How PDF/UA makes a PDF Document More Accessible than WCAG Alone

Scheduled at 3:30pm in Windsor on Wednesday, November 15 (2017).



  • Bevi Chagnon, President and Founding Partner, PubCom—Publishing Communications

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


How the PDF/UA standard can make a PDF more functional and useful for those using assistive technologies. Demonstrations of PDF/UA features with assistive technologies. Tips for preparing Word source files that generate PDF/UA compliant PDFs when exported with Acrobat.


Although WCAG was designed to be technology neutral, it doesn’t address many of the unique features in PDFs that can improve navigation, readability, flexibility, and accessibility of PDF files. That’s where PDF/UA comes in. Designed to mesh with WCAG, it tailors WCAG’s core concepts to the PDF file format and also takes advantage of PDF features that aren’t available in HTML. It creates a better, more accessible PDF in a shorter amount of time. Because the PDF code structure doesn’t resemble HTML at all, users find it difficult to discern the WCAG tea leaves and apply them to PDFs. So rather than try to push a square peg into a round hole, content creators can simplify their work by using PDF/UA for their PDF documents, as well as for their source MS Word and PowerPoint files. The end result: better, more accessible PDFs that take less time to create, test, and remediate.


  1. PDF/UA hones the WCAG standards to only those needed for accessible PDF files.
  2. Session reviews how the PDF/UA and WCAG standards mesh.
  3. Includes tips for preparing Word source files that export to PDF/UA compliant PDFs. Cheat sheet included.

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Mobility, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Alternate Format, Assistive Technology, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Bevi Chagnon

Bevi Chagnon is half geek, half designer, and 100% teacher. She has several decades of experience in publishing and academia, as well as being an Adobe expert for InDesign and Acrobat, focusing on accessibility for documents.

She also is a US delegate to the ISO committees for PDF standards, including PDF/UA (universal access).

Her firm,, works with government, commercial, and STEM publishers to improve their overall publishing workflow for cross-media publishing and to build accessible features into all their publications and media. She is the senior trainer for her firm which teaches publishing technologies and accessibility, and is the author of the firm’s acclaimed series of step-by-step books for creating accessible publications and digital media.

During her career, Chagnon has been an award-winning commercial magazine art director; adjunct faculty member at several colleges for graphic design, digital media, and computer technologies; managing editor; webmaster and curator; director of publications and outreach; and software beta tester/advisor to many technology companies.