Meeting Documents & 508 Compliance
Important: Before you add any document to your meeting via the Governance App, and thus to the PCC website, you will need to ensure that the document is Section 508 compliant.
What is 508 Compliance?
Section 508 compliance means your document meets the accessibility standard that allows most individuals to access this material without specific accommodation. This also allows computers to more accurately determine the material’s content, which means it will be seen as a more authoritative resource by search engines. State and Federal law require this level of accessibility for any documents created or used by all public entities. Failure to meet these standards can be considered discrimination and can lead to legal recourse including the loss of federal funding.
The following section of this guide is by no means and exhaustive resource on creating Section 508 compliant documents. Instead we will offer some best practices and useful tips that will help you create fully compliant documents with the least amount of effort.
For more information on Section 508 of the American Disabilities Act and creating accessible documents, visit https://www.section508.gov/content/build/create-accessible-documents.
What Types of Documents Can Be Posted to the PCC Website?
The following documents types are permitted to be posted to the PCC website once fully 508 compliant:
- PDFs are the most common document type
- Word and Excel documents are permitted
- PowerPoint files are strongly discouraged as they will required the most effort and expertise to make compliant - upload at your own risk and responsibility
Useful Tips for Creating and Checking Documents for 508 Compliance
Obtain the most recent versions of Adobe Acrobat Professional and Microsoft Office available for your platform (Mac or PC). The following section of this guide assumes you are running Microsoft Word 2016 or later and an updated version Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.
PCC's ITS department has the most recent versions of Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud and can install or upgrade these applications for you. Just fill out a request via the ITS Helpdesk Form.
Another important point to remember is to aways keep your source documents. Once you have created a PDF from an Office document such as MS Word, don't delete the original. It is far easier to make edits and correct accessibility issues in a Word document, for example, than it is in the PDF.
Creating and Checking 508 Compliant Documents Basics
Refer to the following 2 expandable sections as a 2-part primer for making documents 508 compliant from creation to publishing:
Microsoft Word Tips
Upgrade to the most recent version of Microsoft Word. If you have MS Word 2016 or later you should have a "Check Accessibility" option under the "Review" tab. Use this tool to identify and correct common accessibility issues identified by MS Word. You'll still have a couple of things to check and possibly correct once you've saved your Word document as a PDF but this can significantly reduce the amount of work you'll need to do once you get there.
Use Headings Correctly
Use document headings for structure, not style. One of the most common accessibility mistakes is to use Headings for style purposes (e.g. to make text look bigger and bolder or a particular color). If you would like your text to look a certain way, use the formatting tools such as font size, bold, italic, etc. directly. Or you can create your own custom styles using the Styles pane. Just don't use Headings such as Heading 1, 2, 3, etc. for cosmetic purposes.
Why You Shouldn't Use Headings for Styling Purposes
Screen reader technology uses headings to convey the structure and organization of a document to its users. Headings, such as Heading 1, Heading 2, etc. create document structure in the same way that a table of contents is organized. In fact, Word (as well as Google Docs) can auto-generate a table of contents for your document based on its headings. It will assume Heading 1 items are like "chapters" and will nest Heading 2 items as sub-sections of any Heading 1 preceding it (and so on for Heading 3, etc.). Headings need to be nested properly to be accessible.
Nesting Headings: Think of Headings the Same Way You Think of an Outline
- Heading 1: the first tier of bullets in an outline such as this.
- Heading 2 is any second level bullet. In an outline, you can't skip to a third level bullet
without a second-level before it. Likewise, you should never skip a heading level
in your documents. Doing so will create an accessibility issue.
- Heading 3 can only exist after a level 2 and so on.
- Heading 2: You can come back from a level 3 to a level 2
- Heading 2: ...and have as many same level headings next to each other. Note that you could also come back to a level 1 from a level 3, just not the other way around.
- Back to a Heading 1 signifies a whole new "chapter" or section of your content.
You won't likely need more than one Heading 1 for a typical agenda or minutes document but hopefully you now understand the concept and why it's so important to nest your headings correctly in a document.
Use Tables for Data, not Layout
Use tables for data only, not for layout. Another common mistake that makes accessibility a challenge in PDFs is when a table has been used to visually lay out content in a particular way. Tables should only be used for their intended purpose – to display content within a grid of columns and rows identified by column headers.
Images Require Alternate Text
Save As PDF from Word
Possibly the strongest argument for updating to the most recent version of Microsoft Word is it's updated "Save as..." functionality.
Adobe Acrobat Professional Tips
Note: If you jumped straight here but skipped the Microsoft Word Tips section above, please go back and review that section. You'll be thankful that you did.
Obtain, or upgrade to, the most recent version of Adobe Acrobat Pro. The built-in accessibility checker and some of its automated tasks that can aid you in making your PDF 508 compliant have significantly improved in more recent versions and should save you considerable time and frustration over older versions.
Check Your PDF for Accessibility Issues
Verify that your PDF files meet accessibility standards for people with disabilities. To do this, open your newly-converted-from-Word PDF and open the Accessibility view using the Accessibility tool button.
If you don't see the Accessibility tool button right away, simply open your Tools view, scroll down until you find the section labeled Protect & Standardize and there you'll find the Accessibility tool button. You should take the time to expand your right pane and drag this button over there so that you'll have it available to you for every document you work on in Acrobat.
Open the Accessibility view using the Accessibility tool button.
- Open Accessibility view
- Click "Full Check"
- Click "Start Checking"
- View the results
You will then be presented with the Accessibility Options dialog. You should leave this set to its default options. At the time of writing, it defaults to check 31 of 32 categories for possible accessibility issues.
Click Start Checking.
Acrobat will scan the document for accessibility issues and then display results for all categories in the left pane of the application window.
In the left pane of the application window, view the Accessibility Checker results. It will display the number of issues in each main category in parenthesis. Expand each category to view any issues found in that category. Items that pass will be indicated by a green check mark and items that fail will be marked with a white x in a red circle. Right-click on a failed issue for more options such as "Explain" or, in some cases, "Fix."
It is important to note that you will always have a minimum of 2 issues in your document, even if it technically passes all accessibility checks. This is because there are a couple things that cannot be checked automatically and require a manual check.
These items are "Logical Reading Order" and "Color Contrast" and both are under the Document category. Both will be indicated by a white question mark in a blue circle and will always be there.
Fix Your PDF Accessibility Issues
The number and difficulty level of issues you may encounter can vary greatly. However, if we're simply talking about text-only agenda and minutes documents and you've followed all of the tips in this primer thus far, you're probably going to have minimal work to do. This guide will not attempt to address the numerous, and at times highly-technical, fixes for most PDF issues. Instead we will cover a couple of common and simple quick fixes for a typical basic document.
Adobe Acrobat Pro has extensive documentation covering each of the issues you may encounter and this information can be easily found by right-clicking on any issue and selecting "Explain" from the context menu. This will open a new tab in a browser and should scroll to the specific issue in the Acrobat User Guide. At the time of writing, that user guide can be found at https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/user-guide.html, and the relevant information is located in the section titled Accessibility, Tags, And Reflow.
Fix the Title
Not only does the title tell your users what this document is about but it also becomes the text for the link that a Google search finds. Often times, a converted Microsoft Word document inserts the title with the .docx extension and whatever other random file-naming conventions we have come up with. So even if this one passes, it's a good idea to go in there and clean it up.
To check and update your PDF title, open up the main application's File menu, and select Properties. In the Properties dialog, the default view is Description and right there at the top is the Title. Check that it reads just as a title should, minus any dates or file extensions.
Tip: Even though you're posting this document to your committee's PCC web page, Google and other search engines will still find it outside of this context so it's good to include "PCC" or "PACCD" in the title somewhere, in addition to the name of your commitee.
Once you've updated the Title (and optionally Author, Subject, and Keywords) click OK. Now go back to the Accessibility Checker results and right-click the Title - Failed error and select "Fix." The check mark should turn green. Now don't forget to save the PDF (Control+S on Windows, Command+S on Mac) so that fix gets saved if someone else checks your PDF for accessibility issues later.
Fix Alternate Text
If you didn't add alternate text via Microsoft Word from the tips in Part 1 of this primer, you'll still have an opportunity to do it here. Expand the Alternate Text category, and right click on the "Figures alternate text - Failed" issue. Select Fix from the context menu and you will be presented with a dialog that allows you to add alternate text for every figure (image) that is missing it. Just add brief descriptive text in the text box provided and then either advance to the next image using the arrow button, or click "Save and Exit." If you used the Decorative Image checkbox during the previous step it's possible you'll have a new set of errors after exiting this dialog. We recommend always including alternate text for each issue to avoid this quirk. Again, once you've corrected all issues here and you've got the green checkmark, save the PDF (Control+S on Windows, Command+S on Mac).
As stated previously, for all other issues you may encounter please select the issue context menu item Explain by right-clicking an issue. If you really get stuck on something feel free to reach out to us! Just submit a request via our Web Help form at https://pasadena.edu/webhelp.
Add 508 Compliant Documents to the Governance App
Now that you have made your agendas, minutes, or any other documents completely 508 compliant, you're ready to add them to your meeting(s).
Verify Your Documents are Section 508 Compliant
Once a meeting has been created, the Meeting Documents section will appear at the bottom of the Meetings view and will default to a Secton 508 Notice. Once you check the box acknowledging that the documents you are posting are 508 compliant, you should be presented with a New Document button to begin posting your docs.
Note that this Section 508 Notice will be persistent. So if you return to this meeting after you have already posted documents, those documents won't show until you acknowledge this again. It's a minor inconvenience for an important consideration.
Post Your Documents
Next you will want to click the New Document icon. This will present you with a the New Document dialog that has just a few basic options to know about.
The New Document dialog has a file chooser that will allow you to add the document you would like to add. The Document Type field already has a few presets for you to choose from:
- Board Packet
If your document isn't any of these choose Custom and you will be presented with an additional field called Custom Title to give your document whatever name you like.
Click "save" and wait for confirmation. You should now see a new icon display in this area representing the document you just added, in addition to the New Document icon you just used.
Repeat this process for each additional document you would like to add to a particular meeting.
Important Note: If you make a correction to your document and need to replace it, use the replace button the icon representing your currently posted document. Likewise, use the remove button to remove it.
If all goes well, navigate to your meetings web page and you should now see a link to your document associated with that meeting.