Technical accessibility assurance of PDF documents

An accessible document is as accessible as an accessible html page, but small errors in creation of PDF documents can lead to major problems for the user. Therefore, it is important that documents are created correctly with the right tools available to ensure accessibility. The Web Accessibility Directive sets requirements for accessibility in documents. This often means PDF documents.

In order to really support you when it comes to documents, we usually need to look at the whole eco system, since the origin of the documents usually affects what actions should be taken. Some common examples:

  • Internal staff creates PDFs from Word or InDesign
  • External marketing agencies or other suppliers deliver brochures and the like in PDF format
  • Internal systems generate PDF documents, such as forms

And further on in detail:

  • For PDF documents that the organisation's staff produce is based on templates in Word / InDesign or similar, it is probably a good idea to ensure that the templates are as good as possible, making it easier and faster for the person who creates the PDF document.
  • For PDF documents that are produced quite seldom, training and / or manuals are required for the staff who create the documents.
  • In larger organisations where many individuals create PDF documents, we also recommend a quality assurance system so that a central editorial office or similar learns how to review the PDF documents prior to publication.
  • If there are external agencies who produce the documents, you need to use clear requirements and test that they are met (you can for example test each new type of delivery, at each supplier change or by sampling)
  • If PDF documents are automatically generated from systems, the supplier and the capability of the system needs to be analysed to see what actions could be taken. This could for example be adding elements or modifying the process. The result of the analysis can be a recommendation to purchase a new system, if the existing one lack the prerequisites for generating accessible documents

What does the law say?

Documents published after September 23, 2018 are subject to the Web Accessibility Directive and must comply with the law's requirements either 2019 or 2020, depending on the site grace period of the website where the document is going to be published on. New websites should meet the requirements by September 23, 2019, while sites that existed before the law came into force must meet the requirements by 2020.

Documents published before September 23, 2018 are exempted from the Web Accessibility Directive, but there is an exception to the exception: documents required for essential administrative tasks must be accessible. Therefore, you need to ensure that, for example, instructions for using a service or the like are not hidden in an unaccessible PDF.

How will that come true?

Our experience is that it is important to build up the internal competence of the organisation in order to be as independent as possible when it comes to handling of documents.

Before quality control processes and testing skills are in place, it may be a good idea to get external help with those parts. When you need an assessment at a procurement or similar, it can be important to have an independent part to ensure that everything is correct.

However, we do believe that our customers to a great extent must be able to handle their documents themselves, otherwise it will be unreasonably expensive to ensure accessibility.

No matter of your needs, Funka can make sure your PDF documents meet the requirements of the Web Accessibility Directive. Please contact us for any questions or a quotation.

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