In January 2017, the U.S. Access Board issued the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines, updating its existing Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, (“508 Standards”), and the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines under Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934 (“255 Guidelines”). These Standards are now in effect as of January 18, 2018.
How does this affect the requirements for PDF compliance with Section 508?
The new rules are a lot to digest, as the encompass accessibility regulations for a huge range of electronic information technology. Most of it does not pertain to our services at Accessibility In Mind (AIM), let’s see what the actual rule says about PDFs:
The requirements for one specific type of electronic documents—those stored in PDF—are established by referencing the applicable ISO standard. PDF/UA-1 provides a technical, interoperable standard for the authoring, remediation, and validation of PDF content.
The new ruling provides much more specific requirements than the original rules, as it references the detailed guidelines of PDF/UA-1. PDF/UA-1 provides a technical, interoperable standard for the authoring, remediation, and validation of PDF content to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities who use AT such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, and joysticks to navigate and read electronic content.
This is a major leap forward, as the 20-year old Section 508 regulations didn’t know what a PDF was, let alone what made a PDF accessible. Various agencies created their versions of their interpretations, most notably HHS (last update here is 2013) with no consensus reached. This left clients and remediators with the responsibility to actually create and publish accessible documents, and the ability to claim compliance with little fear of reprisal.
The International Standard for Accessible PDF Technology (PDF/UA-1) finally provides a roadmap for remediating, testing, and ensuring accessible PDFs that are compliant with the “refreshed” rules.
Accessibility is our goal here at AIM, and we are “refreshed” and ready! All documents remediated by Accessibility In Mind are compliant with PDF/UA-1