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.
On February 18, 2015 the US Access Board announced its Proposed Rule for US federal policy on accessibility, commonly known as Section 508. The proposed rule identifies PDF/UA as equivalent to WCAG 2.0 for "appropriate content".
The 2014 update to PDF/UA, published in December 2014, is the first fully accessible standard ISO has ever published; the PDF file distributed by ISO itself conforms to PDF/UA.
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)".
While the PDF/UA specification 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.
Chaired since 2005 by 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. A minor update (ISO 14289-1:2014) was published in December 2014. 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.
In December 2014 ISO published ISO 14289-1:2014, a minor revision of the original 2012 document.
AIIM's US Committee for PDF/UA has published the following documents in support of PDF/UA:
Work on ISO 14289-2 (PDF/UA-2) is ongoing. PDF/UA-2 will be based on PDF 2.0.
AIIM's US Committee for PDF/UA led development of the document from 2004 until 2010, when the draft became an ISO NWI. Both US and ISO Committees maintain their work on AIIM's PDF Standards wiki.
Participation by subject matter experts, software developers and other interested parties is invited and encouraged.
The PDF Association helps promote PDF/UA in a variety of ways.
In 2011 the PDF Association created the PDF/UA Competence Center as a way for vendors to develop educational resources and share experiences regarding implementation of PDF/UA. The Matterhorn Protocol (see below) is a product of the PDF/UA Competence Center.
In December 2015 the PDF Association's PDF/UA Competence Center unveiled the first public draft of its Tagged PDF Best Practice Guide. Publication is expected by the summer of 2016.