Join Chad Chelius for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding the experience for users with visual impairments, part of Creating Accessible PDFs (2014).
Let's talk for a moment about the experience for users with visual and mobility impairments. As a sighted user, I myself take for granted the experience of reading content. I like to use the example of a newspaper or brochure. What do you do when you start reading the content? If you're like me, you scan the headlines determining what looks interesting or looking for specific information that you need an answer to. I'll look at the headlines, the sub-heads, the sidebars, as well as the photos.
All of these elements collectively allow me to efficiently read content and obtain information. A visually impaired user doesn't have the same luxury that a sighted user does. In order for someone with visual or mobility impairments to read a document, it needs to be properly tagged. Let's take a look at another illustration. Imagine that the only way you could read a document was through a piece of paper with a hole cut out of it. You couldn't see the big picture, but could only process pieces of the data at a time.
So using this analogy, I would have to scan the document and go up and down trying to find the information that I wanted to access. I could only look at elements through this viewport, if you will. Taking this concept a little bit further, imagine if the document we'd been looking at was set completely using 12-point type, with no spacing adjustments or anything to differentiate the content. Compile that with the concept of reading this information through the paper with a hole cut out of it, and you have a very unpleasant reading experience.
This isn't acceptable to a user with visual or mobility impairments, and it shouldn't be acceptable to you or I either. So what do we do about it? Well, for starters, we keep accessibility in mind when creating documents. As a designer, I can't help but to focus on the visual aspects of a project. But the more you know about accessibility, the more you can do in the design process to facilitate the creation of an accessible PDF as well. Learn how applications handle tagging. Not all applications are created equal, and not all PDFs are either.
As you'll learn, it's much easier to incorporate accessibility features into the originating application than it is in the PDF itself. In this course, we'll be focusing on InDesign and Word. However, there's a chance that the application you use to create documents is capable of tagging documents for accessibility as well. Learn how to use a source application to their fullest. Just because an application is capable of creating a tag or accessible document doesn't mean it will do it correctly. Each application relies on how you build your document to achieve correct output for accessibility.
Most of this comes down to using the application and the features of the application correctly. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the experience from a standpoint of a user with visual impairments, and will help you to take these factors into account when building your own documents.
- What is accessibility?
- Understanding the experience of users with visual impairments
- How to know if a PDF is accessible
- Creating a PDF with PDFMaker
- Adding metadata, bookmarks, and links
- Inserting alternative text
- Controlling tab and reading order from InDesign
- Creating cross-references in InDesign
- Adding tags, bookmarks, and alt text in Acrobat
- Using the Make Accessible Wizard