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New Section 508 rules require PDF/UA for PDF 1.7 creators

Section 508 / 255 refresh logo

The US Access Board has issued new rules updating its “Section 508” accessibility requirements. PDF/UA-1 support is required for PDF creation software producing PDF 1.7 files.


Author: Duff Johnson
Date: January 31, 2017

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New Section 508 rules require PDF/UA for PDF 1.7 creators

Section 508 and 255 refresh logoOn January 17 the US Access Board, the body charged with developing US government-wide information and communications technology (ICT) policies with respect to accessibility, issued its final ruling updating these so-called “Section 508” accessibility requirements.

In general, the Access Board chose to adopt WCAG 2.0 as its standard for accessible web pages. and elected as well to utilize WCAG 2.0 as its standard for non-web ICT.

The Access Board determined that because PDF/UA does not cover scripting and video content in a manner equivalent to WCAG 2.0’s treatment of these subjects, PDF/UA could not serve as an “alternate conformance standard for PDF”. Nonetheless, the Board determined that “PDF/UA-1 remains an appropriate standard for authoring tools”, and thus included a provision “expressly specifying that authoring tools capable of exporting PDF files must conform to PDF 1.7 (the current standard for PDF, also referred to as ISO 32000-1) and be capable of exporting PDF files that conform to PDF/UA-1 (final 504.2.2).”

As compared to the original Section 508 rules promulgated in 2001, however, the new rules do contain requirements specific to PDF technology. The exact text of the new Section 508 rules as they pertain to PDF are as follows:

504.1 General. Where an application is an authoring tool, the application shall conform to 504 to the extent that information required for accessibility is supported by the destination format.

[…]

504.2.2 PDF Export. Authoring tools capable of exporting PDF files that conform to ISO 32000-1:2008 (PDF 1.7) shall also be capable of exporting PDF files that conform to ANSI/AIIM/ISO 14289-1:2016 (PDF/UA-1) (incorporated by reference, see 702.3.1).

Source: https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-ict-refresh/final-rule