Creating Accessible PDFs
Headings should form an outline of the page content. Clear, straightforward headings
are best because people using screen readers will rely on them heavily to navigate
and understand the document. Use the built-in heading feature provided by the software
you are using to create headings and subheadings.
Any content organized as a list should be created using the unordered list (bullets)
or ordered list (numeric) option provided by the software you are using. Doing this
helps screen readers better understand how the content is organized.
Add Alternative Text for Images
Alternative (alt) text — required for all images — describes an image it in words for someone who is blind or visually impaired. Any information a sighted person can gain from an image should be communicated in the alt text field.
If an image is decorative and contains no informative content, it can be hidden from screen readers. Each application has a different way to make decorative images skippable:
Identify the Document’s Language
To ensure that screen readers will read a document using the appropriate language
profile (English, Spanish etc.), the language of the document must be set. Most software
provides a way to do this. When saving from Word or InDesign to a PDF use this guide:
Set the Document Language.
Use Tables Correctly
Tables are great for communicating certain types of information but should never be
used to control layout. To make tables accessible to screen reader users, use the
table feature provided by the software you are using, and identify column and row
headers by setting them as such. Keep your tables as simple as possible to ensure
screen readers will be able to read them successfully.
Make Text Easy to Read
If your document has a low level of contrast between the color of the text and the
color of the background, people with low vision or color blindness will have a hard
time reading it. Look for text in your document that’s hard to read or distinguish
from its background. Standing back from the computer a foot or so can help. Can you
still read the text from farther away? If not, it’s likely the contrast is too low,
and you’ll need to pick a different text color, background color or both.
Make Fillable Forms Accessible
This guide explains how to make fillable PDF forms accessible using Adobe Acrobat
Pro: Create interactive forms that can be used by anyone, ensuring privacy and independence
Sometimes it is necessary to scan a document or page of a book and distribute it as PDF, but scanned PDFs are impossible to read with screen readers if they aren’t created correctly.
Use this guide to create accessible scanned PDFs: Creating and Fixing Scanned PDFs with Adobe Acrobat.
Saving and Exporting PDFs
Check Accessibility Before Uploading to CMS
Always check the accessibility of your document before uploading it to your site. Many applications provide a way to do this:
Exporting PDFs from Microsoft Office
If you’re exporting a PDF from Microsoft Office, follow this guide to ensure your file remains accessible: Creating Accessible PDFs