Sunday, December 1, 2019

Can PDFs Be Made Accessible?

PDFs are one of the biggest issues for website accessibility. In fact, research from WebAim showed that 75.1% of respondents indicated that PDF documents are very or somewhat likely to pose significant accessibility issues. That's because making PDFs accessible takes work, training, and includes a software purchase.

Common PDF Accessibility Errors

To make PDFs accessible you should have a paid for version of Adobe Acrobat. Using that software you can These are the most common accessibility errors to check for:
  • Missing document title
  • Missing or illogical reading order
  • Images missing ALT text
  • Wrong/confusing heading semantics
  • Language settings
  • Tables with no defined header

What Does it Look Like to Check PDFs for Accessibility

You can visit see how one goes about checking and remediating a PDF with the Adobe Acrobat software in this video from campus suite.
Screenshot of a video from campus suite with logos from Adobe Acrobat Standard DC and PAVE
Making PDFs on Websites Accessible Video. Start at 14:00.

PDF Myths

The question to ask, is do you really need a PDF on your website? Sometimes people want a PDF because of Often people have false views on why PDFs are needed such as:

  • Myth: The content is secure.
  • Reality: All digital content can be manipulated.
  • Myth: It can be read more easily across platforms.
  • Reality: Content placed directly on your site following WCAG guidelines can be read more easily across platforms.
  • Myth: People will want to print my content from my website.
  • Reality: Today most people prefer to read via mobile.
  • Myth: PDFs should be used for forms.
  • Reality: Rather than having visitors print forms out, you can provide them with an accessible digital form they can submit.

The Verdict

The best way to ensure your website is accessible is to place content directly into your website following web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG). If, for some reason, a document absolutely must be provided via PDF, provide the same information on your website in HTML as well.

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