My second to the last week in DC and it was a busy one! I finally finished my PDF project, which was quite an accomplishment! Now that it’s complete, I can reflect a little bit on what I learned. This was one of those projects that you have no idea what you are in for. The task: make an 88 page PDF document accessible. Sounds like a big project, maybe it will take a week or two. A month later it is finished, the correct way. First, I used all of the automated tools which proved to not be sufficient. This document had teeth, it was ready to put up a fight, test my boundaries, and see how dedicated I was. My Adobe resources helped me some, but then I received a lot of advice from the USDA Target Center. Soon I found out I had to go through every page, manually, page by page. On most pages, I had to redefine reading orders and define headings and objects. Some pages went smooth, other pages became my enemy, taking literally days to make 508 compliant. The hardest was the graphs and tables. Try to define a graph as an image and it becomes 80 separate images, all wanting alternate text. The undo button doesn’t work. Redefine the image with the same result multiple times, then all of a sudden, it works! You then tip toe around it, fixing the rest of the page, saving after every change. One change could make the image change it’s mind and turn into 80 objects. Then, there was the week when Adobe Acrobat Professional would crash randomly, losing any unsaved work. By the end, I think I went through every page at least three times, checking to make sure everything was correct. There were many days when I made no progress and wanted to give it back to my supervisor. I made sure I kept going and then I would finally have a breakthrough. Never give up! I talk about this document like it was alive because it felt like it was. Computers are not logical. I defeated the monster! The lesson: create documents the correct way. Monday I am presenting my accomplishments and providing a handout on how to create accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word. Hopefully no more PDF monsters are created!