Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires Federal agencies to make electronic and information
technology (E&IT) accessible to users with disabilities, including:
Blindness, color blindness, visual impairment
Deafness, hearing impairment
Mobility, strength, dexterity or reach impairment
The law includes standards for software applications, operating systems (OS), web-based
applications and multimedia. These standards apply to files made available in the portable
document format (PDF). PDF is often used as a way to preserve a document’s look and feel across a
wide variety of platforms, as well as to add protection against alterations.
Those involved in the design, distribution and use of PDFs are responsible for ensuring that
documents comply with Section 508, but it may not always be clear how to meet this requirement.
The goal of these tutorials is to enable developers and other personnel involved in PDF creation and
distribution to apply principles of accessibility to ensure materials are Section 508-compliant,
whether the documents are used for official communication, eLearning course content components
or other purposes.
These tutorials reference commercial products likely to be familiar to those taking the course.
References to commercial product functionality and providers are included to illustrate the
application of techniques described, and are not intended as either endorsements or critiques of
specific providers or products.
For PDFs to be 508 compliant, they need to be tagged. Tagged PDFs allow various assistive
technologies (AT) to interact with the content of a document and make sense of it. There is no
automated solution for creating accessible PDFs.
The most effective way to begin the process of making a PDF accessible is to create a document
directly from an authoring application that produces tagged PDFs, such as Microsoft Word, and then
convert it to PDF format.
To complete the process of making a document accessible after conversion, it will usually be
necessary to touch up the tagging and reading order. There are a number of software products
available to help with this process.
VA Section 508
Creating Accessible PDFs with Adobe Acrobat XI