Accessible PDFs

Just like web pages, PDF documents also need to be accessible to everyone, including users who rely on assistive technology such as screen readers.

When possible, PDFs should be eliminated in favor of web pages because they do not work well on mobile devices.

Following are some basic steps to take in order to ensure your PDFs are accessible.

  1. Make sure the PDF is in a text based format.

  2. Create a logical reading order by providing a main heading and subheadings.

  3. Tag your document in Microsoft Word
    Build the document structure and apply headings <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5>, etc.
    The <h1> heading should be reserved for the document title
    Add paragraphs <p>

  4. Add ALT text (alternative text) for images in Microsoft Word or in Adobe Acrobat

  5. Complex charts and graphics that are embedded in the PDF can’t be accessed by screen reader users. In these cases a summary or long description of what the chart/graphic conveys needs to be provided.  

  6. Make sure there is enough color contrast between text and background

  7. Do not use color as the ONLY way to convey information 

  8. Provide a table of contents for long document 

  9. Save your Word or PDF document as a tagged PDF. 

  10. Test your document in Adobe Acrobat for accessibility compliance. (please see link below for reference)

  11. Creating accessible Smart PDFs with forms
    Following are links to various resources on making your PDF documents accessible.

Resources:

How to make your Microsoft Word document accessible by Microsoft:

Testing PDF documents using Adobe Acrobat Pro

How to create and verify accessible PDFs by Adobe:

How to create accessible forms inside Adobe:

How to create and repair tables inside Adobe:

How to use the accessibility checker by Adobe:

How to repair or remediate old PDFs by Adobe: