Posts in Category "General"

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
October 8, 2010

President Obama Signs Accessibility Act

Today I am thrilled to attend an event at the White House where President Obama signs into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This act includes a number of provisions intended to increase access to video programming on television and the internet, require as access to the user interfaces used to access information online via smart phones, and require access to on-screen menus for DVD players and set-top boxes.

Specifically, the bill establishes that:

  1. Within one year of passage of the Act that the FCC will define regulations to make Advanced Communications Services accessible to and usable by people with disabilities (Section 716)
  2. Effective three years after passage of the Act, internet browsers built into mobile phones will need to support accessibility in the browser’s features and functions (Section 718)
  3. Within 60 days the FCC will establish a committee to advise on video programming and emergency access, and that group will develop reports (Section 201)
    • a report within 6 months which includes deadlines for the delivery of closed captioning services
    • a report within 18 months recommending the schedule for the delivery of video description
  4. Within 6 months, the FCC will set a schedule for requiring closed captions on video displayed online, for video that was delivered with captions on broadcast television. (Section 202)
  5. The FCC will commence an evaluation within one year of the passage of the Act to investigate the technical challenges, benefits, and technical challenges around video description for online video. (Section 202)
  6. The FCC will define regulations within 18-36 months which require access to the controls that accompany video programming (e.g. play, pause, closed captioning, volume controls) to enable access for people who are blind or visually impaired. (section 204)
  7. The FCC will define regulations within 18-36 months which require on-screen menus and program guides to be accessible to people who are blind or low-vision. (Section 205)

Adobe supports the provisions of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act as great advances to ensure equal access for people with disabilities. The most immediate impact of this legislation on developers using Adobe tools will be the delivery of closed captions for video online, followed by the provision of accessible controls for video and video description to aid comprehension of content by users who are blind or visually-impaired. Adobe tools already provide direct support for some of these requirements:

  • Adobe introduced support for closed captioning in Flash video and provided a closed captioning component in Flash CS3 in April 2007, and has continued to improve and provide this in Flash CS4 and CS5. This component greatly simplifies the process of adding captions to video in FLV or H.264 formats.
  • Adobe provides video controls in the FLVPlayback component, initially delivered in October 2008, which are accessible by default for assistive technology users. Offering controls that keyboard or assistive technology users can use is easily accomplished with Flash CS4 and CS5.
  • For the past few years, video providers including MTV, Hulu, CNET, YouTube, and others have used Flash to display video with closed captioning, taking advantage of features in the Flash Player to accomplish this.

Despite the support that exists currently, there is more to do to make supporting this Act easier. Possible areas of work for Adobe include simplifying the process for content providers to transcode Line 21 or 608/708 captions to TTML or another format for display online, expanding support in the Flash Player to support upcoming accessibility APIs for mobile devices, and providing additional templates for accessible video player control sets to offer authors a greater selection of ready-to-use and accessible interfaces.

Congratulations to all who pushed to make this Act a reality, we look forward to working together to define the next steps as defined in the bill and working to continue to improve Adobe solutions for authors and content providers who need to deliver high-quality access for end users.

12:30 PM Permalink
October 6, 2010

Adobe Accessibility’s New Team Member – Kiran Kaja

I’m pleased to announce that Kiran Kaja is joining the accessibility team at Adobe, based out of Adobe’s office in London, England. Kiran will be working internally with product teams and sales engineers and as a key figure in Adobe’s efforts to support accessibility policy and standards in Europe.

Kiran has worked in the Accessibility field for more than 6 years. Among other roles, Kiran made major contributions to the development of the first screen reader for Windows Mobile based devices at Code Factory. At SAP Labs, Kiran worked in the Accessibility Test Lab ensuring that a number of SAP applications meet accessibility standards. More recently, in his role as a Digital Accessibility Development Officer at RNIB, he worked on the AEGIS open source project as well as contributing to RNIB’s initiatives in enhancing mobile device accessibility to blind and partially sighted people.

You will likely see Kiran at various accessibility events in Europe, or you can follow Kiran on twitter.

Welcome Kiran!

6:11 PM Permalink
July 7, 2010

Linux Foundation Delivers New Licensing for IAccessible2

Today the Linux Foundation announced that it was releasing IAccessible2 with new licensing terms.  IA2 is now available with a BSD license.  You can read about this change as well as the additional tools available at  This is an important change as Adobe works to integrate IA2 into a future version of Adobe Acrobat and Reader, as well as the Flash Player and AIR.

4:15 AM Permalink
May 27, 2010

Adobe Accessibility Team is Hiring

The Adobe accessibility team is looking for an accessibility engineer, to be based in Adobe’s London office. I’m happy to discuss the position with people who are interested in learning more, but the first step should be to check out the job posting – view job description (enter job number 04099 into the job search form).
The position will provide the opportunity to have an impact on accessibility within Adobe and on the millions of end-users who use Adobe tools or output every day. Adobe is a great place to work and we have important work to do. Come work with us!
Please help spread the word about this position.

10:39 AM Permalink
March 31, 2010

Slides from CSUN 2010 Talks

As promised, we’ve posted the slides from the Adobe talks at CSUN.

Adobe Accessibility Talks at CSUN 2010
Talk Title File types Available
Accessibility Support for Designers in Adobe Creative Suite PDF PPT
Access to PDF: Developments in Support of Assistive Technology with Adobe Acrobat PDF
Accessible eBooks, ePub, DAISY, and Adobe PDF PPTX
Accessible Web Conferencing Update PDF PPTX
Adobe Flex and Adobe AIR for Accessible Rich Internet Applications PDF PPTX
Assistive Technology Access to Adobe Flash and PDF PDF PPT
Understanding the End User Role in PDF Accessibility (with AFB Consulting) PDF PPT
PDF Accessibility – Best Practices for Authoring PDF PPT
Video Accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users in Adobe Flash PDF PPTX
10:43 AM Permalink
March 2, 2010

Adobe at CSUN 2010

The California State University at Northridge’s Conference on Disability (commonly referred to as CSUN) is coming later this month, and we do feel that it is beneficial to attend this important accessibility event. We enjoy the opportunity to share important information and news, and to have many conversations with users of Adobe technologies.

This CSUN will be a very busy one for Adobe, with several sessions and events that I want to provide a heads-up for. Here’s our schedule of events:

Tuesday, March 23 – Preconference Session

Accessible Websites and PDF Documents with Adobe Dreamweaver and Adobe Acrobat (Wednesday at 1:30-3:30 pm Madeline AB-PC Lab)

Wednesday, March 24

Accessibility Support for Designers in Adobe Creative Suite (8:00-9:00am Gregory AB-Adobe)

Access to PDF: Developments in Support of Assistive Technology with Adobe Acrobat (9:20-10:20am Emma AB)

Accessible eBooks, ePub, DAISY, and Adobe (10:40-11:40am Gregory AB-Adobe)

Accessible Web Conferencing Update (1:50-2:50pm Gregory AB-Adobe)

Thursday, March 25

Adobe Flex and Adobe AIR for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (8:00-9:00am Gregory AB-Adobe)

Adobe Open Forum (10:40-11:40am Gregory AB-Adobe)
[To clarify this session, this is chance to ask questions, raise concerns, and discuss topics with the Adobe accessibility team in an open setting]

Assistive Technology Access to Adobe Flash and PDF (1:50-2:50pm Gregory AB-Adobe)

Understanding the End User Role in PDF Accessibility (with AFB Consulting) (3:10-4:10pm Betsy AB)

Friday, March 26

PDF Accessibility – Best Practices for Authoring (8:00-9:00am Gregory AB-Adobe)

PDF Troubleshooting for Blind and Low Vision Users (with AFB Consulting) (10:40-11:40am Gregory AB-Adobe)
[This session is providing a chance to talk with Adobe staff from the Acrobat and Accessibility teams about specific issues accessing PDF files or to try to learn new techniques to access PDF files.]

Video Accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users in Adobe Flash (1:50-2:50pm Gregory AB-Adobe)

Other Events

In addition, we are sponsoring the CSUN Tweetup on Wednesday night from 6-8pm in the Elizabeth Ballroom.

Adobe will also have a booth (San Diego 315), so please come by and say hello and ask questions or share your thoughts.

9:49 AM Permalink
November 6, 2009

Accessibility and Adobe Open Government

As the leader of Adobe’s accessibility team, I am proud of the commitments Adobe has made to the mission of accessibility and needs of individuals with disabilities. Adobe produces innovative software that enables the development of content that is visually rich and highly interactive, and as a result rendering that content in a productive way for people with visual disabilities can be a challenge – one we take seriously.

Adobe has worked on accessibility standards committees in the U.S. and internationally, including: the W3C’s WCAG 2.0, ATAG 2.0, Timed Text/DFXP, HTML5, and Protocols and Formats working groups; the U.S. Access Board’s TEITAC subcommittee; and the PDF Universal Accessibility work group at AIIM. Two important goals of our participation are to help ensure that accessibility standards are effective at meeting the needs of those with disabilities and to promote technological neutrality. From an accessibility perspective, we believe that developers should be able to use any technology as long as they are able to deliver content that meets accessibility standards and end-user needs.

Adobe Flash and PDF (which is now an ISO standard – ISO 32000-1) both provide support for accessibility, but it is important for authors and developers to learn best practices and understand user needs in order to deliver results that take advantage of the unique capabilities of the formats and that allow all users to access the information and functionality. Authors sometimes will make a trade-off between producing a visually interesting application in a timely fashion and adhering to accessibility requirements. Other times, accessibility gets left to be dealt with at the end of a project that has a firm end-date and when other features take longer than expected, accessibility or other items fall off the schedule. Government agencies don’t get to make these trade-offs as they are bound by law to make their services accessible, but commercial entities don’t have the same requirements and often overlook the needs of people with disabilities when creating web experiences and documents.

Despite our best intentions, Adobe overlooked the needs of people with disabilities in our recently-launched Open Government web site, which failed to meet certain accessibility best practices. Some customers have contacted us and a few bloggers pointed out the issues and we are working to improve the Open Government site. We apologize to everyone who attempted to access the site and was unable to do so. With the benefit now of seeing the site in its present state rather than the initially-planned more dynamic and interactive version, the team is recreating the site using a combination of HTML and Flash. Several improvements to the current Flash-based site have been addressed already. My hope for this post and the intention of the Open Government site is to help other developers learn from this example, and improve their own development practices of visually rich web sites for access by all users.

Whether users need to use assistive technologies such as screen readers or magnifiers, operate their computer with the keyboard alone, view larger text sizes, view captions or subtitles for audio information, or utilize many other accessibility features, these features already exist in Adobe products. And while these are not perfect in all products yet, we are dedicated to enabling our tools to handle accessibility in robust and reliable ways.

If you are interested in learning more about accessibility in Adobe products, I’m providing some interesting links below. As always, we value the feedback of our customers and end users, so let us know your thoughts.

For more information about PDF accessibility:

For more information about Flash accessibility:

PDF and Flash accessibility training resources:

Adobe accessibility compliance statements:

6:00 PM Permalink
August 17, 2009

SXSW sessions

There are a lot of sessions at SXSW this year that are focused on accessibility. The session that I’d like to highlight is the one that Matt May on the Adobe Accessibility team proposed. Matt’s proposal “Web Application Accessibility Showdown: Flash/Flex, HTML5 & Silverlight” offers an interesting comparison to help people make informed decisions regarding the strenghs of the various RIA options developers have.
Take a look and please vote for Matt’s talk – it will be very interesting!

12:42 PM Permalink
May 4, 2009

Report from the expert meeting on web accessibility in Europe and the implementation WCAG 2.0

The European mandate 376 process is which will ultimately result in standards which will help ensure that products procured publicly enable access for people with disabilities. The goals of mandate 376 are (from official Mandate 376 document):

  • to harmonise and facilitate the public procurement of accessible ICT products and
    services by identifying a set of functional European accessibility requirements for
    public procurement of products and services in the ICT domain, and
  • · to provide a mechanism through which the public procurers have access to an
    electronic toolkit, enabling them to make use of these harmonised requirements in
    procurement process.

Adobe participated in an Expert meeting on March 23 in Brussels to discuss WCAG 2.0 implementation and the report of this meeting was recently published. Adobe encourages the European commission to use WCAG 2.0 as the basis for the EU standards, and to do so without modification of the WCAG 2.0 document.
More information on Mandate 376:

9:54 PM Permalink