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
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.
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
The Lexington Institute
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.
Retired Navy captain