An update on the PDF Accessibility Review

AGIMO - WPG Review Team
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In early September, AGIMO launched a project to review the accessibility support of the Portable Document Format (PDF), for use on government websites. The project is being run in collaboration with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Department of Families and Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). The initial stage, the Public Consultation, began on September 16 and ran for about 6 weeks to 26 October 2009. We invited comments from many and in the end received just over 40 formal submissions from members of the public; peak disability groups; government departments; industry and accessibility experts.

The consultation was developed by following recommendations of the (cue product placement) AGIMO created Online Consultation Guidelines, and then launched through promotion on the Web Publishing Guide and Government 2.0 Taskforce Blog. Through FaHCSIA, we sent emails to the Peak Disability Groups in Australia, and also advertised the consultation via AGIMO mailing lists. We were lucky too that many groups helped to promote and encourage participation by Twittering, blogging and spruiking it to all that would listen (big thanks to the Victorian e-Government Resource Centre among many others!). We’re now in the tricky process of making sense of the submissions. For those that didn’t see it, we’ve included the Consultation Guidelines and Example Questions. This document was used to help our varied audience understand our goals for the consultation. Though it included example questions, we also welcomed general feedback. For the submissions that answered the questions, it provided a comparative measure, although these things are generally too complex for simple cross-checking. What is already clear is that it’s a contentious issue... some people are very much for use of PDF’s, some against. Some in the middle somewhere, and others still were telling us we missed the point; claiming testing shouldn’t be about a particular technology, it should be about a holistic approach to accessibility. To a degree, we might agree with that. And we are considering greater accessibility issues through projects such as the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or the review of the new web standard: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0). But more about that later... In the end though, we know people need more advice on accessibility, both policy based and how-to guidance. We’re confident this Review will help feed into that policy development. Stage two of the review, Technical Testing before the final stage, User Evaluation. Policy advice on the use of PDF’s for government websites is due in early 2010, but until then, make sure you get in touch with the team if there is any advice needed or share your comments below.

Comments (9)

Any further idea when the "early 2010" policy advice on the use of PDF’s for government websites will be published? I have a PDF and Accessibility project on the go and it would helpful to know whether it's worth going ahead with it now, or whether it would be better to wait a while for the policy

"...we don't have to follow AGIMO guidelines" is a common thing to hear when trying to push for accessibility compliance when working at some places. I think AGIMO should send letters out or personally catch up with the ministors or managing directors of all government including agencies, statutory authorities and government business enterprises.

If only audits happened every 10 months everywhere rather than only when complaints are made. Perhaps make it so agencies have to get certified "accessible" and renew such certification annually.

Hi Wpgreviewteam,

Any news on the policy advice?

Hi Christine

Thanks for your interest. The PDF Accessibility Review report it still undergoing review. We hope to have it out soon. Thanks for your patience in the meantime. We have updated some advice on the Web Publishing Guide concerning the use of PDF – this may be of some assistance in the interim.

Accessibility & Style team

Hi WPG Team,

Any more news on a guidance release date yet?

So is there any progrerss on the purported PDF Accessibility review report? Or did I miss it?

Is there any news? Whether or not PDF documents are likely to be considered an accessible technology -- or not -- is kind of key information for the conformance checks flagged in the national transition strategy as being done by this December. Many thanks.

The Australian Government’s study into the Accessibility of the Portable Document Format for people with a disability report is now published and we invite you to continue the discussion.

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Last updated: 27 July 2016