[Athen] Making accessible info with InDesign?

Steve Green steve.green at testpartners.co.uk
Mon May 10 11:36:02 PDT 2021

That would be the wrong conclusion to draw. Andrew Kirkpatrick is the Director of Accessibility at Adobe – he has been there 15 years and is also Co-Chair and Editor for WCAG. See https://www.linkedin.com/in/akirkpatrick/. He advocates very hard for accessibility in Adobe products.

The real problem is that people expect to use these extremely complex applications without any training at all, and they expect the application to read their mind and magically do all the things they want but haven’t learned to do. All it takes is a one-day training course that costs about $200 per person, but instead people flounder around for months or years and blame it all on Adobe. Frankly, I think it’s unprofessional for people to behave this way.

Susan is actually overstating the case against InDesign. With a day’s training, it is not difficult to create a highly accessible PDF from InDesign that requires little or no remediation in Acrobat. That said, if you are not also creating a print version of the document, InDesign may well not be the most appropriate application to be using.


From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of Dan Comden
Sent: 10 May 2021 19:12
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Making accessible info with InDesign?

Adobe has had over 20 years to figure out how to make the PDF process and products accessible. After all this time, it is difficult to come to any conclusion other than the company does not really care about accessibility.

On Mon, May 10, 2021 at 7:22 AM Susan Kelmer <Susan.Kelmer at colorado.edu<mailto:Susan.Kelmer at colorado.edu>> wrote:
Okay, to be fair...

InDesign is for laying out material. It is what Adobe Pagemaker used to be (for those of you who have been around a while). You make text boxes and add pictures and manipulate layout, and come up with a file that can be printed onto paper. Ala 1990. InDesign and Pagemaker were a replacement for the manual labor of physically creating the paper print using exacto knives and glue and light boards (for those that have been around even longer). In operation, it is not intended to be a program that provides all that accessibility for the outputted file. I do not fault Adobe for this. There is, as far as I know, NO program that will do this completely effectively.

If you want to have an accessible output, you will have to do what you've always done - work it out in Adobe Acrobat Pro on the completed file. InDesign is not a text-based program, like Word is. Word is easy to output into a reasonably accessible PDF. InDesign was never intended for that purpose, and runs on an old Pagemaker backbone that would have to be written from the ground up.

And the only way for that to be a priority for companies like Adobe is if there is money in it. No one is clamoring to Adobe to make InDesign produce accessible PDFs. Until they are, that won't change.

Susan Kelmer
Alternate Format Production Program Manager
Disability Services
Division of Student Affairs
T 303 735 4836

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