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4th European eAccessibility Forum

eAccessibility of Public Services in Europe

12/04/2010, 9:00 - 18:00
Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie - Paris, France

  Version française
Printable version

Producing accessible PDF documents

Sylvie GOLDFAIN (Paris (France))

Sébastien DELORME (Paris (France))

Speaker's information

Photo Goldfain

Sylvie Goldfain is Managing Director of Atalan, a leading French consultancy specialised in e-accessibility. Sylvie is also the Director of the project « AcceDE » whose purpose is to create and publish on freeware basis detailed documentation regarding tagged PDF documents as well as to promote PDF accessibility towards communications companies (see www.pdf-accessible.com for more information).


Sébastien Delorme is an accessibility specialist for Atalan (Paris).



[Notice : The short papers of this conference have been prepared by BrailleNet who accept any responsibility for them. But presentation materials provided for download (full-papers or slides) have been provided by the authors themselves]

Reference documents, notes and newsletters, forms, reports, newspaper inserts internal institutional ... The PDF format has become a major broadcast format for such documents. To be interested in the accessibility of this format is therefore essential.

The solution is to implement what is called tagging. What is a PDF tag? How do we do that? How to acquire the necessary skills? How to integrate tagging in the PDF documents production chain?

As with other issues of accessibility, it is best to integrate accessibility at the design stage. But there is more than one production chain for PDF.

PDF can be classified into two categories: PDF files "industrially" generated  and PDF files “manually” generated.

Sylvie Goldfain’s presentation has focused on this last category of PDF: PDF versions of “editing” documents.

For accessibility, there are three important stages of design for an “editing” document (eg, an annual report or magazine business):

  1. Stage of the graphic standard conception (step 1),
  2. Stage of the document modeling (step 2).
  3. Production stage of the PDF document which is sent for printouts and delivered to the customer for distribution in PDF format (step 3).

At what stage should we intervene in order to make the delivered PDF accessible? All!

Examples for steps 1 and 2:


Once the document is finalized in the CAP software, a PDF version should be generated. At this stage, we must tag the PDF document. It is the most important step.

The tagging means to structure the contents of a PDF file by inserting different kinds of information: adding a title and defining the language, adding semantic information, adding text captions to the images etc.. ... Once this tagging is made, it is necessary to check and modify if necessary the reading order of the PDF contents.

We can see that accessibility has to be implemented at all stages of the document design.


Why accessibility is now so rarely taken into consideration for PDF documents?

In early 2009, at the request of some large French companies, Atalan (consulting company specializing in digital accessibility and the inclusion of disability) studies the accessibility of PDF documents and identifies two issues that limit the consideration of accessibility in the design chain of “editing” documents:

With this in mind, Atalan in partnership with nine major French companies (Air Liquide - AREVA - BNP Paribas - Capgemini - LVMH - SNCF - Societe Generale - SPIE - Thales) has launched Project Access (www.accede.info) : its goal is to provide answers to the two issues mentioned above, including:

  1. Educate communication professionals.
  2. Train agencies business partners.
  3. Create and disseminate methodological documents following open-sourced principles.

To be clear, precise and well suited to the needs of operational teams, these methodological references are designed in the following way:

In April 2010, 15 communication professionals are involved in the project AcceDe.

To learn more about the accessibility of PDF documents and to broadcast the methodological documents, a website is available: www.accede.info.


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