PDFs are the most challenging file formats for accessibility. Below is guidance on how to create, remediate and select alternative formats that are more accessible than a PDF.
Creating an Accessible PDF
PDFs are challenging to remediate for accessibility; hence it is particularly important to incorporate accessibility principles into the process of creating a document. If you create an accessible document in Microsoft Word and export the content to a PDF document, the accessibility features should carry forward to in the PDF.
Remediating a PDF
Remediating is the process of “tagging” digital elements of PDF documents so that they can be read using assistive technology. These “Tags” identify the elements and inform the assistive technology about the order in which they are meant to be read like Headings and Column order. If you have a PDF that you did not create, but want to share with others, it will likely need to be remediated to make sure it is accessible.
Digital Accessibility Solutions can provide faculty and staff access to Equidox, a PDF remediation software.
If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro DC you can use the Accessibility Action Wizard as a tool that identifies and provides guidance on how to make your PDF accessible.
Selecting Alternative Formats
- Living Content: When a PDF is uploaded to the internet it is permanent. Once downloaded by a client or user it cannot be recalled or altered in any way. If the content changes in anyway, it must be removed from the website and replaced with an updated version, which must also be remediated for accessibility. Native web content is living and can be altered or changed at any time by the content creator without worrying about uploading content or having misinformation circulating.
- Mobile Responsiveness: Many people use their phones to view web content and PDF documents cannot respond to mobile environments. Native web content living inside Blackboard or a UM website responds well to mobile platforms, can be effectively zoomed, and the user can increase contrast or alter the text to make it more readable on any platform.
- Ease of Accessibility: While PDFs are difficult to make accessible, content generated within UM websites and Blackboard are difficult to make inaccessible. Tools are available the text editor that help a user make the content accessible before it is published. For example, tables created in PDF format are challenging be made accessible, while tables created in WordPress will always be accessible, without additional effort or consideration from the content creator.
- Forms: Forms in PDF are notoriously difficult to be made accessible. There are a number of accessible form solutions available to content creators at UM for use on the web that require little extra accessibility consideration from the content creator.