January 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 1

Letters to the Editor

Pessimistic on PDFs

Thank you very much for publishing the article "What's in a PDF? The Challenges of the Popular Portable Document Format," by Jamal Mazrui. The information in this article is very helpful in explaining to people the challenges that screen reader users have with PDF files. And it offers some helpful tips.

However, I do think that the author is too optimistic about the current and future accessibility of PDF files for three reasons:

1. Although recent versions of Adobe Reader may be made to work better with recent versions of screen readers, many of us who use screen readers cannot afford the newest versions of our screen readers. Many of us do not have state or employer sponsorship to pay for such upgrades. And, many people who make PDF files do not follow the guidelines necessary to make the files truly accessible.

2. In my experience, scanning documents into image-only PDF files continues to be a fairly common way of storing information for many purposes. I continue to find them on all sorts of public web sites, even those maintained by local and state governments and schools and colleges.

3. I am finding that more and more people are producing their publications in PDF format in ways that will result in them being printed out with decorative background designs, and this makes them very difficult to be read by character recognition programs and transformed into text that screen readers can read. Although some PDF files do have text on top of the decorative designs, many do not.

Nevertheless, I do appreciate the article for all the helpful information it provides.

Sylvie Kashdan

Laughing Out Loud

What a wonderful and useful edition of Access World! I was asked to review a PDF document for access yesterday, so I jumped right into reading Jamal Mazrui's article. I found it very helpful in understanding PDF access, and I appreciated the refresher on hot keys that I had forgotten--the search function particularly. I forwarded the article to someone in my office and to the person who had the question about accessible PDFs. I have saved it in my "computer help" folder so I can refer to it again if needed.

Yes, I did read the articles about online shopping on work time! Maybe being a more efficient online shopper will leave me more time for my job responsibilities! I kept laughing out loud reading Susan Mazrui's article, which made my colleagues wonder what my boss had assigned me that was so much fun!

Keep these well-written and useful articles coming!

Bonnie O'Day

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