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.

6:07 AM Permalink
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 http://solutions.adobe.com/?elqPURLPage=114. 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.

9:00 AM Permalink
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.

5:31 AM Permalink
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.

4:03 AM Permalink
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.

10:07 AM Permalink
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 http://www.adobe.com/products/digital-editions.html.

2:09 PM Permalink
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.)

 

7:24 AM Permalink
July 13, 2012

Flash Player Installer Updated

Those of you who use a screen reader on Windows will by now be well aware of issues with the main Flash Player installer that resulted in screen reader users needing to rely on an alternate installer. Users could find buttons marked Q or I, but no other information was read out.

We can with a great deal of relief report that the latest Flash Player installer, 11.3, released on July 11th, restores accessibility support on Windows. Additionally, the Flash Player installer has added support for unassisted updates. Now you can select an option that will silently update your Flash Player version automatically, without encountering another installer dialog.

Not all of the interface is perfect, as we recognize, and we encourage users to report bugs that they find via our site at http://bugs.adobe.com. We are also continuing to press for improvements on Mac OS X, as well as working on other ways to make the installation and configuration processes easier to use. For example, Flash Player is pre-installed in Google Chrome, and the we’re beginning to offer OS-level settings management for the player (see the Flash player settings control panel on Windows. With these updates, we hope installations and use will become easier in the future.

9:48 AM Permalink
June 28, 2012

Ruling on Accessibility and the ADA

The United States District Court in Massachusetts ruled June 19 on a motion to dismiss a suit brought against Netflix by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and others. The suit is about Netflix not providing enough captions for videos delivered via the “Watch Instantly” site, but the ruling addresses the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for electronic accessibility in general, not just limited to access issues for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. The dispute on the applicability of the ADA to the internet and electronic media has been brewing for several years, with cases against the Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Authority, Southwest Airlines, and Target all part of the long-term debate. While the charge of judicial activism has been leveled against this decision, supporting precedents seem to exist which support the judge’s ruling, and the Department of Justice’s statement of interest provides a clear view of the DOJ’s position in support of this decision. The implications of this ruling are significant, but also fit well within the context of additional policy work in the US and abroad.

A key issue which is core to the debate is whether a web site or any other internet-delivered service can be regarded as “a place of public accommodation”. In the Netflix case, the judge ruled that the website delivering movies to the customer qualifies as a public accommodation. Specifically, the judge indicated:

Netflix, which operates its website and Watch Instantly service through computer servers and the Internet, is a public accommodation subject to title III of the ADA, even if it has no physical structure where customers come to access its services.

Establishing electronic resources as a place of public accommodation means more than a requirement for captioning, it also means that other users with disabilities need to have access to the information and services provided. Electronic content can readily be made accessible to users with disabilities, whether the user is deaf, blind, unable to use their hands, or has a variety of other disabilities or combinations thereof.

A growing policy emphasis on accessibility

This ruling comes at a time when there is greater evidence of expanding support for accessibility globally as well as within the United States.

The court made reference to a Department of Justice effort to release policy guidance to clarify that the ADA does apply to electronic services such as the web – the DOJ issued an advance notice of a ruling on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. This update to the ADA proposed to apply the W3C WCAG 2.0 specification as the standard for accessibility, which includes requirements for video accessibility such as captioning. The court writes:

Contrary to Defendant’s unsupported assertions, the Department’s ongoing regulatory developments support that Netflix is a public accommodation subject to title III of the ADA. The Department is currently developing regulations specifically addressing the accessibility of goods and services offered via the web by entities covered by the ADA. The fact that the regulatory process is not yet complete in no way indicates that web services are not already covered by title III.

In addition to the DOJ effort, President Obama signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and last month sent the Convention to the Senate to be ratified. In doing so, the US would be committing to “take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems” (UNCRPD, Article 9). Separate from the UNCRPD, the United States Access Board is preparing to release updated standards for section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which will likely also align with WCAG 2.0 criteria, and the FCC recently published regulations for access to broadcast video (not including non-broadcast video, user-generated video, or theatrical movies), including regulations which address access to the video when delivered via the internet after or concurrent with the broadcast delivery.

Outside of the United States, 152 other countries have signed (and 115 have ratified) the UNCRPD, and efforts to expand existing and develop new policies are well underway.

Why do we care about accessibility?

It isn’t hard to find opposition to this ruling (1, 2), but the most important point remains – that people with disabilities deserve equal access to information and services, whether provided via the internet or in a physical location. Access equals opportunity and self-reliance, whether for a person seeking accessible educational materials to help prepare for employment, accessible video for entertainment and social connections with others, or access to necessary goods and services without needing to depend on the help of others to arrange or obtain them. Access leads to employment, and active participation in society. Accessibility has costs, although less when considered early in any process and less at scale, but whatever the costs of providing access, the cost of not providing it is in the long run greater for society.

No major web sites, applications, or mobile apps are perfectly accessible, including Adobe’s. But Adobe and many others are making continual improvements and pushing toward greater access. We’ve worked on not only our own products but on accessibility standards and policies in the United States and around the world, and continue to seek ways to enable our customers to support accessibility with greater ease and effectiveness on their part. There is more work to do, but we know why we’re doing it and are committed to continue working for equal access for all

Note: I am not a lawyer, so anything in this post that sounds like a legal interpretation should not be construed as actual legal advice, just as the considered opinion of an interested party.

4:16 PM Permalink
May 20, 2012

Adobe Support for Open Source Assistive Technology

Adobe continues our support for NVAccess development of the NVDA screen reader in 2012, and with that funding we are supporting a number of priorities designed to help NVAccess developers continue to offer an up-to-date tool for end users as well as developers seeking to provide accessible applications and web sites. Included in the list of priorities is support for ongoing improvements to NVDA’s ability to interact with PDF documents, AIR applications, and ebooks read in Adobe Digital Editions, and for general HTML and ARIA improvements.

For PDF specifically, we recognize the value of NVDA supporting the upcoming PDF/UA standard (ISO 14289) and have agreed with NVAccess that the PDF-focused portion of the work should be focused on enabling NVDA to become a PDF/UA compliant assistive technology.

Past improvements to NVDA’s support for PDF have brought significant benefits for NVDA users reading PDF documents. These past improvements were not designed to focus on PDF/UA compliance, but most of the improvements serve to accomplish compliance and dovetail nicely with current efforts focused on the new standard. The work to make NVDA compliant with PDF/UA will not be able to be completed in the current year, as the scope of work is beyond what can be completed within the current year’s funding, but we expect to be able to provide details about progress in the coming months. As support for PDF/UA is an important goal, we will seek ways to offer support to NVAccess in future years also.

We are almost halfway through the year for this funding and NVAccess developers have made continual improvements – we encourage screen reader users and accessibility-interested developers to download the latest release of NVDA to read ebooks, test web pages, read PDF documents, and more. NVDA is a great tool and Adobe is pleased to help support its development.

Update: We should also clarify that our support for NVDA does not come at the expense of support for other assistive technologies. Tools such as Claro Read, JAWS, Supernova, Window-Eyes, ZoomText, and many more are important tools that users depend on and we will continue to work with the vendors of these great tools.

9:43 PM Permalink