Assistive Technologies

I decided to expand my understanding of accessibility issues. As an instructional designer, I think it is important make as many projects accessible to as many students as possible, not to mention it is the law. I have already begun making screen casts and other instructional media closed captioned for the hearing impaired and provide pdfs for podcasts that can be read by screen readers for the hearing impaired.
Incorporating accessibility into a pdf does not begin with Acrobat; accessibility begins with the authoring program, like Word or Quark or InDesign. The editing software I use is InDesign.

I began by watching a video from Adobe on steps to take to make a file accessible from InDesign 5 but there are so many accessibility enhancements to InDesign 5.5 that I purchased the upgrade! Then, I watched two videos from Adobe on creating documents in InDesign 5.5 that will include accessibility issues in the export to Acrobat. The video’s are: Preparing Accessible PDFs with Adobe InDesign CS5.5: Part I and Preparing Accessible PDFs with Adobe InDesign CS5.5: Part 2.

I learned from these videos that although InDesign will not automatically create accessible documents, there are some simple steps that will help InDesign tag the content so that the process of exporting the file into a pdf is fairly simple and accurate. Most of the steps for accessibility can be done directly in InDesign. The few remaining steps can be taken care of in Acrobat. The videos walked through the steps and then showed me where to find an “action” that will mostly automate the process for Acrobat. Cool. The advantage to this is not only the time saved, but an action of this nature helps the operator not to accidentally skip important steps.

I learn best by doing. So, after I watched the videos, I produced a pdf from this document that can be read by screen readers. After I produced the pdf, I ran it through the accessibility check. Originally I used type effects for the header. However, I found out that special enhancements to type, such as drop shadows and beveled edges will not transfer to Acrobat. Good to know. Therefore, I removed the type effects.

There is so much to learn to make content accessible. But I believe I have a good start.