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Re: Blind user complaining on Adobe web site

From: Paul Sutton
Subject: Re: Blind user complaining on Adobe web site
Date: Thu, 6 May 2021 08:10:46 +0100

On 06/05/2021 07:11, Greg Knittl wrote:
Hi Ali,

I'm sighted and have plenty of trouble interacting with the world through my computer. I can't imagine how I would manage to even get as far as going through all the steps to convert pdfs to text if I were blind. My hat is off to you.

As a sighted user trying to do my income taxes on Linux in Canada, I cannot rely on the etext forms for the blind to be up to date. Similar to you, I convert the PDF tax forms to text. This year I have written a

"text spreadsheet" calculator using awk, tsort and bc/calc that allows me to mark up the calculations on the forms and then compute the dependencies, generate calculations and generate the results as an output text file.

I note the following limitations of converting PDF to text:
1/ I'm unable to convert XFA PDFs to text (fortunately only Ontario provincial forms, not federal income tax forms so far) 2/ The fine points of the PDF layout seem to get mangled. For example the Canadian tax forms use indentation to show nested calculations and I find that harder to see on the text version of the PDF. In general the etext versions of the tax forms are more sequential, which is easier for me as a sighted user to program against. 3/ Any calculations built into the PDF are lost. I think my "text spreadsheet" demonstrates that it is perfectly possible to mark up calculation steps on text forms sufficiently precisely to allow programs to calculate them. I would think it should be possible to generate a common specification for embedding calculations into text files, allowing programs to be written for this. I would be interested to know

whether it might also be of interest to blind users.

Seems to me that the blind shouldn't have to put up with any of these 3

limitations and various laws may, in theory, give them the clout to enforce equality. This would also benefit me as a sighted user on Linux. This is a more specific example of potential synergy between Linux and users with disabilities.


I agree with you here, but should it require new laws to make developers do the right thing and make things accessible, there is a marketing term UPS (Unique Selling Point) here, if we can make software accessible to everyone then that counts in our favour, it is the 'right' thing to do, and yes it is difficult, challenging etc, but surely people are up for the challenge.

It shows we need more diversity in software development processes, but also that developers need to be more in tune with their users, even if this is at the cost of extra features.

I know this is difficult, we need to see things from a view point of a user, (who may not be an expert with computers) I do still feel that computing is 'elitist' we need to learn to engage with users. Even with a degree of expertise we should not need that to do basic everyday or essential tasks.

I can't comment on the tax forms, but one thing that may help here is to contact the federal tax office and praise them for getting it right and ask if they can encourage others (in this case Ontario) to follow suit in terms of accessibility. Show a good example of what works, as a model of this.

Lets keep this discussion going, but turn it in to proper action to ensure everyone can access digital services fully.

Hope this helps


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