Accessible PDF exam papers

8 April 2016 | Ted Page

Presentation to the Digital Accessibility in Higher and Further Education 2016 conference

Logo - bcs - The Chartered Institute for ITThe following is a brief summary of my presentation entitled “Is PDF the ideal format for accessible exam papers?” to the BCS Digital Accessibility in Higher and Further Education 2016 Conference in London.

The talk addressed briefly the relative advantages and disadvantages of a range of formats such as HTML, EPUB, PDF and apps, for different types of assistive technology users, and across a range of subject areas and content types.

History papers a snap, Chemistry maybe not quite so much

It highlighted the relative ease, for example, of making English, History or Religious Studies papers fully accessible in a PDF, in contrast to the complexity of certain other content types, particularly Chemistry. 

The importance of accessible content

The talk also offered some practical tips on potential improvements: the elimination of accessibility problems arising from inaccessible content and page layouts etc, as well as the ongoing dialogue between accessibility professionals and educators necessary to eliminate such problems, were highlighted as areas with particular immediate potential. 

Is XML the future?

In the longer term,  technical developments, particularly those involving XML-based workflows, were highlighted as being particularly promising.

The conclusion of the talk was that PDF still has many advantages over other formats for many (but not all) content types and users. However, no format yet offers a perfect solution.

Download the slides from the talk at bcs-conference (PDF 376KB)