PDF/UA Compliance

This page is meant to serve as a guide for PDF/UA compliance. It will cover important workarounds and key concepts to ensure PDF / UA status in all of your PDF files. To be clear, there is some overlap with posts found on How do I make my PDF Accessible section of this website. This is also different from Section 508 compliance for PDFs.

PDF/UA, or PDF Universal Accessibility, is a standard that ensures PDF content is accessible for people with disabilities. It provides a set of rules and recommendations for creating accessible PDFs that can be read and understood by assistive technologies, such as screen readers, magnifiers, and read-aloud tools. The “UA” in PDF/UA stands for “Universal Accessibility”.

First things first. Download the PAC 2021 Checker

You don’t have to start with checking your file, but it can often give a good starting point.

What is PDF / UA Compliance?

PDF/UA was published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as ISO 14289. The standard is based on the PDF Reference, specifically the features related to accessibility, and its goal is to provide guidelines for creating universally accessible PDF documents and forms.

The main focus areas of PDF/UA compliance are:

  1. Tagging and Reading Order: The PDF must be correctly tagged, meaning that every element (paragraph, heading, table, list, etc.) is correctly identified, and the reading order should be logical and intuitive.
  2. Hyperlinks: Make sure hyperlinks are formatted properly!
  3. Images and Figures: All non-text content like images should have alternate text descriptions (Alt text). These descriptions should be brief but descriptive enough for users who can’t see the image to understand its content and purpose in the document.
  4. Tables: Tables should be correctly tagged to ensure the relationship between cells and headers is preserved, so that users of assistive technology can understand the information being presented.
  5. Form Fields: All interactive form fields should be accessible, with descriptive labels and instructions for users.
  6. Language: The document language should be specified, allowing assistive technology to correctly interpret and vocalize the text.
  7. Bookmarks: For longer documents, bookmarks should be used to help users navigate to specific sections of the document.
  8. Color and Contrast: Avoid using color alone to convey information and ensure there is sufficient contrast between the text and the background.
  9. Validate Your Document: Use an accessibility checker, such as the one built into Adobe Acrobat, to check your document for accessibility issues. Fix any issues that are identified.
  10. Get Expert Help: If you’re unsure about any part of the process, consult with an expert in PDF accessibility.

How to Achieve PDF/UA Compliance:

  1. Use the Right Tools: Begin with software that supports accessible PDF creation. Adobe Acrobat Pro, Microsoft Word, and Adobe InDesign have features that support PDF/UA creation.
  2. Structure Your Document: Use headings, lists, and other structure elements consistently and correctly.

Keep in mind that PDF/UA compliance is not a one-time task; it requires continuous attention. Whenever a PDF document is updated, it should be checked again to ensure it is still compliant with the PDF/UA standard. This can be a time-consuming process, but the end result is a document that is more accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

PDF / UA Errors

This section will cover a myriad of accessibility errors that can occur from within the PDF Pac 2021 Checker under the PDF UA criteria. There will be some overlap with WCAG 2.1 standards.

More PDF / UA based posts:

Path Object not tagged | PDF / UA

Welcome to the world of document accessibility! Today, we’ll demystify a common issue that plagues many users – the ‘Path Object Not Tagged’ error – especially when working with Adobe Acrobat and files exported from…