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  • Writer's pictureMacroSys, LLC

Best Practices to Guarantee Document Accessibility

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

Our experts share insights about 508 compliance to get you started making accessible documents.

If you’ve ever been tasked with creating a Section 508-compliant PDF, you already know how confusing it can be. The process—chockfull of technical jargon, complex rules, and what seems like endless checklists—can quickly become daunting, making you question why you even need to create accessible PDFs.

First things first—what is Section 508 compliance and why is it important? Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. It requires that any document posted by Federal agencies for public consumption must be accessible. While the ruling only legally applies to Federal agencies, many private‑sector companies have adapted their standards, recognizing that everyone deserves equal access to information.

A common misconception is that remediation is the final step to a document’s lifecycle, performed right before posting; however, in reality, accessibility requires forethought and strategy before putting pen to paper. Luckily, even if you’re not an expert, you can still play a critical role in a document’s accessibility: by learning how to properly construct your Word document. Read on to learn what steps can you take to guarantee accessibility.

  1. Create and apply text styles throughout your document. Styles are vital to accessibility; your document’s tagging structure is dictated by the styles you set. Styles also establish the heading hierarchy, necessary for navigation and bookmarks.

  2. Build paragraph spacing into text styles before and after headings and body text. This eliminates empty tags from your document’s structure, which is a requirement for accessibility.

  3. Reserve tables for data with clear column and row headings. Refrain from using empty cells or invisible tables for formatting.

  4. Avoid color cues to convey meaning, as readers may have difficulty distinguishing different colors. Instead, use patterns, shapes, and labels where possible.

  5. Embed fonts into your document so that your document can be accessible on any device.

This image shows a woman working on a laptop and taking notes.

If you’re interested in learning more about Section 508 best practices, please reach out to our team at or check back for future posts. You can also request our free instructional guide on how to create and apply styles. We’d love to hear from you!

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