Blog/20141020 Accessible PDFs

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Workflows with InDesign and creating accessible PDFs

We've recently completed the OER Guidance for Schools (links to follow shortly). We worked with a designer, who used InDesign, while our text was in Google documents. Ideally, one would finish the text first, and then do the design. In practice, this doesn't quite work, because inevitably new suggestions and corrections arise once one has the finished PDF.

One question is how you check the InDesign version against the Google document. We used the text export from Google documents, and the pdftotext tool to create text files. These have slightly different formatting, but with a bit of scripting can be made to look sufficiently similar. We then used the diff commandline tool to look at the differences. That really enabled a detailed comparison of the Google document and the InDesign document. (Addendum about working with InDesign and xml.)

It's also possible to export all InDesign 'stories' as plain text, but for ordering those you'd have to look at the XML (see below), so the texttopdf option works more straight forwardly.

We also wanted to have a way of checking image alternate text. This can be done by opening up the IDML files: Those are just zip files, so they can be unzipped, giving access to the XML. In this XML look for the XML-tag "CustomAltText", which contains the text, which can then be checked aginst the text you intended to put in.

You may know that InDesign document export to PDF, you need to specifically enable hyperlinks and tags, otherwise URLs and alternate text don't make it into the PDF. The PDFs created by default (alongside the indd files don't have URLs or tags).

We also produced some PDF documents directly from Google Documents. While it's possible to add alternate text in Google documents, weo discovered that PDFs exported by Google Documents don't seem to be tagged, and thus don't meet accessiblity standards!

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