Accessible IT: the latest legal situation

PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility) was formalized in July 2012 as the ISO 14298-1 standard and is the designation for a variety of PDF specifically designed to create accessible PDF documents.

This standard provides a uniform description of the requirements that a PDF document must satisfy, and which also fulfills the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. The goal is to make PDF documents usable with the same degree of ease and quality for individuals with disabilities as they are for those without disabilities. In Germany, the Equal Rights for Disabled Persons Act (BGG) specifically stipulates that federal agencies must ensure web accessibility for their websites and the services that these sites offer.

The PDF/UA format plays a key role in providing unhindered access to information and communications, and in eliminating any barriers that still remain. As its name implies, the ISO standard 14298-1 that was published in July 2012 is designed to create universal accessibility and is directed primarily toward developers of programs for creating, reading and processing PDF documents.

By doing all this, the PDF/UA format is making a big contribution to supporting the goals of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which promotes systematic developments toward an inclusive society and has been in force since 2008. On the European level, the European Commission is drafting a European Accessibility Act with the goal of creating a fully accessible Europe for persons with disabilities by the year 2020. And since 2002 in Germany, § 11 of the Equal Rights for Disabled Persons Act (BGG) has required that federal agencies provide barrier-free access to their websites and the services offered on them. In addition to this legislation, Germany’s Ordinance for Creating Accessible Information Technology, which is based on the recommendations of WCAG 2.0, sets forth the minimum requirements that the web content of federal agencies must fulfill. Although there are few if any legislative requirements for the private sector, accessible information and web content, and in turn the use of the PDF/UA format, still play an important role for many companies today.