Based in Ottawa, Ontario, NetCentric Technologies is the developer of the CommonLook line of PDF accessibility software. NetCentric offers the CommonLook Office add-ins for Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, the CommonLook PDF plug-in for Adobe Acrobat and CommonLook Clarity, stand-alone software that scans websites and folders to report on accessibility characteristics of PDF files.
One of the first vendors (besides Adobe Systems, of course) to develop tools for tagged PDF, NetCentric is dedicated to providing tools and services to help customers achieve properly tagged and fully accessible PDF documents and forms.
I interviewed Ferass ElRayes, the CTO of NetCentric Technologies, to ask him about the company’s plans for supporting ISO 14289 (PDF/UA). Full disclosure: I was President of NetCentric from October, 2011 until January, 2013.
Duff Johnson: Please describe your suite of products, and how they use PDF/UA.
Ferass ElRayes: Our products are designed to verify the compliance of PDF documents with Section 508 and other accessibility standards, to assist with the remediation of such documents and to provide enterprises with the means to manage the compliance of their PDF holdings. We are planning to release versions of our products that support PDF/UA verification and remediation this year.
DJ: Please describe how you see your organization’s role in the electronic document industry.
FE: We see our organization as the technology leader in the industry, offering products and services that address the entire document lifecycle and all aspects of compliance with accessibility standards.
DJ: How would you characterize your current implementation or planned initial release of PDF/UA-supporting >software?
FE: We will be targeting a complete implementation with our initial release.
DJ: What was your principle motivation in utilizing PDF/UA?
FE: Having been involved in the process of developing the PDF/UA standard, we think it has the potential to become the authoritative standard for PDF accessibility. When it comes to PDF accessibility, many organizations currently rely on interpreting Section 508 or W3C WCAG 2.0. We feel PDF/UA, being developed specifically for the PDF format, will remove the “guesswork” when it comes to interpreting the various accessibility criteria.
DJ: Granted, it’s not published yet, but can you say if you are planning to implement the PDF Association’s Matterhorn Protocol?
DJ: Will the product enforce PDF/UA in any way? Will it set the PDF/UA metadata flay?
FE: The products will assist with PDF/UA compliance and will set the PDF/UA flag when appropriate.
DJ: If your product includes verification features, will you require the user to verify each affected object, or address all such objects at once?
FE: We cannot provide a specific answer at this time.
DJ: Describe how your products will support WCAG 2.0, if that’s where you are going, and describe your view of the relationship between PDF/UA and WCAG 2.0 generally.
FE: We view PDF/UA as the authoritative interpretation of WCAG 2.0 for the majority of PDF documents (e.g., ones that do not include multimedia.) Therefore, we plan to support WCAG 2.0 by primarily supporting PDF/UA.
DJ: WCAG 2.0 has been around since 2008. Why didn’t you produce software to support that standard; why did you wait for PDF/UA?
FE: While we currently support Section 508, which includes a significant subset of WCAG 2.0, we decided to wait for the official release of PDF/UA so that we can offer a consistent implementation that conforms with a clear and measurable interpretation of WCAG 2.0.
DJ: What do you see as the key differentiator between your products and other options?
FE: Our suite of products offers the most comprehensive and mature implementation of PDF accessibility verification, remediation and enterprise compliance management available in the market today. Our products address the full document workflow from authoring to QA and finally compliance management.
DJ: Apart from accessibility, what do you see as the most likely value end users can get from PDF/UA support in creation or processing software?
FE: More usable, searchable, and better structured documents.
DJ: Thank you very much for your time.