Author: Karen McCall, Access Technology Higher Education Network
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PDF remediation is not possible for someone who depends on a screen reader and has no functional vision.
The reason for this is that you have to match the tags in the tags tree to what you see on the physical page. Screen readers can only read a PDF through what gets tagged.
Someone depending on a screen reader cannot tell if content has not been tagged. They cannot tell if the tag is the correct one for the type of content and they cannot determine a logical reading order for the document without being able to see the document. For example, if the PDF is a tri-fold brochure you need to divide the panels into parts and rearrange them in a logical reading order.
I provide training on remediating PDFs and my material is accessible. I have a visual disability and use a screen reader but could not do this work without functional vision.
Someone using a screen reader can do user testing on PDFs but only after the PDFs have been remediated or made accessible.
The other aspect of this is that Adobe Acrobat Pro, Foxit PDF Editor and PowerPDF are not keyboard accessible for most of the UI components.
Even when using various plug-ins, such as Common Look PDF, the problem is the same. If you depend on a screen reader, you can't tell if all of the content is tagged, if it is tagged correctly and if the tags are in the logical reading order.
With any automated tool, while the tool may have some level of accessibility, you can't get around the fact that you need to see the tags and the physical document to know what you are looking at and whether or not the elements I mentioned above are in place.
I've been working in the field of accessible PDFs for about 23 years.
Please contact me if you have questions or need clarification.
Karen McCall 📧️
Access Technology Higher Education Network
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