Accessibility: Facts vs. Myths

Myth #1:  Section 508 doesn’t apply to PDF documents.

FACT:  Since June 2001 the law has required all content on government hosted or contractor hosted websites and intranet sites to be 508 compliant. PDF files tend to be produced by someone other than the website developers or administrators. This content often goes overlooked with respect to accessibility – even though PDF files represent a huge volume of the documents that site visitors use every day.

Myth #2:  I can tag my PDF file to be 508 compliant by using the Advanced > Accessibility > Add Tags to Document function in Adobe Acrobat Professional.

FACT:  This is only the first step to creating a 508 compliant PDF file. No software can achieve full accessibility and usability without human assistance.

Myth #3:  A document is fully 508-compliant if it has passed Acrobat’s Accessibility Checker.

FACT:  Adobe Acrobat’s Accessibility Checker cannot verify compliance with Section 508 since, among other limitations, it is incapable of verifying correct logical reading order. A combination of automated and manual checks are required to test a document for 508 compliance.

Myth #4:  Section 508 compliance means it will read well in JAWS.

FACT:  It’s possible to tag a PDF to be compliant with Section 508 and still deliver a negative experience in JAWS or other screen-readers. The current Section 508 regulation permits, for example, a 100 page document to include nothing but paragraph tags, offering no navigational accommodations to AT users.

Myth #5:  A PDF is accessible if it can be read using Adobe’s Read Out Loud feature.

FACT:  Adobe’s Read Out Loud feature is not considered assistive technology and cannot be used to verify compliance with Section 508 since it cannot represent the document’s logical structure (tags).

Myth #6:  Good assistive technology can solve all accessibility problems.

FACT:  However advanced, Assistive Technology (or AT) can’t follow the continuation of an article split through multiple pages or guess what is meant by a particular graphic – that information has to be provided within the document structure. AT can only work with the information provided – accessibility is nothing more than providing the information in a format that is easily understood.