Yesterday Reader X was released and with it a new feature for security sandboxing. I want to alert assistive technology users to some implications of this feature, as they may be affected if they are using Windows XP.
Sandboxing works without issue for assistive technology users with Windows Vista or Windows 7. Your version of Reader will install with Protected Mode enabled and you don’t need to do anything different to read or interact with PDF documents.
Windows XP users who use assistive technology have a little different situation. When one of these users opens a PDF file they will get an alert that indicates the following:
“Adobe Reader has detected that you may be using Assistive Technology on your computer. While using Adobe Reader with Protected Mode enabled on Windows XP operating systems, some Assistive Technologies may not be able to read some document content. If you do encounter problems, turning off Protected Mode may help. This can be done by choosing Edit > Preferences > General and unchecking Enable Protected Mode at startup.”
What this means is that some assistive technologies are not able to navigate the security sandbox. So, as an assistive technology user, you should first check to see if you are able to access PDF content with your AT – JAWS and Window-Eyes users will need to disable Protected mode in the Reader preferences. There are many assistive technologies and many possible system configurations, so we encourage you to try for yourself. For an accessible PDF file to try, here is a simple test PDF file. Feel free to post your results as comments.
Update: This post initially indicated that Window-Eyes 7.2 was able to read in protected mode, but I received incorrect information on this point and was corrected by contacts at GW-Micro. The key issue is that the sandbox blocks COM interfaces, which includes current accessibility APIs, so it does make sense that Window-Eyes doesn’t work within Protected mode on XP.