[Athen] Making accessible info with InDesign?

chagnon at pubcom.com chagnon at pubcom.com
Mon May 10 14:17:18 PDT 2021

Susan K’s comments below about Adobe InDesign are correct.

And I’ll add one more factor:

Yes, you can make a nearly fully accessible PDF from an InDesign layout…If you have training in both accessibility concepts and how to use InDesign’s advanced tools.

InDesign is not a word processing program like Word and Google Docs. It’s used to create documents that are much more complex than word processing, and it’s also a professional typesetting and graphics design layout tool. Given that, it’s not the type of tool you can just pick up and learn on your own. You must be trained in how to use InDesign.

And if you want to make accessible PDFs from InDesign, you’ll need advanced training in that process.

Just like when you want to make accessible PDFs from Word or PowerPoint, you’ll need advanced training.

There are no “easy buttons” for accessibility in any software program. The industry is decades away from having automatically building accessibility into the files we create.

Places to learn accessibility with Adobe InDesign:

* My classes, of courses and books! (shameless PR) www.pubcom.com/classes <http://www.pubcom.com/classes>

* My conference sessions at AHG and other industry conferences https://accessinghigherground.org/

* Creative Pro conference next week (I’m hosting one session there, and my colleagues are hosting others) https://creativeproweek.com/

There are extremely few online video training courses I recommend because nearly all of the ones I’ve reviewed have either inaccurate information, insufficient information, or really don’t understand what an accessible PDF requires. I have a lot of people in my classes who learned elsewhere, and then had to be retrained in the correct methods.

RE: Adobe’s commitment put into perspective …

I’ve been connected to Adobe since John Warnock developed scalable PostScript fonts in 1985. Never a paid employee, but I am an unpaid beta tester, unpaid advisor, and unpaid ACP (Adobe Community Professional) in Adobe’s online forums. I’ve also been in similar positions with Microsoft and over 100 other software development companies.

Although far from perfect, Adobe does have a solid commitment to accessibility. I just spent a couple of days in the ISO standards committees for PDFs with Adobe’s engineers and a few dozen other software engineers from around the world. You might not see that commitment, but I do, first hand and up close. But I sure wish they’d do even more, of course.

Microsoft is also dedicated to accessibility, but I don’t see them in the ISO committees for PDF. However, we all see M S do a fair amount of advertising about their accessibility tools, like Immersive Reader. For some reason, Adobe’s marketing department doesn’t do a shred of advertising about their accessibility work, even though it’s there.

And to be frank, no company that creates accessible PDFs could do that without Adobe’s foundation work on PDFs and accessibility. Adobe’s work comes first in creating the accessibility standards for PDF as well as the first programs, and then other companies follow Adobe’s lead. And take all the glory, too.

In sum, it’s a mixed bag from all of our software manufacturers.

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Bevi Chagnon | Designer, Accessibility Technician | <mailto:Chagnon at PubCom.com> Chagnon at PubCom.com

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PubCom: Technologists for Accessible Design + Publishing

consulting • training • development • design • sec. 508 services

Upcoming classes at <http://www.pubcom.com/classes> www.PubCom.com/classes

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From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of Dan Comden
Sent: Monday, May 10, 2021 2:12 PM
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
www.colorado.edu/disabilityservices <http://www.colorado.edu/disabilityservices>

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