Why Publish As PDF?

Many of our clients ask about Section 508 remediation for Word and PowerPoint documents. Why don’t we offer that service?

First let’s look at what these animals are:

Microsoft Word is a proprietary word processor; Microsoft PowerPoint is a proprietary  presentation program.

“Proprietary” means they are owned, and in these cases use is designed to be restricted to purchasers/licencees. That’s the main issue with accessibility- documents “published” in these formats are technically only accessible for paying users of the software. (There are open-source alternatives that are compatible, but all functions may not be available.) Accurate display of a Word document or PowerPoint presentation can only be guaranteed if viewed within the program.

Neither of these formats are publishing formats. Word is tool for document production and editing, PowerPoint is for creating boring presentations.  Sure, you can upload either to your server and post a link, but that does not guarantee users will be able to access them- many will not, or that they will display the content as the producer intended.

If you are publishing online and want to be compliant with Section 508, it’s PDF!

The Portable Document Format (PDF) was created to display documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware, and operating system used to create them, as well as of the output device on which they are to be displayed or printed. PDF files specify the appearance of pages in a document in a reliable, device-independent manner. The PDF specification was introduced by Adobe Systems in 1993 as a publicly available standard.

Documents that are properly structured in PDF format will be accessible to the widest audience. Guidelines for  accessible PDFs have been created by The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is the recognized international standard-setting body; the guidelines set forth by the ISO are referenced in the 2018 US “ICT Refresh”, known as PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility).  PDF/UA provides a reference for PDF production/remediation, and provides detailed specifications that were not in the original Section 508 statutes.

Accessibility is the goal, as universal as possible. Compliance comes with accessibility: Publish as accessible PDF.