March 7, 2013

Andrew Kirkpatrick to Co-Chair WCAG WG

It’s hard to measure the impact the W3C/WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (WCAG WG) has had on web accessibility. The WCAG 2.0 standard is the basis for a growing number of policies worldwide, providing a common reference for web content that adapts to users of all levels of ability.

Andrew Kirkpatrick, Group Product Manager for Accessibility, has been offered and accepted the role of co-chair of the WCAG WG, along with Joshue O’Connor of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland. Andrew and Joshue will take the place of Gregg Vanderheiden, who has chaired the WCAG WG since its inception, and Loretta Guarino-Reid, who played a pivotal role shepherding WCAG 2.0 to its final status as a W3C Recommendation in 2008. Both Loretta and Gregg will continue to participate in the WCAG WG, and we at Adobe Accessibility extend our gratitude to them for their years of effort moving the field of accessibility forward.

Andrew’s role will include the rechartering of the working group, to define goals for the working group and the WCAG standard in the coming years, as well as to reflect its continued development of accessibility techniques and other supporting materials. Andrew would like to hear from people from all different backgrounds on how the WCAG WG can help advance web accessibility overall. Apart from his Twitter account, @awkawk, leaving a comment here is one way to reach him, or you can submit a comment to the WCAG working group via the online form.

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February 20, 2013

Adobe & CSUN 2013

It’s that time again. The Adobe Accessibility team will be at the 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, better known as CSUN 2013, all next week. Here’s where you can find us.

Andrew will also be a panelist on the Progress Toward an Accessibility Profession session, which will be on Thursday at noon in Mohsen AB, 3rd Floor, and should prove a robust exchange of ideas.

We don’t run a booth at CSUN, but we’ll be happy to meet with you all during and after our sessions if you have questions or comments about any of the products we make.

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February 1, 2013

Adobe & Greg Pisocky: 20 Years

Today we celebrate the 20 years of service at Adobe by accessibility team member Greg Pisocky. If you’ve ever worked on making a PDF document accessible chances are you’ve read or used resources Greg helped develop, and many of you are lucky enough to have worked have worked more closely with him. Greg has worked on accessibility at Adobe since the late 90’s, and through his work on Adobe’s government sales team was instrumental in the introduction of accessibility into Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. Accessibility was introduced as a feature in Adobe Acrobat 5.0 in May of 2001, and Greg’s work with our customers and the Acrobat engineering team helped make this work happen.

Since then, Greg has advocated internally for improvements and worked with external customers to promote the use of the accessibility features in Acrobat, helped countless end users with disabilities understand the accessibility support features available in Adobe Reader and other Adobe tools, and contributed substantially to efforts to help other tools such as Adobe InDesign and Adobe FrameMaker create accessible content. Greg has also worked for many years to make the PDF/UA accessibility standard for PDF documents a reality, contributed to the Authoring Tools Working Group at W3C-WAI, and engaged with the Section 508 refresh committee (TEITAC) on behalf of Adobe.

Comments from colleagues and customers speak volumes about Greg’s impact.

Victoria Richards, Government Customer
I met Greg Pisocky for the first time at an IDEAs Accessibility Forum in Washington DC. I immediately appreciated his extensive knowledge about the issues and his honesty about the ability and limitations to solve accessibility problems. Greg was instrumental in giving me a voice with the Adobe Acrobat team. He is an invaluable source of knowledge and ideas which have greatly improved the workflows to create accessible PDFs. Greg, thank you for helping me improve the products I create for people with visual impairments.

Noha Edell, Sr. Solutions Consultant, Adobe Systems Inc.
Greg Pisocky, a juggernaut of the movement of accessibility, a quintessential liaison between customers, product management, and engineering, and a relentless advocate who dedicates his life to improve the lives of the less fortunate. Greg understands the importance of accessibility and the needs of the customers working with it. His steady contributions to the products teams helped propel Adobe’s advancements in accessibility across products. Happy 20th Anniversary, Greg, it is an absolute honor to work with you.

Duff Johnson, Chair of the US Committee for PDF/UA
Greg led the charge on PDF/UA since the beginning, and showed me the ropes of tagged PDF. Greg combines a gentle demeanor with a fierce passion for accessibility and for his work. Every government agency in DC owes much of its successful use of Acrobat to Greg Pisocky.

Loretta Guarino Reid, Adobe Acrobat Engineer (emerita)
Greg Pisocky was one of the earliest champions of PDF accessibility at Adobe. He was a great partner to accessibility engineering, helping us to understand the needs and priorities of our government customers, and giving them information about new accessibility features in Acrobat. I loved working with Greg and I’m grateful for his part in the PDF accessibility story.

Those of us on the accessibility team appreciate Greg’s knowledge and valuable contributions – thanks Greg, and congratulations!

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January 29, 2013

Adobe Edge Inspect adds accessibility support

Accessibility takes many forms. While many if not most people have a fixed concept of accessibility that revolves around screen-reader compatibility with published content, the reality is that each product, be it an application, a document, a device or a protocol, has its own capabilities and limitations. And when we review our product teams’ work, sometimes we find unexpected ways to improve the user experience for people of all types.

A recent example is one of our newer products, Adobe Edge Inspect—one of a host of apps we’re working on to make HTML-based development easier for developers, designers and testers. Edge Inspect has three components: a desktop application that runs in the System Tray on Windows or the Menu Bar on OSX, which connects mobile apps running on iOS and Android to a Google Chrome extension, allowing testers to browse and debug the same mobile site across numerous devices simultaneously. It’s one of those apps that you don’t know you need until you know you could have it.

When I saw this demo last year, once I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I grabbed their demonstration iPad and turned on VoiceOver, the screen reader that’s built into iOS. This is usually how I shame mobile engineers. (Who says accessibility people can’t have hobbies?) But to my surprise, most of what was there already worked. Before they’d done any custom work, the Edge Inspect team had built a tool that would let me test mobile accessibility use cases alongside the visual layout.

Adobe Accessibility’s Michael Jordan worked with the Edge Inspect team to complete the job, both by tying up loose ends (like naming buttons and ordering controls), and by introducing accessibility features into the Chrome extension. That work is shipping in the latest version of Edge Inspect—which, by the way, you can get just by signing up for a free Adobe Creative Cloud account.

It’s important to remember that it’s not just the end user of a mobile site who may have a disability; your developers and testers may make use of that support as well. We talk a lot with our colleagues at all levels within Adobe about the role accessibility plays in what we create, and how people build upon our work. We can talk about how this or that is required by law, or by policy, but sometimes, as with Edge Inspect, we find a great opportunity to expand both the audience and the capabilities of a tool, with just a little polish. We have even more improvements coming soon, but more importantly, by working together, we have another product team that’s taking a broader view when it comes to designing for their users.

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January 14, 2013

Free Webinar: “Exploring Electronic Document Accessibility”

Adobe is offering a free webinar on document accessibility in conjunction with SSB BART Group and FedInsider News. The webinar will take place Wednesday January 23, from 1:30-2:30 (US eastern time zone).

Jon Avila from SSB BART Group will lead the session which will target managers and content authors in addressing the following topics:

  • Overview of accessibility requirements relevant to document creation.
  • Guidance on how to analyze known problems in existing documentation.
  • Proper use of native document creation software.
  • Techniques for finding and fixing accessibility violations.
  • Best practices to maintain and update document creation processes to ensure ongoing accessibility.

You can read a more information about the webinar and register at Please join us for this event!

Update: I neglected to mention it, but the webinar will have live captioning.

Update: The webinar recording is available.

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January 3, 2013

Acrobat XI Accessibility Documentation

On behalf of the Adobe Accessibility team, I’d like to welcome you all to 2013. We’ve got a big year ahead of us, and we’re starting with some new documentation for Acrobat XI.

We’ve updated our Acrobat accessibility training resources page with four new PDFs:

PDF Accessibility Overview
Covers the accessibility features of PDF as a document format, as well as Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader.
Using the Acrobat XI Pro Accessibility Checker
A complete walkthrough of Acrobat XI’s Accessibility Checker, as well as the Make Accessible action wizard.
Acrobat XI Pro PDF Accessibility Repair Workflow
Walk step-by-step through the PDF accessibility process in Acrobat XI.
Acrobat XI Pro Accessible Forms and Interactive Documents
Create interactive forms that can be used by anyone, ensuring privacy and independence for all.

We’ve also created a Acrobat XI accessibility best practices document which contains all four of the above guides in a single file. Documentation for Acrobat versions 8 and up can be found on the training resources page as well.

The new features of Acrobat XI are intended to make creating PDF documents both easier and more automatic. The Make Accessible action wizard walks users through a number of steps, like running optical character recognition and prompting for alternate text on images, and then tests the final product. This makes the process for editing and testing for PDF accessibility a fast, uniform process for authors of all skill levels. The built-in accessibility checker has also been improved, including testing support for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. We think this is the most substantial improvement in Acrobat accessibility since we added support for assistive technology back in 2002.

The team is looking forward to giving a detailed Adobe Acrobat XI walkthrough at the 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference on February 28th, and at other conferences throughout the year. We hope you’ll find these tutorials useful.

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December 3, 2012

Proposal for a new directive on EU web accessibility

Today the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (more commonly known as ‘DG Connect’) released a new proposal for a directive on “Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ Websites”. The proposed directive will require twelve categories of EU public sector websites which provide essential public services to EU citizens to comply with W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 at the AA level. The proposal also makes clear that this level of accessibility support is desirable for all public sector websites.

Adobe supports efforts to provide clear and globally-harmonized standards for accessibility, and applauds DG Connect for referencing the WCAG 2.0 standard which not only represents a high bar for accessibility standards, but that is being incorporated into policy in many countries around the world including Australia, Canada, India, Japan, and the USA. This helps ensure that vendors like Adobe and web developers around the world don’t need to learn different accessibility standards in order to ensure that their tools and content promote and meet accessibility requirements.

The goal of ensuring that these services are accessible by 2015 is also manifestly the right thing to do as all people need access to government information and services. It will take time to approve this proposal and for individual EU member countries to incorporate the new law into national policy, but this is an important proposal that will help clarify what needs to be done to provide access to all users. Adobe supports this proposal in principle and in practice with our product offerings such as Dreamweaver and CQ which help web authors address accessibility, as well as our tools for creating accessible PDF documents and providing access to video content delivered on the web. More information about these products is available at the Adobe Accessibility Resource Center.

We commend the DG Connect for helping move accessibility forward in Europe. We encourage those interested to read the proposal, now available on DG Connect’s Digital Agenda web site.

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October 1, 2012

Acrobat XI Accessibility Changes

Acrobat XI (pronounced “Acrobat Eleven”) is coming soon, and with it a host of new accessibility features that will help authors produce more accessible PDF documents, with less effort.

Key improvements in Acrobat include the addition of the Make Accessible Action, enhancements to the Touch Up Read Order Tool, and improvements to the accessibility checking tool to guide authors testing against WCAG 2.0 and PDF/UA.

The Acrobat team has more information about accessibility in Acrobat XI posted, and more information is coming soon.

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September 21, 2012

Digital Editions 2.0 Available

Adobe Digital Editions 2.0 is released and available for immediate download. This version includes major improvements for accessibility over Digital Editions 1.7, and is designed to provide greater access to both protected and unprotected electronic books in the EPUB format for Windows and Mac users.

Digital Editions 2.0 utilizes accessibility features on Windows and Mac OS to provide access for users who are blind or who have visual difficulties, including support for high contrast modes and support for resizing of book text. Digital Editions also offers keyboard support which is dramatically enhanced over version 1.7.

Screen reader users can use one of several tools to read books with Digital Editions. On Mac OSX VoiceOver support is provided, although one limitation at present is that book content can only be read one page at a time rather than as a continuous stream. On Windows, users can choose between JAWS, NVDA, and Window-Eyes. GW-Micro provides Window-Eyes support via an app – to get the app for Window-Eyes users should go to the Window-Eyes control panel, press ALT-A to get to the App Menu, and select AppGet. When the list of available apps is displayed, Digital Editions can be found in the “Program Enhancements” group.

Adobe Digital Editions supports books protected by Adobe’s DRM (Digital Rights Management) solution. This allows users to access books available from libraries which use the Overdrive service, as well as those books purchased from vendors such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Waterstones, and other booksellers.

Adobe Digital Editions 2.0 is free and available for download at

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August 15, 2012

A New Standard for PDF Accessibility: PDF/UA

After many years of work and with contributions from individuals around the globe, the August 7, 2012 publication of ISO Standard 14289-1, better known as PDF/UA, marks one of the most significant developments in the evolution of the popular and widely used Portable Document Format (PDF). The publication and availability of PDF/UA will encourage the production of PDF files that are more consistently accessible to persons with disabilities.

Initially referred to as PDF/Access in 2004 by the AIIM standards committee, PDF/UA was conceived in response to the proliferation of PDF documents that were valid according to the PDF specification, but were insufficiently accessible to persons with disabilities. To meet the needs of the widest possible audience, the producers and viewers of PDF content needed a common standard.

The main PDF standard, ISO 32000, already defines the format’s accessibility features. What PDF/UA does is to clarify and demonstrate how those features should be used, for both producing and consuming PDF documents. As with the other PDF standards (such as PDF/A and PDF/X), ISO 14289 omits features of the PDF specification that are ill suited towards its purpose. Features of the PDF specification necessary for accessibility are mandated in PDF/UA even though they may be optional in the core PDF specification. Also, any features which are allowed in ISO 32000 but which inhibit accessibility are prohibited in PDF/UA.

It’s important to note that PDF/UA is neither a spec to measure PDF content, like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), nor an everyday authoring guide. It focuses on giving developers of PDF authoring tools and viewers, as well as vendors of assistive technologies that support PDF, critical information on how to build and present PDF content more accessibly. The goal is to make accessible PDFs easy to author and use, however they are produced. While PDF/UA contains great information for authors on how to meet the needs of users with disabilities (and also to address most WCAG success criteria), much of that work should really be done by tools and read by assistive technology, so PDF/UA support will mean authors do less work and get more accessible content.

Over the last 8 years, Adobe has participated in the development of PDF/UA and we are integrating support for PDF/UA into our products. It’s important to us that our tools do what’s right to communicate effectively what authors intend.

Of course, this work extends beyond our own products, and so we’ve been supporting the open-source NVDA screen reader project to include support for PDF/UA and other PDF and Acrobat/Reader-related features as well.

If you want to follow the further developments of the standard or even participate, please see AIIM’s PDF Standards page.

If you are interested in PDF accessibility and PDF/UA, here’s two suggestions for you to learn more:

  • View our training materials for Acrobat and PDF accessibility. These resources offer information about how to use Acrobat to produce or repair PDF files for accessibility. WCAG Techniques for PDF are also available and provide useful information for authors looking to meet WCAG 2.0.
  • Check out the PDF/UA standard. The document itself can be purchased directly from ISO (You don’t have to buy this standard if you just want to author accessible PDF files. However, you should encourage authoring tool makers, PDF viewer makers, and AT vendors to buy it, read it, and support it.)


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