2

I'm a back end developer who knows about front end technologies but doesn't do design work (for Reasons).

Anyway, I've been tasked with creating a PDF file of some student records that can't be edited, copy/pasted, etc.

I know about digitally signing, etc. but I'm wondering if I simply flatten the whole document to a "image style" PDF vs a "text style" PDF will it remain Accessible, specifically ADA compliant? I'm thinking of screen readers, since there would be no "text" to select, there would be nothing to parse/read/etc.

(For non-US folk - the Americans with Disabilities Act which is federal law that requires Accessibility)

  • You should install a screen reader such as NVDA (nvaccess.org) and try to access your pdf content, if you get nothing out of it, then it probably isn't accessible. – locationunknown Jun 5 at 6:03
  • Assuming you don't go the image route (which as noted above may have ADA repercussions) preventing editing (at least without breaking a PDF's "signed" status) is one thing, but unless there's a very specific reason for denying copying text, I wouldn't both doing so. If an end-user can get to see the text of a "protected" PDF (either because they know one of the passwords, or because the user-password is blank) then it's technically trivial (but more "fiddly" than copy-paste) to extract the text even if the permissions don't allow it. – TripeHound Jun 5 at 9:18
  • My advice would be to look again as to what you/the company are trying to achieve, will the effort to try and lock down the PDF really prevent people copying the information? Given what we know about online material the general answer is no, as long as you have a single source of the truth, what have you really prevented? – DarrylGodden Jun 5 at 9:33
2

... if I simply flatten the whole document to a "image style" PDF vs a "text style" PDF will it remain Accessible, specifically ADA compliant? I'm thinking of screen readers, since there would be no "text" to select, there would be nothing to parse/read/etc.

It would not be "Accessible" to vision-impaired people. As you've pointed out, "there would be nothing to parse/read/etc". There may be screen readers that use OCR. However, since the conversion to an image format would have been intentional, with the knowledge that it would hinder ordinary screen readers from operating, you might want to contact your lawyers to give them a heads up. (ADA tends to be very litigious friendly. People lose cases even when violations are unintentional.)

I've been tasked with creating a PDF file of some student records that can't be edited, copy/pasted, etc.

If a user has permission to view a document, it's possible to modify them so that editing is possible. Conversion to an image format doesn't stop anyone. It only slows them down. Consider how quickly some paper books were digitized before ebooks were commonly available.

I know about digitally signing, etc.

That's pretty much the only way you can ensure a document will reach its destination unmodified. Someone could still change it, but they won't be able to sign it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.