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Web Accessibility Policy of the State of Maine

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Implementation Guidelines

15. Downloadable Documents

15.1 - Provide accessible HTML or text versions of downloadable documents whenever possible.

What:
Downloadable documents are often provided in formats such as Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word, or WordPerfect. Such documents must be viewed in their own applications or using a web browser plug-in.

Why:
The applications required to open downloadable documents may not be available or accessible to users with disabilities.

How:
Wherever a link is provided to a document that is not HTML or text such as Rich Text Format, also provide a link to an accessible HTML or text version of the same document. HTML versions should follow these guidelines; text versions may require reformatting to ensure proper reading order, and additional text descriptions may need to be added for charts, graphs, or other non-text content.

15.2 - If a downloadable document cannot be provided in an accessible electronic format, provide information on how to request an alternate format.

What:
In some cases, documents cannot be provided in an accessible electronic format.

Why:
Users with disabilities must still have equivalent access to public documents.

How:
Provide information regarding whom to contact to obtain the document in alternate formats (e.g., braille, large-print, or audio-cassette). Alternate formats must be available in a timely manner.

Ref: n/a

Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet

This section of the standard refers specifically to document image files that are created using the Portable Document Format. PDF is specified here because it is so widely used. The standard is intended to apply to any document image file, however, regardless of its format.

PDF Documents

PDF is a commonly used format for making documents available over the Internet. Some PDF documents cannot be converted to speech output that is readable by assistive technologies, while other PDF documents cannot be converted to speech output accurately. In order to make information posted on State web sites usable by assistive technologies, the following requirements apply to the use of PDF documents:

Each PDF document posted on a State web site requires either:

  • an equivalent version of the document also be posted in ASCII, HTML, or other text format and that a link to the alternate version of the document be prominently displayed next to the link leading to the PDF document file; or,
  • a text explanation of how an accessible version of the PDF document may be obtained is prominently displayed next to the link leading to the PDF document. At a minimum, the explanation shall identify a telephone number or an email address which can be contacted to request an accessible version of the document; the format(s) in which the accessible version of that document may be obtained (e.g., ASCII text file, HTML text file); and the maximum number of business days before the accessible version of the document will be sent to the requesting individual.

EXCEPTION: An exception to the requirements above shall be allowed in the following circumstance: those PDF documents that depict information that, by its very nature is graphical, such as maps, building plan drawings, and pictorial diagrams, are exempt from the requirement to post an accessible version. However, a brief text description of the general nature of the information contained in the PDF document shall be prominently displayed next to the link leading to the PDF document.

PDF Forms

This section of the standard refers specifically to electronic forms that are created using the Portable Document Format. PDF is specified here because it is so widely used. The standard is intended to apply to any electronic form, however, regardless of its format.

Forms created as PDF files cannot be accurately converted to speech output that are usable by assistive technologies. In order to make forms posted on State web sites accessed by assistive technologies, the following requirements apply to the use of PDF forms:

  • Each form posted on a State web site as a PDF file requires an equivalent version of the form also be posted in a format that allows a person using speech output to access the form's field elements, information, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues. A link to the alternate form shall be prominently displayed next to the link leading to the PDF form.

EXCEPTION: An exception to the requirements shall be allowed in the following circumstance: If a PDF form is made available only to provide a means to distribute it electronically so that users can print it and fill it out by hand, then an accessible alternative is not required.

Time Frame for Compliance
All new web pages, new documents and new forms posted or revised shall comply with the standard.

For web site revisions or updates, the home page and first three levels shall comply with the standard no later than June 1, 2002, and all levels must comply with the standard no later than September 1, 2002.

Waivers
Any requests for waivers to the standard shall follow the current Policy on Administration of Standards.