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PDF/UA, WCAG and Other Compliance Standards

The following information on PDF/UA, 508 Compliance, WCAG, and ADA is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

PDF/UA – Universal Accessibility


PDF/UA Compliance formally ISO 14289, is an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for accessible PDF technology. PDF/UA is a compliance level recognized around the world and a very consistent metric to measure against. With support for PDF/UA, reader software will be able to reliably read and reflow text, provide powerful navigation options, transform text appearance, improve search engine functionality, aid in the selection and copying of text, and more.

Who PDF/UA Applies to

Organizations that are looking for a consistent universally accepted compliance standard for pdf accessibility to measure against especially international organizations that may fall under different jurisdictions.

WCAG – Web Content A11y Guidelines


Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG Compliance) is developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world. The goal of of these evergreen guidelines is to provide a single shared standard for web content and document accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. Achieving this compliance level helps ensure your digital content is accessibility to a wide audience.

Who WCAG Applies to

All organizations domestic and international that need to improve their content for accessibility and adherence to laws such as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) or the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act).

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act


508 Compliance originally came about as a revision to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. As technology advancements were made and the use of computers became more mainstream in the workplace and public eye, there was a clear need to expand the law to keep relevant with the new environment. All individuals regardless of disabilities or impairments should have equal and easy access to all resources. Official guidelines were revised and adopted in 2000. A good way to ensure 508 compliance is to have your documents meet PDF/UA standards.

Who 508 Applies to

Federal agencies and those that receive federal assistance. I.e. distributions, grants, loans, payments for services from the federal govt as well as private contractors that works with the federal government or receives compensation or funding.

ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act


The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is broken down into varies sections covering many organizations in a variety of ways to ensure equal access of those with disabilities.

  • Title 1 prohibits private or public employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in the job related matters including, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, etc.
  • Title II parallels title III but applies to publicly funded institutions and includes more stringent standards to give “primary consideration” to the person with a disability’s choice of an auxiliary aid.
  • Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations including digital tools. All businesses and organizations generally open to the public fall into this section and must take steps to provide equal access to services.

Who the ADA Applies to

Given the all encompassing makeup of the law, businesses, schools, healthcare facilities, and other organizations need to meet standards. Typically complying with ADA Standards is the term used but is met by achieving some of the other conformance standards mentioned.

HHS – Health and Human Services


HHS (Health and Human Services) Policy applies to all HHS internal content and communications and external content that is available publicly. It is a derivative of Section 508 and applies to content related to the agency.

Who HHS Applies to

Those working with the Department of Health and Human Services may be required to meet these standards.