[scribus] New for 1.6.0 - Tagged PDF to improve accessibility of PDFs?

"Christoph Schäfer" christoph-schaefer at gmx.de
Mon Sep 16 05:20:11 UTC 2013

Hi Matthias,

> Hello,
> let me first thank you for participating in this discussion.
> > From: "Christoph Schäfer"
> > We forget that large proportions of humanity
> > are still starving or dying from thirst, on the run from civil wars or
> > plagues etc. 
> I think this is far beyond the topic of this mailing list. I would like to focus this discussion on how Scribus could improve the information access for disabled users. 

It is not. See below.

> > ... and solve our Western luxury problems later, and
> > accessibility of digital documents for blind people is a luxury problem.
> NO! Access to public information is a human right! Everything else is pure discrimination! This is what the UN convention is about. 

Access to public information isn't entirely the same as the requirement to create or to make available files that can be read by screenreaders, because the access can be provided in different ways, e.g. by employing someone who reads printed documents to visually impaired or by printing documents in Braille. Hundreds of thousands of blind people have been able to write a master or PhD thesis before we even had computers, let alone screenreaders, so it's doable. If there actually were a human right to access digitally created files for blinds, this would include many other "human rights" like the right to own the necessary hardware and software (not cheap and unaffordable for most of humanity), the right to access to electricity as the hardware doesn't work without it, the right to a home, in which the hardware doesn't rot etc. Now, what percentage of the world's population can afford all this? We cannot even guarantee this in a single so-called first-world country! That's why I call it a luxury problem.

Open Source software cannot solve basic human rights issues, of course, and we mustn't forget that even the very basic right to life isn't guaranteed in all parts of the allegedly developed world. What Open Source software can do, though, is provide support for writing systems that are being ignored by proprietary software vendors. Scribus doesn't do this yet, not the least because the development team is lacking the necessary expertise (another example of Western domination and myopia, and I don't exclude myself here). What we can do is making our source code available under the GPL and allow brighter minds in other parts of the planets to add the features they need for their languages/scripts. This is much more important than creating files that only a few rich people in the "first world" can use for their needs. Again, this has nothing to do with a desire to discriminate against anyone, but a lot with perspective and proportions.

> > I also take exception with your statement "Accessibility
> > means 'Design for all' and not 'Design for most'." Design is, by definition,
> > something visual, at least if by design we mean graphics or page design.
> Why? Every object created by human beings follows a design. Allow me to quote from Wikipedia:
> "Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system (as in architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams and sewing patterns). Design has different connotations in different fields. In some cases the direct construction of an object (as in pottery, engineering, management, cowboy coding and graphic design) is also considered to be design."

I can't see how this defintion contradicts my original reply.

> This leads us to the basic design principle "Form follows function". So what is the function of a document created by Scribus? Its basic function is transfer information. The information can be pure text based or visually pleasing with a nice layout and graphic support. Especially public organisations need to distribute their information to as much people as possible. This is why PDFs distributed by public institutions need to be accessible.

Sorry, but this is all wrong. "Form follows function" is but one of many design principles and usually applied to devices. If there is a universal "design principle" it's "form follows intention", which is so broad as to be meaningless. Information isn't necessarily a "basic" function of a document -- sometimes the opposite is true (think of ads, for example).

As to public administrations, yes, they are required by law to make certain informations publicly available. I can speak only of Germany here, but for this kind of information there are several established channels, like the "Bundesanzeiger", the "Amtsblatt", the requirement to publish all locally relevant information in local newspaper, or to announce job advertisements in a national newspaper etc. All these texts are also available in "accessible" form, e.g., as HTML or PDF files, but *not* PDF files created with DTP software. However, as far as I can tell it is not required that administrative units make their often self-serving or promotional fliers or posters available in "accessible" form.

> > From: Craig Bradney
> > > Tagged PDFs are NOT a showstopper for printed works.
> > 
> > No they are not, but Scribus should support them, a long with non-Latin
> > languages. One day.
> I most welcome this kind of thinking. This is all I wanted: adding tagged PDFs to the roadmap, well knowing that this might not be for today or tomorrow. If this could be part of the support of non Latin languages, I welcome this even more.

As I've written before, this *will* become part of a future roadmap, just not for 1.5/1.6.

Kind regards,


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