker plug-in is part of the Acrobat Standard  or Pro software programs. Neither Word nor Acrobat are free.

 

Some insights I'd like to share:

  • Because you have a disability, you need 2 types of accessibility. One, you must have programs that are accessible for you to use. That is, the program will work with your A T as you make Word and other types of documents. Most of the industrialized countries have regulations that require governments purchase only software and hardware that is accessible for their employees with disabilities. In the US, our law is the A D A (can't discriminate in hiring), and Section 508 (make all digital information fully accessible). Ontario's A O D A and the national All Canada Act have something similar. These regulations are why Microsoft invested in making their programs accessible: if it didn't, it would have lost a huge market segment!  That benefits you because it sort of guarantees you'll have an accessible option for your personal use. Before purchasing software, look for the company's VPAT on their website. A VPAT is where the manufacturer states how accessible their software tool is.
  • The second type of accessibility you need is to make accessible documents with your tools. That is, being able to structure and prepare a file to work with A T.  In addition to software tools that let you do this, you also need training in what makes a document accessible, and how to structure and tag it for use by A T.  The best training for this is by a long-time colleague, Karen McCall. She is print-disabled, a Microsoft expert, an educator, a CNIB member, and much more: see her classes and books at https://www.karlencommunications.com/Training.html.
  • It takes millions of dollars for a software company to create a software program that has accessibility features for people who use A T. And it takes a few million more dollars to create the utilities to export their files to tagged, accessible PDFs and other formats.  Given those costs, I doubt we'll ever have a free program that does an adequate job of both using the software program and creating accessible files with it.
  • Keep your software up to date, no more than 2 years old. Both Microsoft and Adobe are adding accessibility features and fixing their shortcomings. The accessibility field is constantly improving, and so too are our software tools including our assistive technologies.

 

Regarding your question, /Quote "I understand others should pay for your tool but I wonder if there is a way it could be free to CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) clients?" /EndQuote.

 

That's something CNIB would have to negotiate directly with Microsoft and Adobe, and maybe with JAWS and other assistive technology manufacturers.

 

Maybe you can lobby CNIB to do this for their members?

 

There are 2 models I know that provide discounted software to certain populations: the academic software industry, and a nonprofit in the US that distributes software licenses to other nonprofits. In both settings, the recipient must be vetted and verified as either a bonifide nonprofit that works for the public good, or is a student or staff member at an accredited institution of education (k through university / college).

 

Vetting is a big issue with these models: for example, I'm a member of NFB here in the US and could easily pay the membership fee and become a CNIB member, too. But I'm fully sighted and my only disability at this time is a pair of creaky knees. Being a member really doesn't qualify me for cheap or free software.

 

And let's not forget that accessibility is for the entire population, whether they are sight-impaired or not. So how would a program like this be available to those with mobility disabilities, hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities, etc.?

 

Nice conversion. Thanks for bringing it up, Jaclyn.

 

Bevi Chagnon | PubCom | Designer & Technologist for Accessible Documents
| Books & Classes | Accessible InDesign | Accessible PDFs | Accessible MS Office |

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LEGEND ,
Aug 01, 2022 Aug 01, 2022

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Great reply, thank you.

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