March 31, 2008
I would like to address a comment made in the submission by Keith F. Higgins, Chair, Federal Regulation of Securities Committee, Section of Business Law, American Bar Association, in which is stated:
Proposed Rule 498 requires funds to provide website access to certain documents
in formats that are "convenient" for both reading on line and printing. The Committee suggests
that the Commission specify in the adopting release that a PDF format would constitute a
"convenient" format for purposes of Rule 498."
It would be inadvisable to specify that any particular format is "convenient" for both reading online and printing, be it PDF, HTML, XML, ODF, DOC, OOMXL, Flash, or whatever.
While all of these formats can be made usable and accessible, they can only be made so if producers follow defined standards and techniques, such as those contained in the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These guidelines are the product of a rigorous process of drafting by experts, public commenting, redrafting, additional commenting and more redrafting. They are accepted internationally by the web community and have been adopted and adapted by many governments around the world.
Any regulation which would have the effect of making people rely on web-based documents to inform themselves should include reference to recognized international standards that have the specific purpose of ensuring interoperability, usability and accessibility to all people who use the web. Specifically referencing PDF, a format whose use principally benefits a single company and which was originally designed as a way to deliver documents intended to be printed, will not achieve universal accessibility or usability.