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Welcome to the July issue of NetCentric’s Accessibility Newsletter!

This month, we’re delving into the oft-thought “tortuous, mysterious process” of achieving PDF Accessibility and hoping to shed some light on why it doesn’t have to be that way.

We also explore the relationship between Accessibility and Healthcare – is there a link?  Read on to find out.

Finally, are you an individual involved with accessibility in higher education and couldn’t make last month’s Accessible Instructional Materials & Technology Summit in Columbia, Maryland?  Never fear, we’ve got the full event recap for your reading pleasure. It’ll be just like you were there – minus the free lunch and CommonLook software demonstration.

As always, we welcome your suggestions for upcoming topics and would like to know what you think of NetCentric’s Accessibility Newsletter.

Use this link to share your comments or story ideas with the NetCentric Accessibility Newsletter staff.

We Hope You Enjoy!

NetCentric Technologies


Accessibility Tricks Adobe® Acrobat® Alone Does Not Do 


“Achieving PDF Accessibility Doesn’t Have to Be a Tortuous, Mysterious Process. It’s not Acrobat’s Fault, It’s Got Other Things to Keep It Busy”

As one would expect, we’re often asked at NetCentric Technologies about the value of the CommonLook® PDF GlobalAccess plug in for Adobe® Acrobat.®

It’s certainly true that Acrobat has a number of built-in accessibility tools, but as we like to point out, CommonLook dramatically reduces the time to evaluate and repair PDF documents and forms when compared to using Adobe Acrobat alone.

Don’t get us wrong, we love Acrobat (after all, CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess is an Acrobat plug-in) and we love PDF at NetCentric — so much so that we wanted to encourage the production of accessible PDF files by making the process easier, more efficient, and more accurate than if you were to rely exclusively on Adobe Acrobat’s basic but limited accessibility toolset.

If you’re interested in PDF Accessibility, you’ll appreciate CommonLook’s ability to make up for these deficiencies in Acrobat’s standard accessibility tools. Let’s consider a few of the examples where CommonLook helps compensate for some weakness in the Acrobat accessibility toolset.

Acrobat Has Limited Undo

Let’s face it, sometimes mistakes are made. For most editing actions in Acrobat, there is no ability to undo. For those that can be undone, there is only one level of undo. CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess provides unlimited undo, allowing users to retrace their steps back to a desired state.

Acrobat Does Not Evaluate Against Any Recognized Standard

The Adobe Accessibility Checker does perform some valuable tests and it references a lot of WCAG Checkpoints. However, not all of the WCAG Guidelines are covered. CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess evaluates against Section 508, WCAG 2.0, and PDF/UA.

There is No Tag Similar Function in Acrobat

A lot of PDF files are not completely or consistently tagged. In Acrobat, you have to manually work your way through a document to find instances of content that should receive the same tag, such as <H2>. CommonLook has an algorithm that allows you to select an instance of an element, whether a Heading or a Paragraph, and based upon the properties (font, size, style, color), all other instances of that element throughout the document will be tagged in the same manner. This works for 3, 30, or 300 pages.

There is No Way to Search for Tags in Acrobat

Sometimes you need to find a tag of a certain type. Acrobat does not provide a search tags function. CommonLook does.

It Isn’t Easy Inserting New or Corrected Elements in the Proper Location

There’s no further explanation needed here. In Acrobat, precise placement of the cursor in the tags tree is difficult because the cursor is so small and movements on the tree are so sensitive.  CommonLook allows users to highlight content in the document view and Insert a Tag based on that selection. The Tag the user chooses is inserted in the proper location of the tags tree. CommonLook also makes the distinction between inserting a tag into the Read Order and Converting a tag of one type to another; again, two very useful features not available to users of Adobe Acrobat.

There is No Way to Replace Tags in a Wholesale Manner in Acrobat

With Acrobat, you have to scour the tags tree, find tags of one type, select them (one at a time), and then type in the replacement tag. With CommonLook, you can find all the tags of one type and replace them with tags of another, among other actions that can be taken against entire groups of tags. This really is useful when it’s necessary to replace the custom tags some applications create with one of the standard accessibility tags recognized by assistive technology.  CommonLook even allows you to substitute role mapped tags with standard tag they have been role mapped to.

There is No Merge Tags Command in Acrobat

Sometimes, two need to become one. With Acrobat you cannot merge two adjoining paragraph tags into one. This may be necessary if someone places an errant carriage return in what should be, and appears to be one single paragraph. CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess permits the merging of tags.

CommonLook Does It All. Acrobat Explains a Lot, Does a Little.

There are some automated fixes available in Acrobat. For example, if the Initial View setting is not set to Title, then a right mouse click on a failed Title test allows a user to select the Fix option to correct it. Furthermore, if there is no Title, you will be prompted to provide one.

This is not typical, however. Most errors point to the Accessibility Report, which is a link to the website, where detailed instructions for manually repairing the issue are provided. This means you will need an active internet connection to get to the help file. In CommonLook, all error correction takes place within the user interface. CommonLook provides detailed prompting when a user is asked to provide a value. Furthermore, a Fix Wizard provides guided repair for many accessibility failures, taking users step-by-step through the repair process. For each step, the repair is made with the click of a mouse.

Accessibility is Just One of Many Things Acrobat has to Juggle

This article is not intended as a critique of Adobe Acrobat’s accessibility features. Acrobat is asked to do many things, accessibility is just one of them. Because CommonLook GlobalAccess PDF is a plug-in devoted exclusively to accessibility and PDF structural compliance standards, it can go a step further by implementing efficient workflows, providing a straightforward standards based approach to verification and remediation of accessibility issues.

This article mentions these advantages of the CommonLook approach not in an attempt to claim one-upmanship over Acrobat, but to inform PDF publishers who want to produce accessible content that there is a tool out there that takes the mystery and frustration out of the process.

Knowing that achieving PDF accessibility doesn’t have to be a tortuous, mysterious process and that it can be an efficient, complete, and thorough procedure should encourage more people not to give up on the production of accessible PDF content and to give CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess a try.

Get Your Free Trial Today


Accessibility and Healthcare:  

Is There A Link? 



On June 25, 2015, in King v. Burwell, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of providing tax credits to qualifying persons who received health insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in all states. These credits are available to qualified beneficiaries, whether or not their insurance exchange has been established directly by the state or by the Department of Health and Human Services. Fourteen years ago, on June 25, 2001, the Section 508 standards became enforceable.

As it turns out, health care and accessibility have a lot more in common than the landmark day of June 25.

“Meaningful Access” is a major consideration for the ACA. No one can be denied and no one can be discriminated against. It’s only natural, as a significant number of applicants and beneficiaries will be experiencing some form of disability and that illness or disease is often accompanied by either temporary or permanent disability.

The Affordable Care Act defines a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) and outlines standards a QHP must meet in relation to the operations and functions of an Exchange, including Certification standards related to non-discrimination and accessibility. Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) must meet Minimum Standards for Accessibility as set forth in 45 CFR Part 155.

In the letter of March 14, 2014 “2015 Letter to Issuers in the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces” the Department of Health and Human Services

  • Reminds QHP Issuers of the Meaningful Access Requirements of 45 CFR 155.205 (c), 155.230(b), 156.250
  • Reminds the discrimination prohibitions of 45 CFR 156.200(e)
  • And also provides a Reminder of Additional Obligations QHPs Have
    • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
    • Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act
  • Section 504 states, in part, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705(20) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.
  • (c) Information must be provided to applicants and enrollees in plain language and in a manner that is accessible and timely to—
  • (1) Individuals living with disabilities including accessible Web sites and the provision of auxiliary aids and services at no cost to the individual in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Simply put, Qualified Health Plan websites, and any electronically provided information distributed by QHPs, including documents, forms, provider directories, and the like must be made accessible to persons with disabilities.

Many will be contemplating both accessibility and health care as the year 2015 marks the celebration of a number of key legislative milestones for both. March 23 marked the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. In February, the Access Board issued its Noticed of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for Section 508, the so-called refresh.  July 26 is the twenty-fifth birthday of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

We’ll also be reflecting on these and other accessibility-related events in upcoming issues of the NetCentric Technologies Newsletter.


C-AHEAD Higher Ed Event Recap 



About 200 of the country’s leading advocates for accessibility in higher education gathered in Columbia, Maryland late last month to discuss strategy, share best practices and insights, and ultimately affect change in the world of accessibility on our nation’s college campuses.

It was the Accessible Instructional Materials & Technology Summit, sponsored by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) and two of its affiliates: the Capital Area Association on Higher Education and Disability (C-AHEAD) and the Maryland Association on Higher Education and Disability (MD-AHEAD).  NetCentric Technologies was proud to serve as a sponsor of the event.

Over the span of two full days, college administrators, professors, disability service staff, and IT professionals joined national figures in accessibility issues from the Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice, the National Federation of the Blind, and the United States Access Board at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center to partake in a robust schedule of seminars, panels, and Q&A’s.

Speakers included Eve Hill of the U.S. Department of Justice, Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, an Attorney renowned for her accessibility work at Brown Goldstein & Levy, Bruce Bailey, the Accessibility IT Specialist of the U.S. Access Board, and Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, amongst others.  They addressed a range of topics, including schools’ obligations for accessibility of all types of instructional materials, development of an institutional plan for accessibility of instructional materials and technology, and how schools can work collaboratively to address those expectations.

Riccobono, whose one year anniversary as President of the National Federation of the Blind will be commemorated on July 5th, and who was diagnosed with glaucoma and aniridia at age five, progressively losing his vision since that time, spoke to the assembly about the importance of “finding accessibility champions” at colleges and universities.  “We really do need to create a movement on our campuses,” said Riccobono.  “The first step in that is finding leaders who really want to make a difference.”

Acknowledging the plight that many higher education institution officials face in regard to program implementation, rallying support for the cause, and finding available funds to devote to a campus accessibility initiative, Riccobono made the glib observation that, “if you can find people at the top of the food chain, it helps a lot.”

Riccobono stressed that the NFB wants to serve as more than an enforcer of rules to colleges and universities; rather, the Federation wishes to work with schools to help affect real change.  “We would like to work closely with you,” said Riccobono, “know what’s working, what’s not working.”  He highlighted the importance of transparency, both in working with organizations like NFB and within campus communities, themselves. “Transparency helps people become aware of the campus-wide goals,” Riccobono stated. “Encourage students to voice their concerns, to be honest about the barriers so we can document it and make plans…to raise them.”

In regard to implementation of a working accessibility program on campuses, Riccobono emphasized the importance of “creating university-wide coordinated committees,” garnering full participation from those who may be posting electronic content, a key component of which is receiving training.  “Anyone who posts content needs to be trained,” he said. “Guess what? That’s pretty much everyone on a campus. You need to make sure that everyone has training, because if they don’t, they won’t know, they won’t be aware.”

“What else can we do, university-wide?” Riccobono posed the question to the audience.  “Stop the bleeding. We need our purchasing practices to stop the bleeding. We shouldn’t be allowing new systems coming in that are inaccessible.”

Finally, Riccobono’s message to Summit attendees underscored how imperative it is for changes to take place now.  “Blind students cannot wait,” he spoke emphatically. “Tomorrow is too late, and in some ways, today is too late.”

Learn more about the ways in which NetCentric Technologies can assist your campus with its document accessibility needs through our CommonLook software tools for PDF accessibility, training, and consulting services. Request A Free Trial  or sign up for an upcoming webinar or submit a document for a remediation price quote.




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