[Athen] Making accessible info with InDesign?

Steve Green steve.green at testpartners.co.uk
Mon May 10 19:23:39 PDT 2021

John, what you are asking for is unreasonable and currently no application can do it. An application cannot know if a particular piece of text is supposed to be a heading, let alone what heading level. If the layout is not a single column, an application cannot know what the expected reading order is. An application cannot know what the appropriate alternate text should be for an image because the same image may need different alternate text depending on the context in which it appears. Don’t expect artificial intelligence to help with this to any extent in the next decade or two.

How many job roles can you think of that require no training at all? Probably very few, and certainly none that use complex technology. So why do you think that no training at all should be required by people who create documents? The tools are there to make documents accessible, and it only takes a day or so to learn to use them. If it’s someone’s job to create accessible documents, then they should get trained appropriately – it’s not as if it takes long or costs much.


From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of John Gardner
Sent: 11 May 2021 00:04
To: chagnon at pubcom.com; Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Making accessible info with InDesign?

Hi, I do appreciate the comments and advice from all of you on InDesign. Susan Kilmer’s comments on origin/development explain why the problem exists. As a businessman I well understand about investment and economic incentive. However, as a blind person I am not so willing to forgive Adobe for what is such a difficult application to use accessibly. I know InDesign is a complex application designed for making pretty paper copy. But it will not sell today unless it can produce on-line content too, and if it had been created with accessibility in mind, a user would not need so much training on how to make things accessible. Depending on the user, she may need training on using InDesign, but then the accessibility should come moreor less automatically. It does not, and the fact that we understand why it is inaccessible is, in the end, just an excuse.


ue on” job of an older inaccessible app and there is no economic incentive for Adobe to do a re-design, then I can understand why we are stuck with it. And will be forever unless an economic justification comes over the horizon.

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu>> On Behalf Of chagnon at pubcom.com<mailto:chagnon at pubcom.com>
Sent: Monday, May 10, 2021 2:17 PM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network' <athen-list at u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list at u.washington.edu>>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Making accessible info with InDesign?

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.

— — —
Bevi Chagnon | Designer, Accessibility Technician | Chagnon at PubCom.com<mailto:Chagnon at PubCom.com>
— — —
PubCom: Technologists for Accessible Design + Publishing
consulting • training • development • design • sec. 508 services
Upcoming classes at www.PubCom.com/classes<http://www.pubcom.com/classes>
— — —
Latest blog-newsletter<https://mailchi.mp/e694edcdfadd/class-discount-3266574> – Simple Guide to Writing Alt-Text<https://www.pubcom.com/blog/2020_07-20/alt-text_part-1.shtml>

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto: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<mailto: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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