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Chapter 12. Toward More Accessible PDFs > PDF: So Near and Yet So Far

PDF: So Near and Yet So Far

Many people have asked us how accessibility standards apply to documents created in Adobe Acrobat’s Portable Document Format (PDF). If you or your organization publish documents electronically, it’s becoming increasingly likely that these activities are covered by either Section 508 or WCAG 1.0 or by an internal accessibility policy based on one or the other. To put it simply, the Section 508 federal accessibility standards and WCAG 1.0 both require that (1) electronic documents and (2) the software needed to read them must be accessible to people with disabilities. Even if these standards don’t technically apply to you or your organization, we strongly recommend that you spend the few extra minutes necessary to publish accessible PDFs since by doing so you’ll increase the reach of your work.

Until recently, the practice of using PDFs posed insurmountable barriers to computer users with visual impairments who use screen-reading software or refreshable Braille displays to read electronic documents. For these users, Acrobat’s greatest strength—its ability to create documents that preserve the appearance of originals—was also its greatest limitation. Now, however, authors can easily create simple PDF documents that can be read, in many cases, by people using screen readers or refreshable Braille displays.


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