PDF Accessibility becomes ISO standard

Andrew Arch - AGIMO
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In January this year, I blogged about the Release of WCAG 2.0 Techniques for PDF. The publishing of these PDF techniques by the W3C gave us formal guidance for the creation of highly accessible PDF documents. In a parallel move in the standards world, ISO have recently released ISO 14289-1:2012 Document management applications - Electronic document file format enhancement for accessibility (PDF/UA). 

The PDF/UA standard is aimed at software developers – both those creating PDF generating tools and those creating PDF reading tools, including assistive technology. With PDF/UA-conforming files, readers and assistive technology, all users should have equal access to information (to the furthest extent that the PDF format itself can provide). So, while PDF/UA may not tell those of us creating PDF documents how to create an accessible PDF (we’ve got WCAG 2.0 and its techniques for that), it should lead to better tools for us to use while creating PDFs and to better PDF readers for those accessing our documents. Duff Johnson, one of the key people behind PDF/UA, will be in Australia in October and is giving a seminar at the National Library in Canberra on 2 October to talk about PDF accessibility and PDF/UA in particular. This seminar is open to anyone interested in PDF accessibility. As spaces are limited, we are considering a second seminar on 12 October. Registration is open for 2 October – if you are interested in the second seminar, please email WCAG2@finance.gov.au and we will inform you if we proceed. UPDATE: A second shorter seminar is now scheduled for the morning of 12 October in the theatrette in the John Gorton Building, Parkes. Registration is open for 12 October via CommonLook. Thanks to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities for providing the venue. For those interested in the relationship between PDF/UA and the WCAG 2.0 techniques, you might like to read:

Andrew Arch, AGIMO


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Comments (3)

Hi Andrew

This is excellent stuff, I was hoping that the Web Guide can be updated soon to reflect AGIMO's stance on PDF's now that the sufficient techniques have been out for a while?


Hi Adam,

We are working on Web Guide updates to incorporate the PDF Techniques. However, at present the PDF Techniques are just best practice as we are not sure if the level of "accessibility support" is high enough, though PDF/UA should assist. We also hope that PDF/UA will drive better PDF authoring tools.

AHRC have said they will review the position in 2013 and we will be collaborating with them on this. In the meantime, the position remains that (at least) two formats are required and they should include accessibility features.

Hi Andrew,

I was wondering if there has been any progress on updating the Web guide to include the PDF techniques? Also, what is AGIMO's position with regard to to PDF's being viewed as accessible. If a PDF incorporates the relevant WCAG 2.0 PDF techniques is it considered accessible. The PDf techniques have been out for over a year now and authoring tools have progressed.

Last updated: 05 August 2016