Archive for November, 2010

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:

5:09 AM Permalink
November 20, 2010

Adobe Content Server Accessibility Update

The Adobe Digital Publishing team released updates yesterday – Adobe Content Server 4.1 and Reader Mobile 9.2 SDK. Of primary significance to accessibility, Content Server includes a new permission setting for Text To Speech which will provide the ability to indicate if a book can be voiced by a ‘Read Out Loud’ feature of a ebook reader.

Access technologies for people with disabilities use TTS, but this is considered a different case, and the upcoming Digital Editions 2.0 will provide the ability for assistive technologies that utilize the operating system’s accessibility API (e.g. screen reading software such as Window-Eyes, JAWS, VoiceOver, or NVDA) to read book content whether the TTS permission is enabled or disabled. This ensures that print-disabled users have the same fundamental access to eBook content as non-disabled users. However, devices with ‘Read Out Loud’ functions not dedicated to the support of people with disabilities are expected to honor the TTS permission’s setting.

More information about the release of Adobe Content Server and RMSDK 9.2 is available from the Adobe Digital Publishing blog.

3:03 AM Permalink
November 19, 2010

Reader X, Accessibility, and Security Sandboxing

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.”

Screen shot of alert that appears when an XP user opens a PDF file while assistive technology is running

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.

10:25 PM Permalink
November 11, 2010

Flash Accessibility Talk at MAX 2010

I spoke on Flash accessibility at MAX in Los Angeles, CA at the end of October. The talk, Creating Accessible Flash Content with Flash Professional, is focused for a general audience that is familiar with Flash. I’m providing the slides and a link to the recording of the session here for people who couldn’t attend in person.

Slides: Creating Accessible Flash Content with Flash Professional (MAX 2010)

Recording: http://tv.adobe.com/watch/accessibility-adobe/creating-accessible-content-with-flash-professional

9:25 PM Permalink