PAC 3 released by Access for All

Access for All released PAC 3, the latest version of the free PDF Accessibility Checker, in December 2017. Access for All reports the following improvements:

  • Overview report can be exported as a barrier-free PDF.
  • Optimized accessibility of the user interface.
  • PAC is now available in English and German. More specifically, the language automatically depends on the language set in the operating system of your computer. If this is neither German nor English, PAC will be executed in the English version.
  • New “Artifacts” tab in the Logical Structure dialog box for quick viewing and review of all decorative items.
  • Additional attributes on the Properties tab in the Logical Structure dialog such as PrintField attributes, IsMap attribute, and ListNumbering attribute.
  • Another checkpoint in the category Logical structure”> “Structure elements”> Tables: Assignment of header cells”.

PAC 3 Screen Shot (click for full size image)

After using PAC 3 in parallel with PAC 2 for a few weeks, as far as I have been able to tell the test functionality is identical – with the exception of the new check for assignment of header cells. PAC 3 has an improved user interface, in my opinion, and unlike PAC 2 is itself fully accessible to assistive technology users.

The ability to produce a summary test report in accessible PDF format is a very welcome new feature. The Screen Reader Preview seems slightly improved, with images displayed smaller than in PAC 2. PAC 3 also seems more stable than PAC 2 – I tested a couple of files that crashed PAC 2 but not PAC 3. I have only detected one minor glitch in PAC 3 – the metrics (e.g. number of failed Content checkpoints) in the summary report are exactly double those in PAC 2 and in the PAC 3 detailed report.

In conclusion, PAC 3 is a welcome addition to my PDF accessibility toolbox. PAC 3 – and also the older PAC 1.3 and PAC 2 – can be downloaded from Access for All (

US Access Board approves the 508 Refresh

In great news for accessibility, on September 14 the US Access Board announced their long-awaited approval of the 508 Refresh.

The new information and communications technology (ICT) accessibility standard will replace the badly outdated existing 508, which maps to WCAG 1.0 guidelines written in the late 1990s. The much more rigorous new standard requires conformance with WCAG 2.0, or ISO 14289 (PDF/UA) when applicable.

The final rule still requires approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before being published in the Federal Register. OMB approval is considered a formality, but is likely to delay enactment of the new 508 by a few more weeks.

The PDF/UA Reference Suite is Here!

On June 16 the PDF Association’s PDF/UA Competence Center, now known as the PDF/UA Technical Working Group published the PDF/UA Reference Suite:

“To serve as a reference for software developers and practitioners interested in best-practices for creating tagged and accessible PDF files, the PDF Association’s PDF/UA Competence Center has posted a set of ten PDF documents conforming to PDF/UA-1.”

The ten documents within the PDF/UA Reference Suite demonstrate correct tagging in a number of sophisticated cases, including:

  • Content spanning multiple pages
  • Complex table structures
  • Multiple languages within a single document
  • Interactive forms and JavaScript
  • Links targeting structure elements

The PDF/UA Reference Suite is an excellent resource for everyone who is interested in achieving document compliance with ISO 14289 (PDF/UA), the way to maximize PDF accessibility for today’s users and those of the future.

Climbing the Matterhorn Protocol

The PDF Association‘s PDF/UA Competence Center, now known as the PDF/UA Technical Working Group recently published Climbing the Matterhorn: An introduction to the definitive algorithm for PDF/UA conformance

“This article is directed primarily at implementers, quality assurance (QA) and technical product managers interested in supporting accessibility in PDF. It describes the purpose and function of the Matterhorn Protocol, and explains how developers may use this document to address PDF/UA conformance in a systematic and reliable manner.”

The PDF/UA Competence Center focuses on developing a specification for accessible PDF, in particular ensuring conforming PDF files are accessible and usable to all, including those who use assistive technology.

Release of PAC2 makes PDF/UA compliance practical

On August 15, 2013, the Swiss foundation Zugang für Alle (Access for All) released the freeware program PAC2 (PDF Accessibility Checker version 2), the first – and for the time being only – automated validation tool to check PDF documents for accessibility in accordance with the Matterhorn Protocol.

With the availability of PAC2 along with the manual checks specified by the Matterhorn Protocol, it is now practical to test and remediate PDFs for PDF/UA compliance in addition to WCAG 2.0. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise!

The Matterhorn Protocol establishes formal PDF/UA validation criteria

On August 4, 2013, the PDF Association issued the Matterhorn Protocol, establishing formal validation criteria for conformance with PDF/UA. The Matterhorn Protocol lists all the possible ways to fail the precise technical specifications provided in ISO standard 14289 (PDF Universal Accessibility):

  • 136 failure conditions
  • 89 can be determined by automated testing alone
  • Manual inspection and knowledgeable human judgment are essential for evaluating the remaining 47 conditions

The Matterhorn Protocol promotes adoption of PDF/UA by software developers and document remediators, bringing the substantial benefits of PDF/UA closer to reality.

PDF/UA raises the bar for high quality PDF accessibility

July 11, 2013: After eight years of effort, the International Organization for Standardization published ISO standard 14289-1, known as PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility). PDF/UA represents the definitive, worldwide standard for PDF accessibility.

PDF/UA offers the promise of empowering all users, including those who rely on assistive technology, to enjoy a reliable, high-quality reading experience.

The benefits of PDF/UA will extend beyond people with disabilities. With support for PDF/UA, reader software will be able to reliably reflow text onto small screens, provide powerful navigation options, transform text appearance, improve search engine functionality, aid in the selection and copying of text, and more.