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Planning for Document Accessibility under Section 508

Background icon of document. In text - Planning for Document Accessibility - Section 508

Today, PDF is one of the most widely used format to share information on the web. Corporates, Government organizations, educational institutes share annual reports, books, brochures, publications or even user manuals on the web as PDF files. In addition, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint are also used to disseminate a lot of information in the form of reports, training materials, brochures, assessments, forms, statements, memos, case studies etc.

People have diverse needs of information and communication and hence making them accessible to all is very important.

Section 508 accessibility standard of the Rehabilitation Act 1973 is a federal law which requires programs and activities funded by federal agencies to be accessible to people with disabilities, including federal employees and members of the public. Section 508 requires all electronic documents to be accessible to all, including people with disabilities.

As per Section 508 electronic documents include documents in popular electronic formats including Word, PDF, Excel, and PowerPoint.

The Revised 508 Standards specify that all types of public-facing content, as well as nine categories of non-public-facing content that communicate agency official business, have to be accessible, with “content” encompassing all forms of electronic information and data. The categories include:

  1. Public facing content
  2. Emergency notifications
  3. Initial or final decisions adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding
  4. Internal or external program or policy announcements
  5. Notices of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action
  6. Formal acknowledgements of receipt
  7. Survey questionnaires
  8. Templates and forms
  9. Educational and training materials

Most organizations have thousands of documents and are struggling to create a plan to ensure that all the new and existing documents are Section 508 complaint. An accessible document strategy and plan ensures your organisation is using the most cost-effective approach to achieving accessibility goals. Having a plan in place on implementing and achieving document accessibility, staff from all the departments in the organization will have a guidance on what steps to take to make documents accessible.

Planning for document accessibility

  1. Analyse the type of documents based on their complexity. For highly complex documents which involves forms, graphs and images, it is advisable to approach experts to meet accessibility compliance requirements.
  2. Provide training to content developers and designers in the organization to make sure every employee has the basic understanding of accessibility requirement.
  3. Create a priority plan with legacy documents. There may be many legacy documents in the organization which may still be in use and as required by the legislation, prioritize the documents to make it accessibility compliant.

Detailed analysis of the documents, assessment of tools and process and understanding the organizational accessibility goals and requirement is very important when it comes to planning for document accessibility.

Need help in planning document accessibility under Section 508?

As you begin developing a plan for accessibility documents under Section 508, the challenges and the cost may seem insurmountable. At 247 Accessible Documents, with expertise in Section 508, we aim to simplify making documents accessible. We take away the challenges of remediating documents for our customers.

We work collaboratively and in a reliable manner to assist you in planning, implementing & managing your Accessible PDFs, Word & PowerPoint to meet compliance needs and document accessibility under Section 508. Connect with us at to plan document accessibility under Section 508 and other accessibility guidelines and standards.

By Ramya Venkitesh

Head - Accessibility New Initiatives, Actively involved in formulating new ideas to create Innovative Accessible Solutions across all Disabilities.

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