- November 15, 2013
You may tend to think about accessibility in terms of providing closer parking spaces or including Braille descriptions on elevator panels, but in the computing world, it’s a different matter entirely. What’s more, for anyone doing business with the Federal government—including contractors and businesses—it’s also a legal requirement that means meeting Section 508 Accessibility Compliance standards.
What is Section 508?
Section 508 is a standard for defining accessibility requirements for software and other digital and information technologies. It was enacted to remove barriers in the digital world, to make new opportunities available to those with disabilities, and to spur the development of technologies that will provide them with a more level playing field.
Section 508 establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government. In short, it means that Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology should be accessible to people with disabilities.
Section 508 went into effect way back in 2001. Sadly, even as of now, not very many agencies or contractors are in full compliance in terms of general technology access, and the outlook for PDF accessibility is even worse.
Meet the VPAT, your guide to accessible PDF
The good news is, Foxit PhantomPDF provides a way to assess what’s needed to remedy the accessibility issue for your PDF files with the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, aka, the VPAT.
The VPAT was created by the Information Technology Industry Council and is a standardized form that assists Federal contracting officials in making preliminary assessments regarding a product or service’s features that support accessibility.
The first table of the VPAT gives you an overview of what the section 508 Standards specify. The subsequent tables provide more detailed views of each subsection and also describe the features within PhantomPDF that enable accessibility or refers you to the corresponding detailed table, “e.g., equivalent facilitation.”
Using the VPAT, you can create a roadmap to accessibility for all your PDF documents—both those that already exist and those you’re about to create.
Listen to PDF Documents with Read Out Loud
Even better, as of Version 5.1, Foxit PhantomPDF has offered Read Out Loud that use the available voices installed on a computer user’s system. If they have Speech Application Programming Interface 5 (SAPI 5) installed for text-to-speech, they can have PhantomPDF read PDF documents to them.
In addition to normal text content, Read Out Loud can also read comments, image descriptions, and fillable fields, so it really does do a comprehensive job of making sure that all major sections of your PDF document are truly accessible. This is very important for those who have learning disabilities, as they tend to rely highly on information provided in annotations to help with comprehension.
So if you’re in a business or organization that needs to meet Federal standards for user accessibility, take comfort knowing that Foxit PDF software enables you to provide the PDF accessibility your users need.