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NewFormat AB

PDF standards make the world work

NewFormat make PDF information permanently
accessible, searchable, readable and reusable
for the future and for as many people as possible.

We create accessible PDF in compliance with the ISO Standard PDF/UA.

Our solutions are based on
recognized ISO Standards based on PDF technology
and tested, reliable, and highly accessible software solutions from
the PDF Association vendor community.

Accessibility - Icon

Accessible PDF

Here you will find everything you need to know to successfully
create Accessible PDF according to ISO Standard PDF/UA!

For a PDF to be considered digitally accessible
it shall be compliant with the accessibility standard ISO PDF/UA-1
and applicable parts of the WCAG 2.1 AA recommendations!

Take your time and read everything below in peace and quiet
at your own pace and then contact NewFormat for advice on
the best way forward for your particular business to
create accessible PDF documents.

We are happy to help you create accessible PDF on your own.

Should you instead prefer,
we can deliver accessible PDF as a service to your business;
from single documents to many thousands of accessible PDFs,
from simple documents to complex annual reports/publications/magazines.

We also provide PDF accessibility solutions for B2B/B2C business environments
where high-volumes of accessible PDF documents
(like invoices, bills, statements, travel and hotel bookings,...)
have to be generated by internal business systems.

Portable Document Format - PDF

PDF - Icon

    Digital information that is worth saving and shared with others
    is often saved as a digital document in the form of
    Portable Document Format, better known as PDF.

    Every year trillions of digital PDF documents are created around the world.

    PDF is the format of choice for every kind of document and
    is used in all industries, government and by all citizens.
    PDF is trusted by everyone to reliably communicate accurate information.

    PDF is the best format for paginated content requiring
    a precise and repeatable appearance.

    In fact, and according to PDF Association:
    PDF is the 3rd most popular file format on the web (after HTML and XHTML),
    making it far more popular than DOCX, XLSX, PPTX, and EPUB, and
    even far more popular than image files like JPEG, PNG, and GIF.

    In the Swedish public sector alone, many millions of digital PDF documents
    are created every year; whereof a large portion of these documents are
    published on government websites for access by the general public.

    Large amounts of important and valuable information are
    saved in these digital PDF documents.

    But in too many cases, these PDF documents are unfortunately not
    designed and created in such a way that all citizens are even given
    the opportunity to access the information to be able to act on it.

    To most end users, PDF is simply a reliable, printable page.
    Informed users know that PDF performs as a critical workflow enabler,
    a multipurpose content vehicle and a powerful and globally supported
    format for long-term archiving.

    PDF technology goes far beyond the format:
    PDF enables digital document solutions on every continent,
    in every language, in every business and public sectors worldwide.

    From scanned pages to input for print and publishing processes,
    ISO-standardized PDF technology is indispensable across a
    vast range of document applications.

    However, most PDF documents created are never printed on paper,
    but saved as digital files in computer systems and networks.
    As digital documents they are shared, displayed and read on
    computer screens and on mobile devices, and they can even be
    reproduced by assistive technology devices for those who need.

    Equal access for everyone to important PDF-based
    digital information and services requires that also this
    type of digital information resources are designed
    to be digitally accessible for everyone!

    Can a PDF be Accessible for Everyone?

    Can PDF be accessible? Yes, of course!

    File type techniques like PDF and HTML are not by default accessible.

    A PDF can be made an Accessible PDF,
    just like an HTML-based web page can be made accessible.

    The reality is that accessibility is not dependent on the file type,
    but the work done to make it accessible.

    Neither PDF documents nor HTML pages become accessible
    because of their ability to become accessible.
    They become accessible because of the trained work put into it.

    An HTML page without that work is inaccessible regardless of its capability.
    Of course so is PDF.

    Achieving accessible PDF or accessible HTML
    typically requires special tools and skills;
    see more about it below.

Accessible PDF

PDF/UA - Icon

    All individual citizens have the right to access all
    types of government information.

    Barriers that prevent interaction with or access to
    documents or websites can be considered as discrimination.

    Sweden as a nation is bound by international and Swedish
    regulations to ensure accessibility for everyone:

    • the UN Declaration on Human Rights,

    • the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

    • the Swedish Anti-Discrimination Act,

    • the Swedish Public Procurement Act,

    • the Work Environment Act,

    • the Swedish Language Act,

    • the EU Web Accessibility Directive implemented as
      the Swedish Act on Access to Digital Public Services
      (SFS 2018:1937 & SFS 2018:1938), and

    • Upcoming: The European Accessibility Act

    Declarations, conventions, directives and acts that are technology-neutral.

    Swedish authorities are thus since long bound to comply with
    and apply these regulations in their daily operations.

    Authorities are also in the role of employer responsible for that
    employee work material is accessible and well functioning.

    What is Accessible PDF?

    A digital or electronic media is accessible when it is easily opened,
    read, understood and can be navigated by everyone,
    with or without disabilities.

    The aim of a barrier-free PDF document is to ensure that all users,
    regardless of their personal restrictions, have equal access to
    the content in the PDF-document without the help of others.

    Barrier-free access and accessible PDF content is all about
    universal design; i.e. accessibility through design.
    Good design for digital accessibility for everyone ensures
    no subsequent adjustment is required for the needs of
    a specific target group of individuals.

    Note! Accessible PDF (PDF/UA) is not about visual appearance or
    editorial design, but about applying digital accessibility standards
    to define an internal technical description of the contents of
    the PDF document so that accessibility devices can accurately
    reproduce the content.

    Digital Accessibility Standards.
    Compliance with WCAG is required for
    all content on accessible websites.

    For PDF documents,
    compliance with the ISO Standard PDF/UA is also required.

    Websites are technically built with HTML and CSS code supplemented
    with digital information content of mainly these media components:

    • text

    • pictures

    • sound

    • video

    • documents and presentation slides, and

    • graphic illustrations

    Regardless of technology used
    (web/HTML, text, .png, .jpeg, mp4, PDF, .docx, .key,...)
    for a digital web-based service all its media types must be published
    in a form so that they are accessible for everyone in the community.

    Website owners often refer to:
    "We focus on making the HTML-based content accessible".

    But according to the EU Web Accessibility Directive,
    that is no longer a valid excuse.

    The EU directive, which is technology-neutral, means that all types of
    digitally published information (ie all media types) must be published
    in a form that makes it accessible for everyone.

    To ensure unrestricted access to PDF-based information in
    every respect, PDF files must meet certain requirements.

    Accessibility standards ensure that even PDF documents
    work well with screen readers and other assistive technology.

    For a PDF to be considered digitally accessible it shall be
    compliant with the accessibility standard ISO PDF/UA-1 and
    applicable parts of the WCAG 2.1 AA recommendations,
    (and in the USA, ADA and Section 508).

    For files based on PDF-technology,
    universal accessibility requirements are since 2012 defined by:

    Successful e-government presupposes that all
    digital government information is accessible for all citizens
    - the success is dependent on "Accessible PDF":

    WCAG and PDF/UA complement each other.

    The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
    are the internationally recognized guidelines for accessible web.
    Many national or supranational regulations (eg at EU level)
    on the accessibility of web sites refer to WCAG.

    The WCAG recommendations emphesize good visual and editorial web design.
    All information on a website must be accessible for everyone based on
    four main principles which state that content must be "POUR":

    • Perceivable,

    • Operable,

    • Understandable, and

    • Robust

    PDF/UA is a required complement, not an alternative, to WCAG.

    PDF/UA is consistent with WCAG, but far more technically specific,
    and provides a clear-cut means of affirming that a given
    PDF document meets high standards for accessibility.

    Compliance with PDF/UA is important for digital accessibility for everyone.
    PDF/UA defines the technical requirements that must be considered
    when a PDF document must be universally accessible for everyone;
    with or without disabilities.

    The standard specifies HOW relevant PDF content
    (such as semantic content, text content, images,
    form fields, comments, bookmarks, and metadata)
    may be used in PDF/UA-compliant documents.

    Properly tagged PDFs are essential and a prerequisite
    for accessibility so that screen reader devices for
    visually impaired people or reading software for
    users with learning disabilities can provide
    rich access to a PDF’s content.

    PDF tags are also an effective method to improve
    Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

    Even automated text extraction from PDF documents
    is easier with well-tagged documents.

    The relation and dependency between PDF, PDF/UA and WCAG
    is a follows, with increasing degree of digital accessibility,
    level 1, to level 2, to level 3:

    • Level 3: WCAG

    • Level 2: PDF/UA

    • Level 1: PDF

    PDF documents complying with PDF/UA
    are universally accessible for everyone.

    In order to create a document that is as accessible as possible to everyone,
    one needs to focus on all potential user groups and their needs.

    One should never succumb to the temptation to optimize a
    PDF document for a specific user group.
    The consequence of this could be that such a document is then
    very readily consumable for this one group of users,
    but may be more disadvantageous than beneficial for others.


    How well a PDF document is "accessible for everyone"
    depends on how the document is created.

    The level of accessibility according to current accessibility standards
    is determined by both the execution of the editorial content of
    the document AND of its internal technical structure.
    Often, this insight is neglected by many, which can lead to significant
    problems when it comes to fixing inaccessible documents.

    Electronic documents provided for download on a web site are
    also covered by WCAG per se and must meet the applicable
    success criteria to comply with WCAG (Level A, AA or AAA).

    It is definitely best to first conduct an editorial accessibility check of
    the content according to the WCAG recommendations.

    The editorial content of the PDF document must be WCAG compliant
    before it is tested with respect to PDF/UA, the technical requirements
    for "accessible PDF".

    But, WCAG's recommendations alone are not enough
    to make a universally accessible PDF.

    Note! For the technical implementation of accessible PDF,
    compliance with the ISO Standard PDF/UA is a requirement;
    a PDF file can be compliant both with WCAG and PDF/UA.

    Successful barrier-free access to content within PDF documents
    depends not just on PDF/UA compliant documents, but also on
    requirements for PDF/UA compliant programs and assistive technology:

    • a PDF/UA compliant document (according to standards and guidelines),

    • a PDF/UA compliant display or processing program,

    • a PDF/UA compliant assistive technology.

    Please be aware,

    never adapt PDF documents to a specific assistive technology or software.
    Instead, always adapt PDF documents to the digital accessibility standard!

    It is not the assistive technologies, nor popular software tools such as
    MS Office, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Acrobat, Apple Keynote,..., etc,
    that define what is an accessible PDF.

    A PDF document is defined as "accessible PDF" only when it
    meets the ISO Standard PDF/UA with guidelines!

    All you have to do is to create ONE version of a
    PDF/UA compliant document, and the manufacturers of
    the relevant programs and assistive technologies
    are responsible for complying with the regulations.

    It is also not necessary to check the end result for correctness
    using such technologies or techniques.

    (See also our solutions and services for Accessible Web - W3C/WCAG)

Who shall use PDF/UA for Accessible PDF, and when?

PDF/UA - Icon

    Ensuring that digital documents are accessible for everyone is not just a good idea:
    it is in fact completely in accordance with current law.

    The law aims to counteract discrimination.
    Public authorities have a special responsibility to comply with the law.
    The option to only opt out of publishing digitally accessible documents does not exist!

    PDF/UA is relevant and directly applicable for all entities,
    in public sector and elsewhere, concerned with conformance
    to regulations requiring access for everyone to
    documents based on PDF technology

    Since 2009 it is mandatory (according to the National Archives' regulations)
    for Swedish authorities to use the standard PDF/A-1 for electronic archiving
    of office documents and other digital documents.

    PDF/UA is a complementary, process-based standard
    which is applicable to Swedish authorities and entities,
    to make public digital documents universally accessible for everyone.

    A PDF document can simultaneously meet several standards,
    for example, both PDF/A-2a and PDF/UA for long-term archiving of
    an accessible digital PDF document.

    Legal requirements for accessibility to digital information for
    everyone in the society (e.g. the EU Web Accessibility Directive,
    the Swedish Act on Access to Digital Public Services,
    the Swedish Discrimination Act, the German BGG, BITV and mandate 376)
    ensures that all users, regardless of functional ability, have equal access
    to information and functionality on the web and in PDF documents.

    Accessible PDF files are fundamental for barrier-free access to
    digital information from eGovernments/public administrations
    and enterprises serving the public sector.

    Also entities serving the public sector, like media service providers,
    advertising/communication agencies, banks, finance and insurance entities,
    organisations and institutions as well as lecturers at colleges and universities
    that are required to provide documents/course materials
    in the form of accessible documents.

    Documents on websites, especially PDF files, can be a significant
    risk of liability even if the site's HTML content itself is fixed.
    Avoid litigation risks by ensuring that all PDF documents on the
    web are accessible for everyone; with or without disabilities.

    (The regulations are much stricter internationally,
    for example in the USA and in Ontario/Canada, where also websites
    in the private sector, incl. schools / universities, are included,
    with the result that several businesses and universities have been
    sentenced to pay large sums in damages to persons who consider
    themselves to be discriminated due to inaccessible websites and
    inaccessible documents published there.

    Something that does not apply in Sweden yet, but there are many
    indications that similar extended regulations will also be introduced
    in EU and in Sweden in the future.)

    It's critical to publish documents that are digitally accessible for everyone,
    also for individuals with vision and hearing impairments, mobility challenges,
    cognitive, and other disabilities.

    Apply PDF/UA - thus you make a difference to your audience
    by publishing PDF documents that are accessible for everyone!


    For all forms of internal/external ordering of PDF-based documents
    the following shall be included as firm requirement:

"The PDF documents SHALL be delivered as accessible PDF
according to the ISO Standard 14289 (PDF/UA)"

    Please be aware,

    to quickly make accessible PDF by pressing a few buttons
    in a program does not usually lead to a successful final result.

    You need a certain amount of basic knowledge in
    digital accessibility standards.
    The extent of this knowledge depends largely on
    the nature of your documents and content.

    Are you confident that your business internally has the skills and
    the right tools to create PDF documents that are guaranteed
    to meet the PDF/UA Standard?

    If not,
    hire NewFormat to provide Accessible PDF as a Service.
    Accessible PDF as a Service is for anyone who does not have
    the opportunity to create accessible PDF files on their own,
    but who nevertheless want PDF documents to comply with
    accessibility regulations and standards.


Common ways to create of accessible PDF documents

PDF/UA - Icon

    Common methods for the creation of accessible PDF documents:

    • The direct method based on source format:
      If you want to create accessible PDF documents with authoring
      software like Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Acrobat,
      or if you want to convert a structured format like
      HTML or XML into PDF, you usually click
      the magic “Create PDF” button.

      If the conversion software does a good job,
      the necessary internal tag tree is created automatically
      and in a high quality.

    • The indirect method based on an existing PDF file:
      If the source file is not available or if the authoring software
      doesn’t do a good conversion job, you can take the PDF without tags,
      generally a web-PDF, and rework it.

      During this process you tag every relevant content element and
      add some additional accessibility features like alt text to figures.
      For doing this you need a software tool, a PDF editor,
      that is capable to create and edit PDF tags.

    But do not expect too much.
    Only very few software programs offer inbuilt support
    to create high-quality PDF/UA compliant documents
    out of the box or at least with less effort.

PDF/UA - Icon

Recommended Reading on PDF/UA
The ISO Standard for Accessible PDF Documents and Forms

PDF/UA in a Nutshell - Front Cover - Picture     PDF/UA Flyer Front Cover - Picture

(For download of these guides, click on the pictures above)

Lifebuoy - Picture

    Do you need help to create accessible PDF in compliance with PDF/UA?

    NewFormat help businesses to locate, map and analyze existing
    document resources as input for decision on needed actions to
    achieve full compliance with accessibility standards.

    To prepare of a few or limited number of PDF documents for universal
    accessibility can be daunting task, although possible to accomplish.

    But, what do you do if you are responsible for thousands of PDFs?
    You may not necessarily know where they all are, or you may not
    have the time and resources to check your files one at a time.

    With vast numbers of enterprise PDF documents stored on websites,
    networks, and computers, organizations are challenged with
    keeping tabs on accessibility standards compliance.

    Should you prepare the files on your own using a software tool,
    or should you hire an external resource to prepare the files as a service?

    We provide tools for creation, checking/validation and remediation,
    services and training, to make your PDF documents truly accessible
    for everyone according to the ISO Standard PDF/UA.

    Our services can regularly scan and crawl websites, internal networks,
    file systems, folders, files,... to locate existing document issues and
    compile an issue-report based on the findings.

    The status reports indicates the accessibility status of
    the PDF documents over time; including measures needed to
    remediate PDF documents for full PDF/UA compliance.
    Such fact reports are of indispensable value as a basis for your
    entity's continuous accessibility work and accessibility reports.

    Tools and services for successful use of
    PDF/UA for accessible PDF

    Audit mapping of document resources on your websites/domains

    We offer subscription services where we scan your websites/domains
    according to some desired regularity;
    e.g. once a year, every six months, every quarter, every week,...
    Provides insight into the status of existing PDF documents
    with respect to accessible PDF.


More Information and Resources

PDF/UA - Icon

Warning - Icon

Warning for Inaccessible PDF!

    Today complex digital ecosystems are used to store
    enterprise information; like large volumes of digital documents
    and digital information defining how websites
    (with HTML/CSS/JavaScript pages, images, videos) and
    webb content are exposed towards visitors.

    Those documents are usually delivered as PDFs;
    think of all the forms, legal documents, white papers and
    other digital documents that your employees, customers
    and site visitors view every day from your website.

    Websites hosting inaccessible documents can be a significant
    liability risk even if you have fixed the websites's HTML content.

    Please be aware, the W3C/WCAG recommendation for
    accessible web does not itself guarantee that a PDF
    document exposed on the website is an Accessible PDF.

    Instead, accessible PDF requires full compliance with
    the ISO Standard PDF/UA.

    Avoid litigation risks by ensuring that also all PDF documents
    on your website are accessible for everyone;
    with or without disabilities.

PDF/UA Foundation - PAC PDF/UA Check - Error - Does not comply with PDF/UA - Not an accessible PDF - Banner

For more information contact NewFormat

NewFormat AB

Smörblommegränd 14, SE-165 72 Hässelby (Stockholm), Sweden
tel:+46 (0)70 631 53 01

All content © copyright 2008-2021 NewFormat AB. All rights reserved.
All product names, trademarks and registered trademarks
are property of their respective owners.

PDF/UA - Ikon

Accessible PDF