An accessible PDF is a PDF document that can be read and accessed by people with disabilities, primarily low vision, but also for other cognitive impairments. A PDF document is considered accessible only if it meets a set of accessibility guidelines, and compliance is enforced by law in many regions.
For Government publications, it is essential to make communications accessible for everyone. That’s why countless legislations worldwide enforce the accessibility of public content. For example, the Directive (EU) 2016/2102, in effect since December 22nd, 2016, provides people with disabilities in the European Union (EU) with better access to public services websites and mobile applications. This Directive was translated to into local law by several countries, and EU Member States had until September 23rd, 2018, to transpose the Directive into national law. Still, most public websites are not fully compliant, and yet the law is seldom enforced. That might change soon now, as the transition periods run out. For the United States, Section 508 has been in place for even longer, and since 1998, federal agencies have been required to make electronic information accessible to people with disabilities.
What makes content accessible?
Several factors play a role in making content accessible. One of the most important is to have the information ready for assistive technology software, for example screen readers for the visually impaired.
Web content accessibility guidelines
For websites, the W3C has published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which should ensure the accessibility of content through directives for the HTML structure regarding text, images, and code or markup that defines structure, page presentation, etc. Another important section of government sites includes documents like forms, original legal documents, or data sheets. Therefore, the WCAG 2.0 contains not only guidelines on how to publish HTML content, but also rules on how to publish PDF documents.
PDF is the standard format for publishing documents that can be made accessible. One of the ways to ensure accessibility is to use the standard PDF/UA format.