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Table of Contents - Accessibility - bookmarks vs hyperlinks

Community Beginner ,
Aug 03, 2023 Aug 03, 2023

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Hi

I'm currently trying to learn more about accessibility and have come across an issue with the Table of Contents.

Previously I have always set ToC with paragraph styles but used hyperlinks to link to the desired pages when viewing in pdf.

Now learning more about accessible pdfs created in InDesign I'm now setting my text box as such (Layout > Table of Contents) this I could see was great at adding the relevant entries as bookmarks but I can't add in a hyperlink as well, or maybe I don't need to? 

When I export as interactive pdf with just the bookmarks I can hover over the entries and get the hand tool but they don't click through to the pages.

What am I doing wrong?

Thanks

Jill

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Contributor , Sep 10, 2023 Sep 10, 2023

Thank you for the very informative reply. I really do apprecaite knowing the why  behind all this. However , my client does not want to know this - he just wants it  pdf/ua compliant. I did find a solution thanks to the  accessiblity facebook group - it is one of the fixes  within the Adobe preflight panel - print production tool - preflight panel - 

notannhavoc_0-1694393254120.png

 

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Community Expert ,
Aug 03, 2023 Aug 03, 2023

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I think you've made this task much more complex than it needs to be. Let's simplify the process:

 

  1. Use paragraph styles (usually H1, H2, etc.) to format your headings that will eventually be in the TOC.
  2. Create a TOC Style, which is sort of a recipe to instruct InDesign which paragraph styles to pick up and build into the TOC. Object / Table of Contents Style.
  3. Create a page or clear an area in your layout where the TOC will be placed. The TOC is a special auto-generated text file that can't be threaded/linked to other text threads. It has to be in its own independent text frame (or series of threaded text frames if it's long and rolls over to succeeding pages).
  4. Generate the TOC and click when prompted to place it into your layout. Layout / Table of Contents.
  5. When ready, export to Interactive PDF and the hyperlinks will automatically be made. No need to do this manually.

 

Be careful: PDF Bookmarks are not the same as a hyperlinked TOC and one can't take the place of the other. PDF Bookmarks can't be acessed by those using screen readers, so they have no benefit to those who are blind.

 

The PDF/UA standard requires that documents 10 pages or longer must have a TOC and Bookmarks to provide maximum accessibility to all users, regardless of whether they have a disability and which technology they are using.

 

Learn more about how the basics of creating a TOC at https://helpx.adobe.com/in/indesign/using/creating-table-contents.html

 

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

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Community Beginner ,
Sep 11, 2023 Sep 11, 2023

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Thank you for your help Bevi, I got it working with your guidance.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 03, 2023 Aug 03, 2023

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In agreement with what Bevi said, and in addition, a simple thing to look for is clicking the More Options button to see more Table of Contents dialog box. Near the bottom, you will click the first checkbox for "Create PDF Bookmarks". This will improve the function of your exported PDF ToC.

Mike Witherell

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Contributor ,
Sep 09, 2023 Sep 09, 2023

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a realted problem - hope soemoen can help - I have created my ToC properly - used bookmarks - however - when I check for accessiblity - it wants each  entry to have alternate text sicne it sees it as a linkToC link problem.JPG

and  another problem is that the dotted leader must be artifacted in  the pdf file- each one individually

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Community Expert ,
Sep 10, 2023 Sep 10, 2023

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We instruct our students and clients to ignore those particular errors in the TOC that are flagged by PAC and other checkers.

 

TOC entries do not need to have Alt Text per industry guidelines, although the PDF/UA-1 accessibility standards require that all hyperlinks have Alt Text.

 

If the TOCI already hyperlinks the live text "Chapter 5 ... 55,"  why would Alt text be needed? The purpose and context of the link is already known by the live linked text.

 

Alt Text would  just repeat that Chapter 5 is on page 55, and that isn't very helpful because Alt Text is not very user friendly: there is no user control when hearing Alt Text, while live text retains full user control.

 

WCAG states this clearly: https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG21/Understanding/link-purpose-in-context.html   If the linked text (not the Alt Text) is "meaningful" — that is, the user can figure out where they will end up if they clicked and why they should click the link — then nothing else is needed.

 

Alt-Text on hyperlinks was intended only for hyperlinks like "Click Here" or "More Info" where it's not clear where the user will end up if they actually clicked the link. It's also very useful for long convoluted hyperlinks like the one for this post's page, "https: //community.adobe.com/t5/indesign-discussions/table-of-contents-accessibility-bookmarks-vs-hyperlinks/m-p/14073151" which would be unintelligible gibberish to a screen reader user.  Alt Text on that hyperlink could be something like "Adobe Community Forum post about accessible tables of content in PDFs".

 

The ISO committee that creates the PDF/UA-1 standard took a one-size-fits-all approach: if Alt Text is helpful for some links, then it should be on all links.  If they had listemed to disability experts and people who actually use screen readers, I doubt they would have written the standard to be so all-or-nothing.  The standard made a bad decision, IMHO.

 

Most checkers like PAC are written to follow the standard, so the checkers look at all hyperlinks and assess whether they have Alt Text or not, not whether they SHOULD have Alt Text.  They are just software programs that can't make a subjective decision.

 

That's why we teach our clients and students to review those particular errors in PAC and other checkers and make their own decision about whether each link needs Alt Text or not.

 

I know our screen reader testers who are blind/low vision don't want Alt Text on TOCs, and that's who we listen to — not the programmers that dominate the ISO committee for PDF/UA.

 

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

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Contributor ,
Sep 10, 2023 Sep 10, 2023

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Thank you for the very informative reply. I really do apprecaite knowing the why  behind all this. However , my client does not want to know this - he just wants it  pdf/ua compliant. I did find a solution thanks to the  accessiblity facebook group - it is one of the fixes  within the Adobe preflight panel - print production tool - preflight panel - 

notannhavoc_0-1694393254120.png

 

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Community Expert ,
Sep 11, 2023 Sep 11, 2023

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@notannhavoc, I know that Preflight "trick."

 

All it does it add Alt text to the link that repeats exactly whatever text is in the link.

 

That's not at all what the spirit and intent of accessibility is all about. And in fact, it gives screen reader users what they DON'T want: the "http://" and "www" portions repeated over and over and over throughout the document. But that's exactly what this "trick" does.

 

I know you have a client's wishes to meet, but this "trick" makes accessibility for HUMANS much worse, not better.

 

In our classes, we teach preflighting PDFs to finish some technical settings. But this particular one — to add Alt Text to existing links based on what's already hyperlinked — is one of the most bass-awkwards "solutions" we've seen the programmer dream up.

 

— Bevi

A US delegate to the ISO committee that creates the standards for PDF and PDF/UA.

 

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

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Contributor ,
Sep 11, 2023 Sep 11, 2023

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So what am I to do - it is a ToC - the entries are linked to the actual
pages - that's fairly common practice. Are you suggesting I remove the links
- so for sighted users - they cannot go to the page simply by clicking on
the entry in the ToC. I don't think that's acceptable. Is there a
workaround?

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Community Expert ,
Sep 11, 2023 Sep 11, 2023

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@notannhavoc, no, that's not what I wrote before.

It's the Alt Text that you added with that preflight trick that will causd problems for users.

 

Make the TOC.

It will build the hyperlinks automatically.

And then leave them alone and DON'T add Alt Text to the hyperlinks.

 

Please reread what I wrote earlier.

 

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

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Contributor ,
Sep 11, 2023 Sep 11, 2023

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Not wanting to be obstinate – BUT – the document FAILS PdF/UA compliance if this is not done. I do understand the  issue – yes – what a drag for someone using  the screen reader to hear the page number 2x – BUT – can’t some of this work be passed on to make screen readers a bit more intelligent? Or can the PDF/UA  or WCAG standard be changed  to   exclude these  situations? Probably not in my lifetime!

Meanwhile – I am caught between a rock and a hard place – I’m being paid to make the document compliant – that is what I must do.

I really do understand ! Yet it is such mountain of educating the client who does not understand at all what  is involved and  thinks it is a simple press of a button to generate compliance.

In this case – I don’t think it matters very much as I doubt anyone with a screen reader will actually  use  these documents [they are  navigation guides for  sailing]

At some government level it has been mandated to make all documents accessible – regardless of their purpose – again  machines rule!

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Community Expert ,
Sep 11, 2023 Sep 11, 2023

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quote

Not wanting to be obstinate – BUT – the document FAILS PdF/UA compliance if this is not done. I do understand the  issue – yes – what a drag for someone using  the screen reader to hear the page number 2x – BUT – can’t some of this work be passed on to make screen readers a bit more intelligent? Or can the PDF/UA  or WCAG standard be changed  to   exclude these  situations? Probably not in my lifetime!

By @notannhavoc

 

The problem is NOT that the page number is read twice: that's not what I said. It's that the Alt Text merely repeats the hyperlink info and also removes some of the user's control over voicing because it's Alt Text — and users have no control over how Alt Text is voice (unlike regular body text).

 

So Alt Text becomes a less useful (and sometimes a royal PITA) when Alt Text is on a TOC link. And it can cause mis-readings.

 

Alt Text on other links can be helpful, and can also be less useful, like what happens when you run the "trick" in Acrobat's Preflight.

 

quote

Or can the PDF/UA  or WCAG standard be changed  to   exclude these  situations? Probably not in my lifetime!

 

The WCAG standard for websites got it right.

It's the PDF/UA-1 standard that overlooked the problem and deviated from WCAG. Some of us tried to get it corrected in the standard, but ...

 

quote

Meanwhile – I am caught between a rock and a hard place – I’m being paid to make the document compliant – that is what I must do.

 

At our shop, we generally follow what the government agency mandates. However, being experts in the field (and myself being on the standards-writing committee), we have the luxury to push back when we think something is in error or doesn't apply to a particular situation. I understand that you can't.

 

So try to educate your client and give them your best evaluation of what needs to be done. But don't push so hard that you lose your job. This is not a major barrier to accessibility: regardless of whether there is Alt Text on TOC hyperlinks or not, it will still be accessible.  Most assistive technologies at this time don't even recognize Alt Text when it's on a hyperlink (but they do on figures, of course).

 

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

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Contributor ,
Sep 12, 2023 Sep 12, 2023

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thank you again for  your reply - so if I understand correctly - it will pass WCAG without the alt text on the ToC entries?

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Community Expert ,
Sep 12, 2023 Sep 12, 2023

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It should, but I don't know of any checker software that tests PDFs per WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines).

 

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

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