January 25, 2013 15

Software development, especially in a complex area like PDF technology, doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s been just five months since PDF/UA was published. In that time, we’re already seeing vendors adopt the new standard for accessible PDF technology.

Screen shot of table listing vendors who plan support for PDF/UA.A new generation of software is on the way. Using the clear, definitive and technically-specific terms of ISO 14289. new tools for ensuring accessible PDF will revolutionize the options available to end-users who are trying to do the right thing when creating or correcting electronic documents, including achieve conformance with WCAG 2.0.

Likewise, PDF/UA support in viewer software will deliver the promise of PDF/UA to AT users; finally, a reliable, high-quality reading experience from PDF files.

Since PDF/UA provides a means of achieving conformance with WCAG 2.0., we can also expect that software claiming to support the W3C’s guidelines for accessibility in web content will quickly follow support for PDF/UA.

Let’s pause for a minute and ask: how important are technology-specific standards to drive accessibility features in software? The experience of PDF teaches that they’re really important. Just five months after publication of PDF/UA we see (at least) seven vendors with current software or announced plans to support PDF/UA.

Contrast this experience with WCAG 2.0. Published in 2008 and since adopted by governments around the world. not one PDF software vendor (that I’m aware of) has been willing to provide WCAG 2.0 conformance claims about the files generated by their software.

That’s OK. WCAG 2.0 isn’t a technical standard outside HTML/CSS and JavaScript. Software developers aren’t going to invest in developing their non-web technologies to meet W3C’s web content guidelines unless and until they have a firm technical foundation for doing so.

WCAG 2.0 is a great set of principles and guidelines, but it’s just not specific enough, by itself, to give non-web technology developers the information they need to make profound investments in accessibility.

Going forward, I’ll be maintaining an honor-roll of software vendors who have announced their intent to support PDF/UA. Are you such a vendor, and I’ve somehow missed you? Please get in touch.