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The Australian Government's study into the Accessibility of the Portable Document Format for people with a disability

Supplementary Report

This supplementary report provides full testing results and additional information relating to The Australian Government’s study into the Accessibility of the Portable Document Format for people with a disability (the Study). This report should be read in conjunction with the main report, which provides the context and key findings.

In order to address the debate about whether PDFs are accessible to people with a disability, Vision Australia was commissioned by the Australian Government to undertake a study to determine the accessibility of PDF files for people with a disability, with particular reference to people who are blind or have low vision. The Study was conducted in three phases:

Phase one – user consultations

Focus group questions

Three focus groups were held across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Each group was asked a set of six questions relating to the use of PDF documents and forms:

  1. Can you describe common circumstances of when and why you access PDF documents?
  2. What are your current experiences when using PDF documents and forms?
  3. Have you had any specific positive or negative experiences as a direct result of the assistive technology you have used to access PDF documents?
  4. Are there any strategies or workarounds you have created to overcome these issues?
  5. Do you have any examples of where you were able to read a PDF file successfully?
  6. Assuming it is possible to create accessible PDF documents, what needs to happen for you to accept PDF as an ‘accessible format’?

AGIMO Public Consultation guidelines

Published on the www.finance.gov.au website.

Australian Government consulting on PDF Accessibility

The Australian Government is seeking input to inform its policy about the use of the Portable Document Format (PDF) for the provision of government information online.

The Australian Human Rights Commission, responsible for administering the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) currently states on their DDA Advisory Notes:

“The Commission’s view is that organisations who distribute content only in PDF format, and who do not also make this content available in another format such as RTF, HTML, or plain text, are liable for complaints under the DDA1.”

We are seeking feedback about the accessibility and ease of use of PDF files on the internet, especially via assistive technologies. We are seeking to understand common access issues or problems encountered when using PDF files on the internet.

The Australian Government is also interested in receiving feedback about creating tagged PDF files, including resource intensiveness and complexity. We also want to understand any related accessibility issues of tagged PDF files.

Who is managing the consultation?

Three key policy development agencies are managing this consultation. The lead agency is the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) within the Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Australian Human Rights Commission are also assisting with the project.

Consultation questions

Please limit your feedback to accessibility issues around the PDF file format. Where appropriate you may like to discuss access to PDF documents in relation to other file formats such as HTML (web pages), Rich Text Format (RTF), or plain text.

Where possible, please include details about your personal circumstances/experiences. This information will help us understand common access issues among user groups.

Such information might include:

The following sample questions may help you to formulate your submission to the PDF Accessibility Consultation. You do not need to answer all or any of these questions in your response, however these suggestions are provided to help you understand what type of feedback we are seeking.

Consultation period

The consultation will begin on the 16 September and will be open until close of business on the 19 October 2009.

How will responses be used?

Your feedback will help the Australian Government review its policy on the use of the PDF file format in relation to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Your feedback will be reviewed and used to inform accessibility policies. If you would like to be contacted about your submission, please include your contact details. Your response and any personal details you provide will be treated confidentially and will not be used for any other purpose.

Can I respond anonymously?

Yes. In fact, unless you give us permission to include your name, we will treat your response as anonymous. 

Who will see my response?

Your responses will be shared amongst members of the PDF Accessibility Testing Consultation project from the Department of Finance and Deregulation, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), including any contractors or consultants that may be contracted to this project.

Your response may be included in a final report to Australian Government agencies. Please let us know if you do not wish your comments to be included in the final report.

How do I make a submission?

Submissions will be accepted via email to: Webpublishing@finance.gov.au

Or via mail to:

PDF Accessibility Testing Consultation
Service Development and Strategy Team,
Online Services Branch, AGIMO
Department of Finance and Deregulation
John Gorton Building
King Edward Terrace
Parkes ACT 2600
AUSTRALIA

You can also call us on: (02) 6215 2048 to discuss the project or provide feedback.

Phase two – technical evaluation

Vendor and Australian AT reseller interview questions:

  1. What is the number of users of this assistive technology in Australia?
  2. When did you first introduce support for the Portable Document Format?
  3. What were the motivators to providing support for the Portable Document Format?
  4. What is the current level of support you provide for the Portable Document Format?
  5. Is the functionality the same as with alternative formats?
  6. Are the keyboard controls (shortcuts), when interacting with PDF documents, different to other formats?
  7. Do you provide specific advice or documentation in relation to the use of PDF documents?
  8. Are there any issues with the assistive technology interacting with the Portable Document Format or PDF Readers that you are aware of?
  9. Are there any limitations in the support you provide for the PDF format?
  10. Are there any future plans for further development and support for the PDF format?

Phase three – user evaluations

Interview questions

Pre–evaluation questions
  1. How often do you engage with PDF documents?
  2. How do you access PDF documents at work or home? Selecting to:
    1. Open in web browser (which browser?); or
    2. Read in a PDF Reader (which reader?)
  3. What have been your general experiences when using PDF documents?
  4. Screen reader users only – How do you normally navigate a document in HTML, RTF or Word?
    1. Paragraph
    2. Headings
    3. Links
    4. Tabbing
    5. Arrow keys
    6. Read all
Questions for participants after interacting with accessible PDF files (Collection A)
  1. What do you think of the Portable Document Format now you have interacted with a selection of more accessible documents?
  2. After interacting with Collection A, how would you rate the experience in completing the task?
  3. Was there a learning curve involved when interacting with the documents? That is, did you find the process easier, or harder to complete as you undertook each task?
  4. If yes: did this decrease (get easier) as the evaluation progressed?
  5. Where there any issues that caused you difficulty when using these documents?
  6. What did you like about the Portable Document Format?
  7. How did the accessible PDF documents compare to other formats – HTML, RTF or Microsoft Office Word, that you have previously used?
  8. On a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being not at all comfortable, and 7 being very comfortable, how comfortable would you be in using similar accessible PDF documents again (using the same assistive technology)? Why?
  9. On a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being much worse and 7 being much better, how does this experience compare with your previous interactions with PDF documents (using the same assistive technology)? Why?
  10. What are the 5 key things you would suggest need improving with the interaction of these more accessible PDF documents?
Questions for participants after interacting with representative PDF files (Collection B)
  1. On a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being not at all comfortable and 7 being very comfortable, how comfortable would you be in using representative PDF documents like these again (using the same assistive technology)? Why?
  2. What are the 5 key things you would suggest need improving with PDF interaction?

Results of assistive technologies tested against Adobe Test Suite

Summary results for screen readers and screen magnifiers tested against the Adobe Test Suite (43 test cases) are reported in Table 1: Summary results for ATs tested against Adobe Test Suite.

Table 1: Summary results for ATs tested against Adobe Test Suite

Technology AT and Version Tests Supported Tests Partially supported Tests Not supported Tests Not Applicable Could not test
Screen Reader JAWS 8 43 0 0 0 0
JAWS 9 43 0 0 0 0
NVDA2009.1 41 0 2 0 0
SATOGO3.0 36 2 4 0 1
VoiceOver 10.5 9 0 34 0 0
VoiceOver 10.6 9 0 34 0 0
Window-Eyes 7 36 1 6 0 0
Screen Magnifier ZoomText 8 21 0 0 22 0
ZoomText 9 21 0 0 22 0

Notes: Adobe reported one test that could not be completed for SATOGO 3.0. This affected the test related to detecting page numbers in the Adobe Reader user interface.

Table 2: Full test results for Adobe Test Suite against ATs commonly used in Australia

Test file WCAG 2 Success Criteria Reader 9/ JAWS 9 Reader 9/ Window- Eyes 7 Reader 9/ ZoomText 9 Preview/ Voice Over [OSX10.5] Reader 9/ JAWS 8 Reader 9/ ZoomText 8.04 Reader 9/ NVDA 2009.1 Reader 9/ System Access 2 Go Preview/ VoiceOver [OSX 10.6] Desired Results
Test File 16 – Image Alt Text.pdf 1.1.1 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported Image alt must be read by speech AT
Test File 16b – Decorative Image Alt Text.pdf 1.1.1 Supported Supported

N/A

Supported Supported N/A Supported Supported Supported No indication of the decorative image should be announced
Test File 33 – Acroforms Text Field.pdf 1.1.1 Supported Supported N/A Not Supported Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported Label, value, and state of text field must be voiced when tabbed to
Test File 1 – Plain Paragraphs.pdf 1.3.1 Supported

Supported

N/A

Supported Supported N/A Supported Partially Supported Supported Paragraphs are read correctly
Test File 6 – PDF Headings.pdf 1.3.1 Supported

Not Supported

N/A Not Supported [role is not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not supported [role is not announced] Headings are identified by speech AT
Test File 33 – Acroforms Text Field.pdf 1.3.1 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported Text field controls are correctly identified by labels
Test File 4 – Multi–column.pdf 1.3.2

Supported

Supported

N/A

Supported Supported N/A Supported Supported Supported Content is read in correct sequence
Test File 56 – Reading Order.pdf 1.3.2

Supported

Supported

N/A

Supported Supported N/A Supported Supported Supported Content is read in correct sequence
Test File 57 – Table of Contents. pdf 2.4.1 Supported

Supported

Supported Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Bookmarks allow skipping around via keyboard
Test File 6 – PDF Headings.pdf 2.4.1 Supported Not Supported [Does not identify and does not allow skipping to headers but do read the heading text]

N/A

Not Supported [Does not identify and does not allow skipping to headers but do read the heading text] Supported N/A Supported Partially Supported Not Supported [Does not identify and does not allow skipping to headers but do read the heading text] Headings allow skipping around within document
Test File 6 – PDF Headings.pdf 2.4.10 Supported Not Supported [Does not identify headers but does read text]

N/A

Not Supported [Does not identify headers but does read text] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [Does not identify headers but does read text] Headings are identified
Test File 1 – Plain Text.pdf 2.4.2 Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported PDF document is titled
Test File 33 – Acroforms Text Field.pdf 2.4.3 Supported

Supported

Supported

Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Document text and control order is correct when tabbing in sequential document
Test File 33b – Acroforms Text Field_bad order.pdf 2.4.3 Supported

Supported

Supported Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not supported Document text and control order full custom sequence when tabbing
Test File 80 – Sample form.pdf 2.4.7 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus is visible
Test File 48a – 100pp.pdf 2.4.8 Supported Supported

Supported

Supported Supported Supported Supported Could not test Supported Page number is detectable in Adobe Reader UI
Test File 23 – Non–English.pdf 3.1.1 Supported Not Supported [Does not identify headers but does read text]

N/A

Not Supported [Does not identify headers but does read text] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [Does not identify headers but does read text] Headings are identified
Test File 25 – Non–English Phrases.pdf 2.4.2 Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported PDF document is titled
Test File 28 – Acroforms Button.pdf 2.4.3 Supported

Supported

Supported

Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Document text and control order is correct when tabbing in sequential document
Test File 29 – Acroforms Checkbox.pdf 2.4.3 Supported

Supported

Supported Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not supported Document text and control order full custom sequence when tabbing
Test File 30 – Acroforms Combobox.pdf 2.4.7 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus is visible
Test File 31 – Acroforms Listbox.pdf 2.4.7 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus is visible
Test File 32 – Acroforms Radio Button.pdf 3.2.1 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus doesn't move away when control is focused
Test File 33 – Acroforms Text Field.pdf 3.2.1 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus doesn't move away when control is focused
Test File 28 – Acroforms Button.pdf 3.2.2 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus doesn't move away when control setting is changed
Test File 29 – Acroforms Checkbox.pdf 3.2.2 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus doesn't move away when control setting is changed
Test File 30 – Acroforms Combobox.pdf 3.2.2 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus doesn't move away when control setting is changed
Test File 31 – Acroforms Listbox.pdf 3.2.2 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus doesn't move away when control setting is changed
Test File 32 – Acroforms Radio Button.pdf 3.2.2 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Focus doesn't move away when control setting is changed
Test File 33 – Acroforms Text Field.pdf 3.2.2 Supported Supported

Supported

Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Focus doesn't move away when control value is changed
Test File 80 – Sample form.pdf 3.3.1 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Input error is identified in text
Test File 80 – Sample form.pdf 3.3.2 Supported Supported

Supported

Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Supported Form controls are labeled
Test File 13 – Table with Caption.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported [role is not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [role is not announced] Name, value, and role is available for table
Test File 28 – Acroforms Button.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported [role is not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [role is not announced] Name, value, and role is available for buttons
Test File 29 – Acroforms Checkbox.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported [role and value are not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [role and value are not announced] Name, value, and role is available for checkbox
Test File 30 – Acroforms Combobox.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported [role is not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported Name, value, and role is available for combobox
Test File 31 – Acroforms Listbox.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported [role is not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [role is not announced] Name, value, and role is available for listbox
Test File 32 – Acroforms Radio Button.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported [role and name are not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [role is not announced] Name, value, and role is available for radio buttons
Test File 33 – Acroforms Text Field.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported [role is not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [role is not announced] Name, value, and role is available for text fields
Test File 47 – Links.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Supported

N/A

Not Supported [role is not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [role is not announced] Name, value, and role is available for links
Test File 49a – Comments.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Supported

Supported

Not Supported Supported Supported Supported Not Supported Not Supported Name, value, and role is available for comments
Test File 6 – PDF Headings.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Not Supported [WE does not indicate role of heading].

N/A

Not Supported [role is not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported [role is not announced] Name, value, and role is available for headings
Test File 9 – Nested List.pdf 4.1.2 Supported Partial Support [role is not indicated]

N/A

Not Supported [role is not announced] Supported N/A Supported Supported Not Supported Focus is visible

Note: The results for Test File 57 – Table of Contents.pdf have been amended from the published version on the W3C website (http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/WCAG20/implementation–report/PDF_accessibility_support_appendixa.html External Site) to reflect a correction with the test file. JAWS 9 is now categorized as ‘Supported’.

© Adobe Systems Incorporated 2010. All rights reserved

User evaluation participant profiles

Table 3: Participant profiles by disability group

Participant Group Adaptive Strategy Assistive Technology Version Experience Gender Age group
Blind Screen Reader JAWS 10 High F 31–54
Screen Reader JAWS 9 High M 55–64
Screen Reader JAWS 9 Moderate F 18–30
Screen Reader & Braille display JAWS 10 Moderate F 31–54
Screen Reader JAWS 9 Low M 31–54
Screen Reader JAWS 9 Low F 31–54
Screen Reader NVDA 2009.1 Moderate M 31–54
Screen Reader SATOGO 3.0 High M 31–54
Screen Reader Windows-Eyes 7 High M 55–64
Screen Reader Windows-Eyes 7 Moderate F 31–54
Blind (Deafblind) Screen Reader (visual inspection) JAWS 9 Moderate M 31–54
Low Vision Screen Magnifier with speech MAGic 10 Moderate M 31–54
Screen Magnifier ZoomText (inverted colours) 9.14 High F 18–30
Screen Magnifier with speech ZoomText 9.14 High M 31-54
Screen Magnifier ZoomText 9.14 Moderate F 55-64
Screen Magnifier ZoomText 9.14 Moderate F 18-30
Mobility Speech Recognition Dragon Professional 10.1 High F 31–54
Keyboard Interaction None N/A N/A F 31-54
Keyboard Interaction using Head–pointer None N/A N/A F 55-64
Cognitive Configuration of Operating System & Adobe Reader None N/A N/A M 18–30
Text–to–speech Read Out Loud Adobe 9 High M 31–54
Text–to–speech Read & Write Gold 9 High M 31–54
Hearing None (Auslan first language) None N/A N/A M 31-54

Document collections

Table 4: Collection A Documents – Optimised for accessibility

Type Description Features
Long University Research report Multi page spread design, headings, images, lists, simple and complex tables, page numbers and footers
Short Press release Headings, page numbers, links and images
Brochure Government fact sheet Multi column, headings, foreground and background images, and headings
Form One page invoice form Combo boxes, single edit fields, multi line edit fields, radio buttons, and validation

Table 5: Collection B Documents - Representative of government publications

Type Description Features
Long Government annual report Single page design, headings, images, lists, simple and complex tables, page numbers and footers
Short Education report Headings, page numbers, tables links and images
Brochure Government fact sheet Headings, lists and images
Form One page credit form Single edit fields, multi line edit fields and validation

Footnotes:

  1. Australian Human Rights Commission, 2009, World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes, viewed September 2009, http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/standards/www_3/www_3. html External Site

 

Contact for information on this page: wcag2@finance.gov.au


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Last Modified: 25 November, 2010