I have just run into this very issue. I am thinking the only thing to do would be to create some preset of the critieria we need to use that applies to the Section 508 specifications.
In some ways there may be some versatilty in this, but probably for culpability or some such reasons Adobe has now left it up to the individual user to set these up.
What would a preset for Section 508 look like? I guess the best place would be to either go through the government document itself, or to copy the specs given in Acrobat Pro X.
Run the full check, but with the understanding that the Acrobat XI checker, while a big improvement over the X version, is still not very thorough. Selecting a subset of test criteria would merely render the checker even more inadequate.
For a much better PDF accessibility checker download the excellent, free PAC 1.3 from the Swiss foundation Access for All. You can find it here http://www.access-for-all.ch/en/pdf-lab/pdf-accessibility-checker-pac/dl132.html. PAC 1.3 tests for WCAG 2.0 compliance, but the 508 checklist maps to WCAG 2.0. You may notice that a newer version, PAC 2.0, is available but is still in beta and tests for more-difficult -to-meet ISO 14289 compliance. If you are interested, you can find the 508 PDF accessibility checklist here http://www.hhs.gov/web/508/accessiblefiles/checklistpdf.html.
Finally, even the best automated checker can get you no more than about half way to an accessible PDF. Automated tests can verify that a PDF is tagged using correct syntax, but cannot determine if the tags are otherwise correct, ensure correct reading order, or verify that alt text is meaningful – to site just a few examples. Careful, knowledgeable manual inspection of the tag structure is essential. The PAC 1.3 screenreader preview is a big help in the necessary manual inspection – it lets you see what an assistive technology user would hear.
Hope this helps.
a 'C' student
Thanks for the good pointers.
The one problem with the PAC is that it apparently cannot run on the Mac OS, which means it’s useless for me.
Where I work what Adobe Acrobat will find should be sufficient, as more work than we can handle on each document we produce would ensue if we pursue a more thorough course.
Such is where we have to draw the line at an "undue burden" for our workload and ROI.
Ah, I did not realize the Mac OS part. As I am sure you have seen the Acrobat XI full check wisely recommends manual checks for logical reading order and color contrast. For those tasks you may want to evaluate two very useful tools - the Callas Software Acrobat plug-in pdfGoHTML and the Paciello Group's Color Contrast Analyser. Both are free and available for Mac. See
Actually, after more digging, I did find somewhat of a Mac version of PAC.
However, it does require this mono (windows simulator?) to be installed, and then I have to launch it from Terminal (a unix shell).
Thanks for the other links. I may check them up soon. It looks like I may have to become the resident 508 compliance guru at work.