July 20, 2011

Books for everyone – an accessible Digital Editions for Windows and Mac

I’m delighted to share the news that Adobe Digital Editions 1.8 is available on Adobe Labs and that at long last this version provides improved support for accessibility. Digital Editions 1.8 has enhanced keyboard support, provides additional text magnification, support for high-contrast mode color-switching, and interoperability with the UIAutomation accessibility API to allow screen readers to read ebooks.

Some views of Digital Editions 1.8:

Digital Editions 1.8 will allow users, including screen reader users, to check out books from public libraries that use Adobe Content Server for book Digital Rights Management (DRM). In the United States, many libraries use Overdrive but have needed to direct users to audio books instead of EPUB books. Now, taking out an EPUB book from the library can work for many more people.

Buying books at many popular online vendors is also possible. EPUB Books purchased at Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, ebooks.com, Waterstones, and more can be read with Digital Editions 1.8. Naturally, the book store needs to be accessible also, which is unfortunately not universally true (e.g. at Barnes and Noble the “Buy now” button is not labeled, maddeningly), but some are.

A couple of words about screen reader support. Digital Editions 1.8 is built using WPF and utilizes Microsoft’s UIAutomation accessibility API. Currently, JAWS users will be able to read books successfully. Update: JAWS 12 and newer future versions are able to support UIAutomation, so JAWS 12 is required. Earlier versions are not expected to correctly interact with Digital Editions 1.8. Other screen readers that support UIAutomation such as Window-Eyes 7.5 and NVDA are able to successfully read the menus and other aspects of the application, with the exception of the book content. This is a complex control and we are talking with vendors to ensure that the book content is able to be read by more tools than JAWS. Mac users can use VoiceOver to read books on the Mac version of Digital Editions 1.8.

There have many people pushing and encouraging us to improve Digital Editions and I thank everyone for their feedback and advice. I’d like to recognize and thank a few people in particular for engaging with us to provide feedback on early builds and patiently waiting for the release of this tool – from the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Marc Maurer, Anne Taylor, and Tony Olivero; from the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Richard Orme, Steve Griffiths, and several testers; from the American Foundation for the Blind, Paul Schroeder and Darren Burton; and George Kerscher from DAISY and IDPF. I am certain that each of these people will have positive and negative things to say about this version; there is additional work to do to make Digital Additions more accessible to more people, but I believe that this is a solid first step and that is due to the hard work of the development team and the advice and guidance of these people and others.

We’d like to give a few people an easy opportunity to try out reading an accessible EPUB book with Digital Editions 1.8, so we are holding a quick drawing for gift cards to online bookstores. You can enter the contest here. We’ll award 30 gift cards on Monday July 25 at noon Eastern US time.

We’re interested in your feedback, so enjoy your books and please send feedback!

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June 29, 2011

InDesign 5.5 Accessibility Webinar

Just a heads up that Noha Edell from Adobe is offering a webinar on InDesign CS5.5 accessibility, this Friday, July 1 at 3pm Eastern/12pm Pacific.

The InDesign team has made substantial improvements in accessibility support. Authors now have complete control over generated reading order, can provide tables and lists that are tagged correctly without any need for repair in Acrobat, and have more sophisticated support for alternative text for images.

This webinar is a must-see for anyone who uses InDesign for the creation of PDF documents that need to be accessible. The webinar is Friday, July 1, at 12 p.m. PT at http://my.adobe.acrobat.com/askcspro.

More information about the event is available at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=198681246846060.

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June 20, 2011

Talk on Captioning at TDI Conference

I spoke on Adobe’s efforts to support the captioning aspects of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act at the TDI Conference a couple of weeks ago in Austin, TX. In this talk I highlight a number of efforts to support captioning that Adobe has worked on – most people interested in captioning are familiar with some but not all of these. Take a look and let me know if you have any comments.

Presentation: Supporting the CVAA with Captioning for Video and Live Meetings.

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March 24, 2011

New Closed Captioning Pod for Adobe Connect

The new real-time captioning pod for Adobe Connect 8 is now available at the Adobe Exchange. Note: Link updated to point to the current version of the captioning pod

This pod improves on the previous version in several ways:

  • Predefined connection information for CaptionColorado, CaptionFirst, and the Media Access Group at WGBH
  • Built-in ability for users to record a transcript of the captioning, and export to text or HTML. (Meeting hosts can disable this if required)
  • Five color and contrast options for caption display, and multiple font size choices
  • Support for multiple concurrent tracks of captioning, of particular use for multi-lingual audiences
  • End-user rewind controls to review caption information

As with the earlier version, captions are recorded when a Connect meeting is recorded, so an archived meeting will display any captions available during the live meeting, and end-users who may find live captioning distracting or who simply do not wish to view captions can disable the display for their view of the meeting without disrupting the captioning for other participants.

Closed captioning vendors interested in delivering captioning to Adobe Connect meetings can contact us (email: access [at] adobe) for instructions on how to communicate with the caption pod.

The pod was developed by eSyncTraining who did a great job taking a wide variety of requirements into consideration and building the pod. We’re discussing further improvements to the pod already, as in developing this pod we consulted with experts at each of the caption agencies as well as current users and captioning experts and as a result have additional ideas to investigate. If you have other ideas for the pod, please let us know.

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March 18, 2011

Flex 4 Accessibility Best Practices

I’m pleased to share a new document: Flex 4 Accessibility Best Practices. This document was developed with the help of the SSB BART Group and provides valuable information to help developers create applications in Flex that meet the needs of users with disabilities and help address compliance targets.

This document will soon find its permanent home on the Adobe Accessibility Best Practices page.

Please feel free to send any comments or questions.

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March 11, 2011

Adobe at CSUN 2011 Conference

The California State University at Northridge’s Conference on Disability is going on March 16-18, 2011, and Adobe is offering a number of sessions that we hope people will find interesting and informative, as well as offering opportunities to talk directly to Adobe’s accessibility team and product team members.

The event will feature several sessions and events that I want to provide some details for. Here’s our schedule of events:

Wednesday, March 16

Thursday, March 17

Friday, March 18

The following is not an Adobe session, but it is introducing a valuable resource in the form of a course on accessible Flash development, developed jointly by the Department of Veterans Affairs and SSB BART Group.

Adobe will have several people at CSUN and will be attending the TweetUp as well as being available to talk between or after sessions. Please come introduce yourself and ask questions and share your thoughts.

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February 18, 2011

PDF Accessibility Training for Australian Government

Adobe is running a series of training in Australia the first week of March to help Australian Government employees understand how to create accessible PDF documents. The trainings are being held in Canberra at the National Museum of Australia, but will be recorded and made available online after the sessions (probably with a 1-2 week delay in order to have the recordings captioned and posted). We are running these sessions in conjunction with the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).

I’m delivering two different presentations (twice each):

  • PDF Accessibility for Everyone – suitable for a wide range of user knowledge of accessibility, focusing on common authoring pathways
  • PDF Accessibility for Techo’s – an advanced session for people with good knowledge of accessibility

More information about the sessions, and registration for attendance, is now available.

I’m looking forward to these sessions and helping people understand how to create PDF documents that meet WCAG 2.0 and are easily used by people with disabilities.

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January 19, 2011

Matt May EASI Seminar on Flash Accessibility

Matt May gave a talk on Flash accessibility for EASI January 18 – the slides for his talk are now available: Building Accessible Flash slides.

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December 6, 2010

New British Standard: Web Accessibility Code of Practice, BS 8878:2010

BS 8878:2010 is a new code of practice developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI) which describes a process to ensure that websites and online services provided by an organization are accessible to all web users including persons with disabilities. BS 8878:2010 will formally be launched on Tuesday, 7th December 2010.

BS 8878 is not intended to be a technical specification. Instead, it sets out a process and brings together and summarizes the information needed by organizations providing web services to understand how to embed accessibility requirements into their production processes at all stages. Additionally, BS 8878 also provides information on why accessibility should be an integral part of the planning and design process by listing out legislative, commercial and ethical reasons.

It also states that the ideal situation for assuring accessible experiences is that organizations produce web products that confirm to W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and associated standards.

We welcome this new code of practice and hope that this will provide a better understanding of the importance of accessibility to an organization providing web products. Most web accessibility standards are inherently technical in nature and are difficult to understand by non-technical members of an organization. BS 8878 fills this information gap.

We at Adobe are always striving to provide the best experiences for our users irrespective of their disability. At the same time, we are also trying to make it easier for web developers, designers and content authors to create accessible content and applications on the web using various Adobe tools.

  • Adobe is an active participant in W3C’s Web Accessibility initiative (W3C-WAI) and made contributions to the development of the WCAG 2.0 standard.
  • The Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document published by W3C now includes techniques for Flash content and helps define a way for authors to comply with WCAG 2.0.
  • We are also working on a collection of PDF techniques, which we aim to have available in the next round of the techniques document update.
  • The Adobe Accessibility web site contains several useful resources for authors, end users, and those getting started learning about accessibility.
8:29 PM Permalink
November 30, 2010

Quick Thoughts On Canadian Legal Ruling

There was an important ruling today on accessibility from the Canadian Federal Court that is worth a read.

A blind woman filed suit against the government of Canada stating that the government “violated her rights under section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982″. In short the findings of the court were that many web sites for the Canadian government are not meeting the Common Look and Feel standard (CLF). The Court found that the government should update the CLF standard to utilize WCAG 2.0 instead of WCAG 1.0 and that there is sufficient evidence of compliance problems that need to be addressed that the Court found that the applicant was discriminated against due to the need to access information and apply for employment via these websites. The Court is allowing the government 15 months to come into compliance.

There are a couple of points raised in the ruling and in a Globe and Mail online article (Court orders Ottawa to make websites accessible to blind) that I would like to clarify. The points are as follows:

  • From the ruling: “The applicant testified that in June 2007 she attempted to access information on the consumer price index and unemployment rate from the Statistics Canada website. She stated that actual statistics were, however, only available in “pdf” format, which is not accessible to screen reader technology.”
  • From the ruling: [reported by a witness for the applicant] “…for example, “flash” is a technology that cannot be read by many screen readers. If a website uses “flash” technology, the user will not be able to access that content…”
  • From the Globe and Mail article: “Many blind people use screen readers, computer software that translates electronic text into audio. But the readers aren’t foolproof — for one thing, most can’t decipher PDF files, a format often used to publish documents online.”

None of these is accurate. Even in 2007, most screen readers could read PDF and Flash capably. In fact, the screen reader used by the applicant was capable of reading both PDF and Flash. The points above indicate that most screen readers can’t read PDF or Flash, but it is more accurate to say that most can, including JAWS, Window-Eyes, NVDA, and others. Adobe provides a “read out loud” feature in Adobe Reader that provides basic access to PDF documents, but most users who are blind will depend on a more full-featured assistive technology.

This is not to suggest that the applicant didn’t encounter challenges, she clearly did. Authors of HTML web pages, as well as authors of PDF documents and Flash content need to make sure that they follow accessibility standards, and if authors don’t, users suffer.

We have techniques available for complying with WCAG 2.0 when authoring Flash, HTML, and techniques for PDF are in the works (there are training resources available for PDF at Adobe’s accessibility site in the meantime). The information that authors need is available, this ruling will undoubtedly stimulate an increased interest in these sources of information.

Adobe is committed to helping authors comply with accessibility requirements, whether using HTML, PDF, or Flash. Here’s a few links to relevant information:

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