This is not exactly a feature request, but I was not entirely sure where to file this question. Please move if needed.
The PDF.js viewer (and other web PDF viewers, I presume) seems to be lacking when it comes to accessibility. From my understanding, it doesn’t work well with screen readers or tagged content. I was wondering if there are any planned developments, for instance if there are any other web viewers for PDFs that will be implemented as plugins? Or anything else addressing this.
There appear to be some recent changes in the pdf.js viewer that take into account some accessibility concerns. I haven’t looked too much in depth to these, but there was a request to update to integrate with the latest version of pdf.js here: Bump pdf.js to v2.6.347 · Issue #6844 · pkp/pkp-lib · GitHub - would you mind taking a look and seeing if these changes might be an improvement in this area?
Hi Roger! Thanks for your quick reply.
Sorry, my knowledge of accessibility issues or the pdf.js project is not very good, so I can’t really say anything about the changes. It was reported to me by one of our accessibilty-minded journal editors that their accessibility-optimised PDFs were not compatible with the pdf.js plugin and screen readers. We are on the latest version of OJS (3.3.0-6), so the changes should already be in place.
I guess I’m mostly curious if there’s been some discussion about this apart from keeping pdf.js up to date. For instance in the accessibility project that you started a few years back. The reason I ask this is because we are trying to figure out if we should do something about this in our OJS installation, something like the solution proposed here: PDF accessibility and browser plug-ins, issues and techniques - ADD (tl;dr: having the PDF-button default to the “open or save”-dialog instead of web reader).
I spoke with a few colleagues of mine, and members of our accessibility interest group, and here is what they had to say:
I can say definitely there are no plans for other PDF web viewers. The accessible option here is for the user to download the PDF – of course that depends on the PDF itself being accessible.
On that note, just a few words about PDF itself and accessibility: this format was developed to be portable (the “P” in the acronym) while preserving the graphic integrity (font family, size, color, grid, etc…). It was not developed to be accessible by default though, it was not part of its core. All we do are remediation to make it a little bit more accessible. That said, we rely on the available technology for authoring (Text processors like MS Word, Libre Office, inDesign) and viewing (Acrobat Reader, browser plugin viewers), their features and limitations. We know that PDF is the most used format for galleys, but, unfortunately, it is not the least accessible though.
As noted, the accessibility of a given PDF depends on those who created it. We do offer some guidance on creating accessible content on our guide here, as well: Creating Accessible Content: A Guide for Journal Editors and Authors
I hope this helps shed some light on the issue.
Ok, that’s a good and unambiguous answer. Many thanks for looking into this @rcgillis, it’s very appreciated!