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PDF/UA (PDF/Universal Accessibility) is the informal name for ISO 14289, the International Standard for accessible PDF technology. A technical specification intended for developers implementing PDF writing and processing software, PDF/UA provides definitive terms and requirements for accessibility in PDF documents and applications. For those equipped with appropriate software, conformance with PDF/UA ensures accessibility for people with disabilities who use assistive technology such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, joysticks and other technologies to navigate and read electronic content.
PDF/UA is not a separate file-format but simply a way to use PDF. In general PDF/UA requires Tagged PDF (ISO 32000-1, 14.8), but adds a variety of qualitative requirements, especially regarding semantic correctness of the tags employed.
- In section 7, PDF/UA specifies requirements for conforming PDF files.
- In section 8 PDF/UA specifies requirements for conforming PDF readers.
- In section 9 PDF/UA specifies requirements for conforming assistive technology.
The formal name of PDF/UA is "ISO 14289-1 Document management applications -- Electronic document file format enhancement for accessibility -- Part 1: Use of ISO 32000-1 (PDF/UA-1).
Audience & Benefits
While PDF/UA is written for software developers, PDF/UA support is of interest to persons with disabilities who require or benefit from assistive technology when reading electronic content. With PDF/UA conforming files, readers and assistive technology, users are guaranteed - so far as the PDF format itself can provide - equal access to information.
The benefits of PDF/UA 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.
The PDF/UA project began in 2004 as an AIIM Standards Committee. The PDF/UA wiki, operated by AIIM, contains agendas, meeting-minutes and public-access documents pertaining to the development of PDF/UA.
Chaired since 2005 by President of Document Solutions, Inc. Duff Johnson, in 2009 AIIM's PDF/UA Committee became the U.S. Committee for ISO/AWI (Accepted Work Item) 14289 with Cherie Ekholm of Microsoft as International Project Leader.
The US Committee continued as the main driver of the standard's development through the WD, CD, DIS and FDIS phases of ISO standards development, with review, comment and balloting by the member bodies of ISO TC 171.
ISO 14289-1:2012 (PDF/UA) was published in July, 2012. The document is available directly from the ISO's webstore.
In October 2012 the US Library of Congress added PDF/UA to their list of archivable file formats. The LoC's guidance states that PDF/UA is "...a preferred format for page-oriented content by the Library of Congress."
Adobe Systems, the largest implementer of interactive PDF software, has announced its intention to support PDF/UA.
Ongoing ISO and AIIM Committee Activities
In May, 2012 the International Committee formally opened work on ISO 14289-2, with an "NWI" (New Work Item) to be based on ISO 32000-2.
The US Committee has published the following documents in support of PDF/UA:
- Technical Implementation Guide: Understanding ISO 14289-1 (PDF/UA-1)
- Mapping PDF/UA to WCAG 2.0
The Committee is currently working on a document entitled. "PDF/UA-1 Technical Implementation Guide: Understanding ISO 32000-1 (PDF 1.7)." Participation by subject matter experts, software developers and other interested parties is invited and encouraged.
Committee Organization & Leadership
- Project Leader, International Committee: Cherie Ekholm, Microsoft
- U.S. Chair & Spokesperson: Duff Johnson, Independent Consultant
- TC 171 SC 2 WG 9 Secretary: Betsy Fanning, AIIM
- Convener, International Committee: Dennis Newman, PFS Corporation
PDF Association Activities
The PDF Association helps promote PDF/UA in a variety of ways.
- In 2012 the PDF Association announced plans to help fund NVDA as the world's first PDF/UA conforming screen reader.
- In August 2013 the PDF Association's PDF/UA Competence Center published the Matterhorn Protocol, a set of 31 checkpoints and 136 failure conditions to help software developers make it easier for document authors to create fully accessible PDF files and forms.
Implementers announcing their intention to support PDF/UA
- Crawford Technologies Inc.
- Access for All
- Adobe Systems
- callas software, GmbH
- NetCentric Technologies
- NV Access, creators of NonVisual Desktop Access
- PDFlib GmbH
- XY Media, creators of PAC, the PDF Accessibility Checker
- ISO's webstore page for ISO 14289-1:2012
- ANSI's webstore page for ISO 14289-1:2012
- AIIM's PDF/UA page
- The PDF Association's PDF/UA Competence Center
- List of software supporting PDF/UA
- Accessible PDF: A Glossary of Terms
- Video recordings from the PDF/UA sessions at the PDF Association Technical Conference 2012 in Basel, Switzerland
-  ISO 14289 available from ISO.org
- PDF/UA on the Library of Congress's Digital Preservation website, checked 2013-10
- Adobe Systems' Statement on WCAG 2.0 and PDF/UA
- PDF/UA-1 AIIM's Technical Implementation Guide to PDF/UA
- Mapping PDF/UA to WCAG 2.0
- NVDA goes PDF/UA! The PDF Association Steps Up to Fund Development of the World's First PDF/UA Conforming Screen Reader
- PDF Association's Matterhorn Protocol, checked 2013-10