What is PDF/UA

What is PDF/UA

The UA in PDF/UA stands for Universal Accessibility which means that the PDF/UA documents you produce are compliant with ISO Standard 14289, the new international standard for Accessible PDFs.  Why is this significant? There are approximately 25 million individuals in the US, 1 million individuals in Canada and over 30 million individuals in the EU that have difficulty reading bills, statements and other customer communications. A document that has been produced in the PDF/UA format contains a structured set of tags, and other features which will guide these customers’ assistive technology to present that document in the most accessible way possible. 

Creating a roadmap 

A PDF/UA document is a PDF file that provides specific optional content in order to make its content as accessible as possible to users that require assistance to “access” the content of these PDFs. Here are some of the major highlights:
  1. Content is tagged. The tags used describe what the content is, for example a heading, and the order of that content within the document – this is the roadmap that a user would follow so that they can be guided from the beginning of the document to its end.
  2. Graphical elements have a description provided so that a user can know what that element is.
  3. Tables have tags for their column headings and row headings so that the user can know what the values within the table represent.
  4. Fonts must be embedded
  5. The language of the document is specified
Like all PDFs, it is a document that will print and be viewed electronically uniformly across all platforms.  It also contains metadata within the tags that may make such PDFs more suitable for archive and retrieval purposes and can be produced in such a way that it also conforms to the PDF/A standard for long term preservation of electronic documents.  

The importance of PDF/UA documents is that they conform to the definitive standard for Accessible PDFs that the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has published based on efforts of a global consortium of technology experts spanning almost a decade.  What they have created is a concise, prescriptive guide to using the tagging and other content storage and organization technology in PDFs to document the hierarchy and structure specific to the contents for each document type.  With this ‘roadmap’ to the contents inside the document when they receive it, your customers’ assistive technology will be able to present the contents to them in a logical order that enables comprehension.

How does PDF/UA help meet regulatory compliance?

There are many regulations that specify what your organization’s obligations are with regard to meeting the needs of people with disabilities. An obvious example is handicapped parking spaces – in the US these are often called ADA parking, where ADA stands for “Americans with Disabilities Act”. Other examples include ramps for wheelchairs, push buttons that automatically open a door, etc. All of these are required by the law.

Some of the relevant legislation that applies to accessibility includes: 
  • US: Americans with Disabilities ACT – Title 3 Public accommodations, 
  • US: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, 
  • US: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 
  • US: Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act – Access for People with Disabilities
  • Canada: AODA (Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) 
  • Canada: Canadian Charter of Human Rights
  • Canada: PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act)
  • UK: Equality Act
  • EU: European Policy on Disability and the Position of People with Disabilities - Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; Article 21
  • Plus many others

The spirit of these laws is that you must provide access to individuals with disabilities in a way that is as similar as possible to those who do not have a disability – and this access extends to the contents of your transactional documents. 

The laws don’t tell you how to comply and CrawfordTech solutions provide options.  When transactional documents are being produced, a filter can be created to divert and convert some of the documents to PDF/UA for subsequent electronic delivery to any desired segment of your customers using our Multi-Channel Customer Communications family of products.  As PDF/UA is an Archival format  , all or selected portions of the transactions can be archived in PDF/UA format assuring their compliance when they are retrieved.  As an option, documents can be converted on an ad hoc basis.  In any of these scenarios, Crawford Technologies can do the conversion with its licenced technology on site or at or DAS service bureau offsite.

Ready to support you

At Crawford Technologies we have spent a lot of time and effort representing the transactional document industry in the formation of this new ISO standard for accessible PDFs. We have been a member of the Canadian and US ISO committees for PDF/UA since 2009.  As the only company representing the transactional documents industry on these committees, we ensured that the requirements for these billions of documents produced annually were properly considered. This standard will make the lives of people who have difficulty accessing documents easier and give them more independence overall - and we are proud to be a part of that. With the recent announcement of our PRO Transform Plus for PDF/UA product, we are the only company in our industry to provide Braille, Large Print, audio, e-Text and PDF/UA capabilities for customer communications. Having the ability to create all of these formats is mandatory in order to provide equal access to information for those with disabilities.

Learn more about our PRO Transform for PDF/UA product for automated conversion of print files to accessible PDF. 

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