Accessible PDF documents with PDF/UA

PDFs are easily accessible and utilizable for users of all operating systems and terminal devices. Therefore, a lot of information is made available online in the form of PDF files. However, PDF files are often not accessible to people with disabilities unless they have been specifically made barrier-free for them. For example, non-accessible PDFs cannot be processed by assistive technologies, which is required for e.g. visually impaired people to be able to read a document.

With the introduction of the ISO standard PDF/UA, a foundation was laid for the accessibility of PDF documents for all groups of people. By defining the document structure using tagging, an assistive technology can detect the structure and reproduce the content accordingly. PDFreactor supports the creation of PDF/UA from HTML into compliant documents for accessible PDFs without quality loss.

Many companies and government organizations trust PDFreactor for the conversion from HTML to PDF/UA to give all customers equal access to important content.

Did you know since when PDFs have to be accessible for everyone?

In 1998, the United States Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to include Section 508, which states that all federal electronically accessible information must be accessible to people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. Section 508 standards contain technical criteria that are specific to different types of technologies. These criteria include software applications, operating systems and web-based information.

Section 508 not only applies to federal agencies, but also to any company doing business with a federal agency. These include private contractors, healthcare providers, legal organizations, and many more. It is important to note that any digital communication that a company creates must be 508-compliant. This includes content from websites, emails, apps and PDF versions. For making a PDF 508 compliant, there are a few requirements which demand technical corrections to guarantee accessibility.

The benefits of accessible PDF files

Creating accessible PDF documents offers many advantages: you can preserve the quality of your content while reaching more people.

Accessible PDFs retain the original layout, design and branding of your document. The corresponding content can be retrieved via computers or other digital devices equipped with assistive technology. Accurate presentation with an accessible PDF means that all content is transmitted in the correct sense and read out in the correct reading order by the software used.

With PDFreactor, this goes one step further: You can covert your HTML documents into accessible PDF files, which also preserve all layout and design specifications of your content so there is no loss of quality here either.

PDF/UA as technical basis for accessible PDFs

PDF/UA is the technical basis to create accessible PDFs. Accessible PDFs are not only an advantage for people with disabilities, but also create better conditions for texts to be displayed correctly on small display devices such as mobile phones and tablets. Until the ISO standard PDF/UA was introduced in 2012, there were no clearly defined criteria for creating an accessible PDF. The ISO standard specifies which PDF functionalities are mandatory for an accessible PDF. Germany (2014) and the United States (2016) have adopted PDF/UA as their national standard as two of the largest markets.

The aim of the ISO standard PDF/UA is to guarantee the best possible interaction between development tools and assistive technology. The standard is based on the requirements of the international WCAG guidelines.

PDF/UA as work simplification for software engineers

The ISO standard PDF/UA makes work for software developers much easier. With its clearly formulated guidelines, the quality standard helps developers to identify the needs and technical requirements for accessible PDFs. By using PDF/UA as mandatory standard, uniform requirements can be implemented in the programs in a targeted manner so they can be observed by the users when creating accessible PDFs. In addition, there is potential for further assistive technology such as a barrier-free Mobile PDF Reader.

Matterhorn Protocol

In order to support software developers in creating PDF/UA compliant files, the PDF Association has developed precisely defined test conditions with the “matterhorn protocol”. The matterhorn protocol defines a series of test criteria. With their help PDF documents can be checked for compliance with the PDF/UA standard. The protocol contains 31 test areas with a total of 136 error conditions. 89 of them can be checked automatically with PDF accessibility software, the remaining 45 error conditions must be checked manually. PDFreactor supports the creation of tagged PDFs using the matterhorn protocol and section 508.

Accessible PDFs made easy: create a tagged PDF with PDFreactor

In order to create accessible PDFs, a few technical requirements must be met. An assistive technology must be able to detect the document structure of a PDF in order to be able to process it accordingly. In order to display the content of the document structure, tagging a PDF is mandatory.

Assistive technologies such as screen reader, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) or speech output can then provide the user with access to the contents of the PDF. The basis for the creation of accessible PDFs is the use of the PDF/UA standard. PDFreactor makes it possible to create barrier-free PDFs from HTML. Without loss of layout and design the HTML tags are converted into an accessible PDF that complies with the standards of the international PDF Association.

How to create accessible PDFs from HTML: PDF/UA with PDFreactor

The creation of accessible PDF documents that are also readable by people with disabilities is necessary for many reasons. Not only to make content accessible to everyone, but also to make your own content visible to more people and available on all devices. Therefore, compliance with the ISO standard PDF/UA to create accessible PDFs is a matter of course. However, this leads to several challenges and evokes guidelines that must be followed. With PDFreactor as a tool you can display your content easily and without any loss of quality regarding layout and reading order from HTML to PDF. By integrating PDFreactor, you have an automated workflow for generating well-structured, accessible PDF/UA documents from your own documents.

Start your 30-day trial period right now to experience the advantages of PDFreactor and create well-formed PDF/UA documents. Check out our quick start guide to learn more about download, installation, integration and conversion.