As Production Manager for the AccessWorks team here at Knowbility, my team and I have spent the past 3 years remediating PDFs and other documents to ensure accessibility. One of the main issues we face is the inability to reliably test documents using open source screen-readers. As open source screen-readers like NVDA become more main-stream we believe it is becoming more important than ever to test with them.
Over the past several years we have tried using a number of screen-readers to test documents including JAWS, NVDA, System Access To Go, and Apple’s VoiceOver. While JAWS is our primary testing option, the licensing cost makes it difficult for many small organizations and individuals creating accessible content to adopt JAWS as a primary testing tool for their PDFs.
The next best option for content creators with limited budgets is to use NVDA. While NVDA has many similar functions and hot keys as JAWS, there are still some areas for improvement such as navigating tables in PDF. In JAWS you can use the “ctrl+alt+arrow” keys to navigate within a table and ensure the proper column and or row headers are read. In NVDA this is currently not possible. The only option is to navigate to a table using “T” and then use the arrow keys to navigate within the table without reading column or row headers. An abbreviated list of NVDA hot keys can be found on the WebAIM website.
Collaboration between Adobe and NV Access (the creators of NVDA) will help ensure document testing is complete and accurate when using this open source screen-reader. It is my hope that this collaboration will not only make NVDA more compatible with accessibility features of Adobe PDF files, but will also help Adobe to further increase the accessibility of the Portable Document Format with the upcoming PDF/UA standard (ISO 14289).