Letters to the editor

Making PDF Files Accessible

William Matthews' article, "GSA sounds false 508 alarm" [FCW, April 16], quotes from a General Services Administration memorandum that mistakenly instructs Web managers to delete old Web-based documents, among them "non-508-compliant files such as...PDF files" before the June compliance date.

While Matthews' article corrects certain inaccuracies in the memo, the story may still have left readers with the impression that Adobe Systems Inc. PDF files can't be made accessible and must be removed from government Web sites. In truth, neither is the case.

Given the ubiquity of PDF files on the Web today and the impending government deadlines, I want to assure your readers that Adobe is committed to this issue and that we have worked hard to improve the accessibility of our Acrobat software as well as the information contained in PDF files.

With Acrobat 5.0, the new version of our product for creating and sharing PDF documents online, we've made a number of enhancements in this regard. Among them are features we provide to help users create and optimize PDF files and forms for accessibility. These include automated tools for the creation of tagged, or structured, PDF files, as well as a free plug-in available on our Web site that adds tags to documents created with earlier versions of Acrobat. The ability to add structure is important because it enables PDF files to work with screen reader products, which synthesize text into speech for blind people.

Other advances include high-contrast viewing and text re-flow for people with vision impairments and enhanced keyboard shortcuts for those with motion impairments.

Adobe supports the government's effort to make the Web accessible to all citizens, and we will continue our work to be certain that PDF and other formats, as well as products such as Acrobat, support this end.

Joe Eschbach
Vice president
ePaper Solutions Group
Adobe Systems Inc.

Coast Guard's Monster

It is ironic that the person with direct input on the U.S. Coast Guard's budget — Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky — is worried about a "monster that will eat us alive" ["Coast Guard confident despite Deepwater wake," FCW, May 7].

That monster has already been created. Its name is "decay," and it is in fact eating the Coast Guard alive. The erosion of efficiency in the Coast Guard's equipment and personnel was caused by years of paltry funding by Capitol Hill, even though the Coast Guard has been rated one of the best-managed agencies in the entire government.

Likewise, JayEtta Hecker's comments give rise to irony when she is quoted as saying that the Deepwater project "depends on a sustained and high level of funding" to come to fruition.

One would hope so. After all, if the Coast Guard had an appropriate level of funding for a sustained period of time, the service wouldn't be in such dire straits today.

Rogers and Hecker may have made the Coast Guard's case despite their testimony.

Phillip Thompson
Senior fellow
The Lexington Institute
Arlington, Va.

Hidden Costs

I enjoyed Milt Zall's April 23 column in Federal Computer Week, "Keeping TRAC of jobs." Here are two additional points, however, that I am not sure anyone really has thought through or put into the equation.

First, there is the cost to the government to monitor the contractor. In my observation, with much working being contracted out, the cost to monitor the contractor — including the cost to teach him how to do what you want — frequently equals the cost of doing it in-house. However, these costs never are part of the contractor costs, so they get ignored!

Second, there is the whole business of ownership. When the federal government designed a building and took responsibility for it, someone in the government had his name on the project and took personal responsibility for the end result. With the advent of contracting out, that ceases to be, and there is no one who is responsible or who gives a damn! In the long-term, a major cost is associated with this!

The same principle applies to ships and a host of other things. Although there are probably some instances where these factors don't apply, there are a lot more where they do.

I am not a federal civil servant, but after working with many who are, it is my observation that they are underrated and badly abused by the press and much of our society. This is hurting our country.

Colin Jones
Retired Navy captain
Honolulu

WRITE US

We welcome your comments. To send a letter to the editor, use this form. Civic.com readers, use this form.

Please check out the archive of Letters to the Editor for fellow readers' comments.


Featured

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.