There are 11 benefits of this global accessibility standard for PDF documents.

mountain path from bottom to top in 5 steps: PDF, PDF/UA, WCAG, Usability, and accessibility.

Global Standard for PDF Accessibility

ISO Standard 14289: PDF for Universal Access - PDF/UA

  • Defines based on PDF features and functions what requirements an accessible PDF has to fulfill in order to be technically accessible
  • In 2012, the first version of PDF/UA was approved and published by ISO
  • Current version: ISO 14289-1:2014-12
  • The free PDF/UA evaluation tool available is PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC)

Benefits of PDF/UA

Clear technical requirements

Clearly defined and well-documented requirements that serve as orientation for developers, implementers, service providers and procurers.

Guaranteed compatibility

Relevant software, hardware and digital documents can work together as effectively as possible – provided they comply with the standard.

Basis for defined machine checks

108 machine verified success criteria defined in the so-called Matterhorn Protocol are a good basis for reliable validation of accessible PDF documents.

Best possible user experience

PDF/UA compliant documents deliver the best possible user experience of PDFs for people with disabilities and users of mobile devices.

Complementary to WCAG

Missing link between PDF specification and the global requirements for accessible digital content as described in WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) of W3C.

Fully addresses the PDF format

Bringing the principles of WCAG into the world of PDF and setting PDF-specific rules.

Content prepared for mobile view and re-use

Future-proof presentation of content with rich semantics and machine-readability and advanced adaptability options, such as mobile view.

Product and company independent

As a global and independent product standard, PDF/UA guarantees comparable checking results and reliable requirements on which end-users should focus when choosing software.

Globally accepted and implemented

Initially published in 2012, PDF/UA is now an accepted and widely used part of the digital accessibility and PDF ecosystem and referenced in legislation.

Focus on technical accessibility

WCAG already covers all content and layout-related aspects of digital accessibility. PDF/UA, therefore, focuses on the technical aspects.

Equal access to content for everyone

Every document is usable, readable and accessible for all users – no matter what disability they may have.

PDF/UA is an important step forward for PDF accessibility. Only an international standard will make it possible for authoring software, validation tools, browsers and assistive technology such as screen readers to accept the required technical specifications. PDF/UA creates a clear set of requirements which both software developers and PDF creators can use. And finally, this international standard gives a reference for legislators around the world.
Markus RieschMarkus Riesch, Head of E-Accessibility Swiss Federal State and former managing director of the Swiss Foundation Access for All

Understanding PDF Accessibility Requirements

Between Validity and Compliancy

PDF accessibility requirements can be seen as a four-layer pyramid. Every layer builds on the previous layers:

  • Level 1: PDF
  • Level 2: PDF/UA
  • Level 3: WCAG
  • Level 4: Usability
pyramid Illustration ascending from inaccessible to fully accessible in 4 steps: PDF, PDF/UA, WCAG, and usability.