Learning Centers

An Introduction to Accessible PDF

April 22, 2004


Editor's Note: This article is part of the Accessible PDF Learning Center

Accessibility is not an especially familiar concept in the computing world. Most of us encounter the idea of accessibility often enough by way of special vehicle parking spaces, ramps, braille signage, beeping crosswalks, and so on. Improving accessibility is more than a courtesy, it is an accepted and vital goal of any advanced society.

Both government and business have begun to recognize the significance of accessibility with respect to electronic documents. In 1998, the US Congress passed an amendment requiring the US government and its contractors to abide by a new set of standards. Known as "Section 508", the regulation requires that the software, publications and documentation produced by and for the federal government be accessible to those who must use assistive devices to read.

Section 508 went into force in June, 2001. To this date, few agencies or contractors are in full compliance - and almost none of their PDF files come anywhere close. In Canada and parts of Europe, whose standards for accessibility exceed the standards set in Section 508, many PDF files languish in desperate need of remediation.

In this Learning Center, you'll find a number of articles addressing various aspects of accessibility as they pertain to the PDF format. Happily, PDF files can be made accessible, highly useable, and compliant with Section 508. We'll help you find out how. And as always, please let the Editor know if there's a subject you'd like to see addressed!

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