Are you a business or government contractor looking for ways to make sure your digital content is accessible and compliant with standards such as ADA and Section 508? PDF remediation can provide the solutions you’re seeking. With this process, companies are able to ensure that their PDF documents are fully accessible according to accessibility requirements. This means that everyone who needs access—including those with disabilities or impairments—will have equal access to information.
Read on to learn all about PDF remediation, its benefits, and why it should be an essential part of your company’s document management strategy.
Table of Contents
What is PDF Remediation?
PDF remediation for accessibility standards such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is a process of converting documents created in Portable Document Format (PDF) into accessible digital formats that are compliant with these laws. This process involves an analysis of PDFs to identify any barriers that may prevent users with disabilities from accessing content, as well as developing strategies to reduce or remove those barriers.
This kind of remediation typically requires manual review and modification of PDFs to ensure they meet the standards set by ADA and Section 508. The process can involve:
- Making modifications to the document’s structure
- Changing its layout
- Adding alternative text descriptions for images
- Adding tags to headings and lists
- Ensuring tables are properly structured
- Including captions for videos, and other adjustments as necessary
These changes help make sure that everyone using assistive technologies like screen readers can access web content without difficulty. Furthermore, it can also help significantly improve the overall user experience for all visitors by making sure that PDFs are organized in a logical way that’s easy to navigate. Ultimately, this ensures everyone has equal access to information regardless of ability or disability.
Section 508 Compliance
Section 508 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In 1998, an amendment by Congress required federal entities to make electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.
According to Section 508, federal government organizations are required to give disabled citizens and employees access to information at the same level as the access they would receive elsewhere. This law applies to any federal agency that is developing, procuring, maintaining, or using EIT.
In addition, Section 504 may apply to your digital documents as well. Section 504 applies to procurements by organizations that receive federal funding, while Title III of the ADA can apply to commercial companies considered a “place of public accommodation”.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), made effective in 1990, is the first major legislation to level the playing field for people with disabilities. The ADA prohibits government agencies, commercial organizations, and several other entities from discriminating based on disabilities, and sets accessibility standards for these same entities to follow.
ADA standards also apply to PDF accessibility, so it’s critical to address many of the common issues people with disabilities encounter with PDFs. Sometimes it can be easy to overlook the digital documents being included as part of the delivery of products and services. For example, user guides and other documentation associated with delivered software must be accessible.
Another example is a PDF version of a restaurants menu hosted on their website. service or product delivery. If your restaurant’s website is considered a place of public accommodation under Title III, those documents need to be accessible in addition to the website itself.
Common Accessibility Issues in PDFs
- No, or incomplete, metadata. Each PDF should have the following information correctly filled out: title, author, subject, and keywords.
- No tags. Without tags, a document is not accessible or in compliance with accessibility standards.
- Incorrect tag structure. Tagged PDFs aren’t automatically compliant. If tags are incorrect or in the wrong reading order, for example, the PDF will be inaccessible and not in compliance.
- No alternate text on images. Without alternative text, a screen reader will say there’s an image on the page, but will be unable to give any information on what the image is and why it’s important. This is a common problem with PDFs.
- No bookmarks. Bookmarks help with navigation in documents longer than nine pages. The bookmarks and headings used in the document should match.
It is also important to mention that while Microsoft Word has accessibility features built-in, when converting the document to a PDF you may lose some or all of those features. Even if your document was accessible as a Word document, that does not mean it is still accessible as a PDF. In addition, between the various PDF creators / generators (e.g., Acrobat, PowerPDF, Foxit, Etc.) implementation and consistency of features can be uneven.
How do I fix PDF accessibility issues?
PDF accessibility issues can be fixed to ensure that everyone has access to important documents. The first step to improve your PDF accessibility is to evaluate the document for any existing accessibility errors or problems. This can be done by using the Accessibility Toolkit, which can be found on the Adobe website. Once you have determined that the document has accessibility issues, there are several ways to remediate them.
- One of these is to add alternative text describing images and tables in order to allow screen readers to interpret images and tables correctly. This can help both blind users and those with impairments to understand the content of images and tables.
- Another way to remediate PDF accessibility issues is to make sure that all text in a document is properly tagged, so that it can be read by screen readers and other assistive technologies. This can help anyone who has difficulty reading small font sizes or suffers from visual impairments.
- You can also use the full-text search feature to highlight text in a document and make it more readable. This can help with reading comprehension and understanding the content of images and tables, especially for those with learning disabilities or who have difficulty reading small font sizes.
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What You Should Know
Despite the various accessibility tools available to remediate PDF accessibility issues, there are still problems with compliance. Accessibility tools often leave users vulnerable to gaps in compliance due to their limited capabilities and lack of true understanding of user needs.
For example, many automation tools can create alternative text for images and tables but cannot determine if the alternative text accurately describes the content of the image or table. This can lead to inaccurate information being provided through alternative text, which can in turn create compliance gaps.
Overall, it is important to recognize that there are no quick fixes to PDF accessibility issues and that a true commitment to making documents fully accessible requires careful assessment and consideration of user needs. For best results, it is advisable to work with an experienced accessibility expert who can help guide you through the remediation process and ensure that your documents are fully compliant.
Need PDF Remediation? Trust the Experts at TestPros
Turning to an independent expert is the best way to ensure your company is Section 508 and ADA compliant. TestPros has a wealth of experience in accessibility remediation and can help your company remove barriers to information for people with disabilities. We offer services to improve compliance with Section 508 guidelines, WCAG standards, and other relevant accessibility protocols. Everyone should have access to your important documents—contact us today so we can help you make that happen.