Appligent Document Solutions’ professionals make your documents accessible to individuals who need to have the document read to them aloud using their computer. To read the document, the end user employs specialized software otherwise referred to as assistive technology (AT).
To be read by this assistive-technology, documents need to be modified using tags that allow the screen reader access to the text and images of the document and provide a quality reading experience. Currently available software is not capable of automatically tagging PDF files for Section 508 certification.
Appligent’s experts tag, check and validate documents for Section 508. Our service comes with our unique certification of Section 508 compliance: a simple, no-questions asked guarantee.
There is no substitute for experience. Appligent’s professionals have been remediating PDF files for Section 508 compliance for more than ten years. Appligent’s PDF Accessibility Services go beyond basic Section 508 requirements to deliver truly usable and maximally accessible PDF content.
For organizations needing to deliver Section 508 or otherwise certifiably accessible PDF documents, our Section 508 Remediation Specialists are ready and waiting to serve you. To get started, email your files to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will respond with a comprehensive quotation within 24 hours. If you have questions and would like to speak to someone, you can reach our Section 508 Coordinator at 610-284-4006.
We’ll show you what your PDF’s tags should really look like!
Simply email us a PDF and pick a page you’d like us to make Section 508 compliant. We’ll tag and return it to you within 48 hours at no charge.
Limit of one page per customer; no forms please.
Why Appligent Document Solutions?
- There is no substitute for experience. We’ve specialized in PDF accessibility since 2000, longer than any other service provider in the world.
- We specialize in complex documents. Our experienced staff is innovative and up-to-date regarding the latest technology and federal guidelines regarding accessibility.
- We lead the industry in international standards development for accessible PDF.
- We offer the highest-quality, most cost-effective PDF tagging services available.
- We will work with you to help you create Section 508 “friendly” PDF files.
- Our service comes with our unique certification of Section 508 compliance: a simple, no-questions-asked guarantee.
For organizations needing to deliver Section 508 or otherwise certifiably accessible PDF documents, our Specialists are ready and waiting to serve you. To get started, email your files to email@example.com, and we will respond with a comprehensive quotation within 24 hours. If you have questions and would like to speak to someone, you can reach our Section 508 Coordinator at 610-284-4006.
Millions of U.S. citizens must use assistive technology (AT) in order to read electronic content.
To meet their needs and to ensure equal access to information, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation in 1998 to require U.S. Federal agencies and contractors to produce accessible electronic documents.
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, open new opportunities for people with disabilities, and encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain or use electronic and information technology. At least nineteen states have also passed legislation requiring electronic and information technology accessibility.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act does not place requirements on vendors. However, a vendor must design and manufacture products or services that meet the application Access Board’s technical provisions if it wishes to sell those products or services to the Federal government. Similar guidelines are in effect for vendors that deal with states that support Section 508.
Currently available software is not capable of automatically tagging any PDF file for Section 508 compliance and certification.
For organizations needing to deliver Section 508 or otherwise certifiably accessible PDF documents, our service bureau is ready and waiting to serve you. To get started, email your files to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will respond with a comprehensive quotation within 24 hours. If you have questions and would like to speak to someone, you can reach our Section 508 Coordinator at 610-284-4006.
More information on Appligent’s Document Accessibility and Section 508 Compliance Services.
The resources cited below are intended to inform and advise graphic designers, document authors, content managers and policy makers who need to understand how Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 apply to PDF documents. If you need hands-on assistance with making your documents accessible, please contact us or check out our PDF accessibility services.
What do you NEED to know?
Documents vary from simple to very complex. Even seemingly small errors can have huge accessibility consequences. Most PDF files cannot be checked for compliance with Section 508 without human assistance. Best practice in authoring is key to cost-effective production of accessible PDFs. For more information see our PDF Creation Best Practices and Facts vs. Myths tabs.
Accessibility is good for everyone
Accessible documents are useful to those in the private sector even when they’re not required to be compliant by law. See Accessible Tech’s excellent list of examples showing the universal benefits.
Technical: How Section 508 applies in PDF
The regulations apply to all Information Technology, including electronic documents and forms. Whether HTML, Word document, presentation, spreadsheet or PDF file, Section 508 requires the document be readable by all. Learn more about what Section 508 means in PDF technical terms.
What about “Reading Order”?
Assistive technology depends on document structure tags to determine the appropriate reading order of text and the meaning of images and other content. An untagged document does not have structure information, and a PDF viewer such as Acrobat must infer a structure based on the Reading Order preference setting, which often results in page items being read in the wrong order or not at all. Reflowing a document for viewing on the small screen of a mobile device also relies on the document structure tags. For more information, see this Adobe article.
While PDF “Reading Order” is not relevant to Section 508 compliance or accessibility, we do offer Reading Order adjustment as an additional service upon request.
Section 508 & WCAG
In the current (2001) regulations, Sections 1194.21 and 1194.22 set technical requirements for forms and documents based on WCAG 1.0, which was specific to HTML. In the planned update to Section 508, new technical standards will be based on WCAG 2.0, with far richer and more extensive requirements.
Are similar regulations being adopted elsewhere?
All 50 U.S. states are in the process of adopting Section 508 or developing their own accessibility policies based on Section 508 or WCAG. See Georgia Tech’s State Accessibility Initiatives Database for more information. Canada’s Common Look and Feel standards, and new laws in the UK and Germany and elsewhere are either taking effect or under development.
Creating Section 508 “Friendly” PDF Documents
Our goal at Appligent with regard to Section 508 services is to arm our clients with the knowledge necessary to create a document which is Section 508 “friendly”. Developing a document that needs to be made accessible requires an awareness of how some design elements can affect the tagging process. Fonts, bullets, formatting and issues specific to Microsoft Word can affect the effort necessary to make a document accessible; thereby increasing the cost to remediate that document for Section 508 compliance. By following some simple guidelines, PDF documents can be created that can be made Section 508 compliant in the most cost effective manner.
Millions of US citizens are visually impaired and must use assistive technology (AT) to read electronic content. This software, sometimes called a screen reader, deciphers online and other electronic content. To meet their needs and to ensure equal access to information, the US Congress enacted legislation in 1998 to require U.S. Federal agencies and contractors to procure accessible software and to produce accessible electronic documents. The regulations, known as Section 508, went into effect in June, 2001.
Section 508 addresses every aspect of electronic documents, This includes ensuring content is tagged in correct order, as well as properly identifying section headings, bulleted and numbered lists, and footnotes and endnotes Guidelines for the accessibility of PDF are part of the PDF/UA ISO standard 14289-1.
Characteristics of a fully accessible PDF include establishing a valid reading order for all page content; creating and validating tags for all logical content; providing alternate descriptions for all images; tagging tables to correctly represent table structure; including valid Unicode assignments for all characters; and managing all form-fields, links and other interactive features to ensure their maximum usability.
When you contract with Appligent’s team to make your documents Section 508-compliant, we also strive to make them more ‘user friendly’ by applying optimal structure to tables, making heading tags consistent, and not only marking footnotes correctly but moving or linking them so they read in logical order, etc. Our PDF Accessibility Services Team put together a list of tips to make PDF files less time consuming to remediate for Section 508 compliance and therefore less costly to our customers.
Note: Section 508 remediation is the last step to be performed prior to releasing a document or posting it to a website. The documents should be proofread, converted to PDF, redacted if necessary and then made Section 508 compliant.
Fonts and Bullets
Don’t use custom typefaces or “fancy” bullets: In addition to taking up more space in your document, they can trigger Unicode mapping errors in accessibility checkers.
Use OpenType fonts, or Base 14 fonts (installed as a part of the Adobe Acrobat installation): OpenType and Base 14 fonts add little size to your document and include options such as the Helvetica, Times, and Courier standard font families (regular, italic, bold, bold italic), as well as Symbol, and Dingbats. Base 14 fonts don’t need to be fully embedded, which can help significantly reduce file size. Bullets and other special characters should also be picked from these fonts.
Avoid extra bold, black, or heavy font variations: Such styles can cause text to appear multiple times in the tagged document.
Don’t use small caps: Using small caps can cause text to appear as a mix of capitals and lower case characters in tags and cause the screen reader software to ‘stutter’.
Avoid double-page spreads: Headers, body text or tables split into two pages are seen and tagged as separate pages by Acrobat. These require time-consuming manual work to make them read properly because each page will auto-tag separately and will probably make no sense without manual reorganization of the tags.
Use embedded, flattened .jpg files: In files with layered graphics (such as Illustrator drawings) and multiple layers of background shading, tagging can change layer order and ‘break’ images or cause text to disappear behind shading.
Simplify tables: Multiple levels of row/column headers are very difficult and labor intensive to tag. Even when structured and tagged perfectly, many screen readers will read them row by row, making them difficult for a non-sighted end-user to decipher.
Limit ‘visual’ cues and information: Avoid using graphic elements or color coding to convey essential information. Differently colored or formatted words (such as bold, italic, etc.) need to be separated and tagged individually and supplied with alternate text. This increases tagging time significantly.
Don’t forget your ALT text: Alternative text is required for Section 508 compliance. All graphics and relevant visual elements need descriptions that can be read by screen readers.
Formatting Issues Specific to Microsoft Word
Be careful with file extensions: Always save Word documents as .doc, (not .docx) then output as PDF.
Watch your spacing: Spacing and line breaks should be created by using paragraph settings, not by hitting return. Using “return” creates many empty space tags in the PDF, that will cause screen reader software to keep reading “Blank, Blank…” if they are not removed.
Use consistent formatting: If styles are used, they should have standard names such as Header1 or H1, body text, etc. and be used consistently. Otherwise, if a style is named something like “documentXX_headerFirstLevel” or “documentXX_bodytext”, the tags use those titles instead of the standard <H1>, <P>, etc. A screen reader can recognize <List>, <P>, <H> tags and read them accordingly, easily navigating the different elements. In particular, if all headers are marked as H1, H2, etc., a user can choose to scan through the document by navigating from header to header.
Text boxes should be avoided as much as possible: Text boxes with heavy frames and shading will typically be perceived as an image in PDF. Some text boxes may even lose their ‘grouping’ in the tagging process so that the text will be hidden behind background shading. Also, “sidebar” text boxes can interrupt the flow of body text. When reading a document visually, you can skip over a sidebar but when you are listening to the document being read by a screen reader, the interruption can be annoying or confusing.
Use text, not images of text: Screen readers cannot read images of text. If your PDF files are scanned images, they need to be processed through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software. This will convert the images of text to actual text and significantly decrease the overall size of the PDF file. For example, using images of text to display tables caused one of our clients to receive an estimate nearly three times the cost it would have been if the text had been OCR’d. Also, the file size correspondingly decreased from 13 Mb to 6 Mb.
Taking the time to follow our tips for appropriate fonts and formatting at the outset will save your organization a good deal of time and money. However, if you don’t want to worry about that level of detail, we’re always here to help you. Our PDF Accessibility Services go beyond basic Section 508 requirements to deliver truly usable and maximally accessible PDF content.
Further information on the technical aspects of PDF and Section 508:
Myth #1: Section 508 doesn’t apply to PDF documents.
FACT: Since June 2001 the law has required all content on government hosted or contractor hosted websites and intranet sites to be 508 compliant. PDF files tend to be produced by someone other than the website developers or administrators. This content often goes overlooked with respect to accessibility – even though PDF files represent a huge volume of the documents that site visitors use every day.
Myth #2: I can tag my PDF file to be 508 compliant by using the Advanced > Accessibility > Add Tags to Document function in Adobe Acrobat Professional.
FACT: This is only the first step to creating a 508 compliant PDF file. No software can achieve full accessibility and usability without human assistance.
Myth #3: A document is fully 508-compliant if it has passed Acrobat’s Accessibility Checker.
FACT: Adobe Acrobat’s Accessibility Checker cannot verify compliance with Section 508 since, among other limitations, it is incapable of verifying correct logical reading order. A combination of automated and manual checks are required to test a document for 508 compliance.
Myth #4: Section 508 compliance means it will read well in JAWS.
FACT: It’s possible to tag a PDF to be compliant with Section 508 and still deliver a negative experience in JAWS or other screen-readers. The current Section 508 regulation permits, for example, a 100 page document to include nothing but paragraph tags, offering no navigational accommodations to AT users.
Myth #5: A PDF is accessible if it can be read using Adobe’s Read Out Loud feature.
FACT: Adobe’s Read Out Loud feature is not considered assistive technology and cannot be used to verify compliance with Section 508 since it cannot represent the document’s logical structure (tags).
Myth #6: Good assistive technology can solve all accessibility problems.
FACT: However advanced, Assistive Technology (or AT) can’t follow the continuation of an article split through multiple pages or guess what is meant by a particular graphic – that information has to be provided within the document structure. AT can only work with the information provided – accessibility is nothing more than providing the information in a format that is easily understood.