Adobe are running a series of education sessions on "PDF Accessibility Education Sessions for the Australian Government" in March 2011. These are to help Australian Public Servants with PDF authoring skills, after an AGIMO/Vision Australia study which was critical of the accessibility of Portable Document Format documents for people with a disability.
In my view the main problem is not with PDF itself but the design of the documents. Better training for document designers will help. But this training need not be specific to PDF. The same techniques will work with other formats, although each document format has its own idiosyncrasies.
In line with Principle 7 "Open and accessible formats online" of the "Draft Principles on Open Public Sector Information" from the Australian Information Commissioner, I suggest it would be better for the Australian Government to concentrate on accessible web pages and make that the primary format for government publishing. PDF versions could still be produced, but automatically generated from the web version, but just as a format for printing. E-book formats based on web technology could also be provided as an alternative to PDF, with little additional effort.
ps: While educating public servants on accessibility is a worthwhile aim, the Department of Finance and Deregulation has exceeded its authority in endorsing this Adobe activity. The name of the Department of Finance and Deregulation, and the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, are displayed below a banner headline on the Adobe web page about the PDF sessions. The page is marked "Copyright © 2011 Adobe Systems Incorporated. All rights reserved". This is contrary to the guidelines for the use of the Arms.
Thanks Tom, this comes under my area of responsibility, we've spoken to Adobe and the coat of arms issue has been fixed. Regards Peter Alexander a/g First Assistant Secretary, AGIMO, Department of Finance and Deregulation.
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