Previous ProposalReturn to ScheduleNext Proposal

PDF/UA and Section 508: The Potential for Accessible PDF

Proposal No: 2647

Bios & Handouts


  • Karen McCall, Accessible Document Design Consultant, Karlen Communications

Disability Area:          

Topic Area:                  

Length of Session (in hours): 1-hrFormat: Lecture Expertise Level: BeginnerType of session: Not provided

Summary of Session

With the inclusion of PDF/UA (PDF/Universal Access) in the PRM (Proposed Rule Making) of Section 508, there is potential for optimized accessibility of PDF documents in the academic environment. This session explores what this means and the need to advocate for PDF/UA to provide standardized access to PDF documents.


The PRM and subsequent adoption of the refresh of Section 508 includes the PDF/UA (Universal Access) ISO standard for PDF documents. In the academic environment this provides the potential for standardized access to PDF content. While there are some elements of WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) that can be mapped to PDF/UA, PDF/UA contains specific accessibility elements for PDF documents. The result of the inclusion of PDF/UA in Section 508 is a consistent and optimized experience for people with disabilities encountering PDF documents in their academic career. As the refresh of Section 508 becomes law, there is a need to understand and advocate for the implementation of PDF/UA as the accepted standard for any PDF content in the academic environment. This session provides an overview of what this means for students and academic institutions.


  1. An understanding of PDF/UA specifications
  2. The relationship between PDF/UA, WCAG and Section 508
  3. An understanding of the need to educate policy makers and academic institutions on PDF/UA

Speaker Bio(s)

Karen McCall

Karen McCall, M.Ed. is the owner of Karlen Communications. She has been working in the field of accessible document design for over ten years and has written several books on creating and working with various document formats including Word, PowerPoint and PDF. She is currently working on the fourth edition of her book “Accessible and Usable PDF Documents: Techniques for Document Authors.” Karen is a Canadian delegate to the ISO PDF/UA committee. Her current activities include creating the PdF and the User Experience Survey for people with disabilities using adaptive technology and advocating for a global inclusive quality education standard.


PDF-UA-andSection508 (pdf)