Being an insatiable bookworm and busy student means I read an awful lot of books. Many of those books are in the dreaded PDF format, which has a nasty habit of being partially or wholly inaccessible at worst and a demon to navigate at best. Simply mentioning PDF documents might be followed by a sharp intake of breath or a pained groan from many a blind person; it really is that bad. While Adobe Reader and Acrobat are usable in a pinch, they’re by no means convenient, and on my system at least, they enjoy crashing. So, when I discovered a beautifully accessible eBook reader called QRead, my life got easier in a real hurry. Suddenly, wading through academic journals and complicated course outlines wasn’t quite the ordeal it used to be. I no longer felt the urge to snuggle up to a bottle of wine each time an instructor sent me an assignment in PDF. I only lament that I spent so long grappling with Adobe!
Accessible Apps, the company behind QRead, is also responsible for a range of accessible software that is designed with the blind in mind, if you’ll pardon the cliché. They have everything from an RSS Feed reader, to a Twitter client (which I adore), among others. There are plenty of blind developers working on similar projects, but I haven’t integrated as much of their software into my life as I have with this source. I find myself stopping to be grateful each time I open a PDF in QRead or scroll through tweets with Chicken Nugget, the afore-mentioned Twitter client (no, I don’t know why they called it that, either). Their mission statement proclaims that they create “useful, innovative software,” and I have to agree. They develop no-frills, practical tools that focus on ease of use rather than impressive features nobody will use.
So, thanks, Accessible Apps. You’ve made this busy bee much more productive, which frees her up to do fun things like drink coffee and blog about all the ways the world really sucks. Keep it up!
Thanks for posting this. When you work in the blindness space, there’s not a lot of gratitude going around, and while I don’t think any of us do what we do for gratitude, it’s still nice to see.
Oh Meagan I love this post! Sometimes I hate when PDF documents aren’t easy to read particularly if there are images in the document and JAWS says graphic empty document!
The accessibility of Adobe Documents depends solely upon the skill (or lack of skill) of their authors. In fact, a fully accessible PDF can be as easy
to navigate as an HTML document if constructed and authored properly.
Any accessible document, be it Word, PDF or HTML, needs to be structured correctly: a logical and hierarchical heading structure, lists and other elements
indicated, alternative text in every graphic, all links and bookmarks in context, fonts and colours true and with good contrast. If you go to
you’ll find that Karen McCall’s instructions on accessible documentation are all fully accessible PDF. Download one of her handouts, open it in ordinary
Adobe reader and see what you think. Because it’s tagged you won’t get the accessibility dialogue; the document will just open and be ready for reading
and navigating as if you were using a web page.
The trouble with much of the information we as blind people have to deal with is not its inherent inaccessibility but lack of skill and knowledge on the
part of document authors. These people persist in doing things like slapping a font onto a piece of text and calling it a heading, or thinking that a line
left blank constitutes the end of a paragraph. That works well in print land, but not in the world of electronic documents. The computer needs to be able
to identify the difference between a heading and a list and a paragraph in order to know how to treat the text. While simply adding fonts to text differentiates
it for the eye, the computer cannot tell the difference unless it is specifically indicated using code for HTML or PDF, or through the use of the styles
in MS Word.