Five Tips For Making Accessible PDFs

Collage of accessibility screenshot

It’s becoming more and more important to ensure that electronic documents are accessible. A set of Internet standards already exists to ensure assistive technologies (such as screen reader applications) can identify and navigate content online but this is increasingly becoming a requirement for standard desktop documents too. The good news is that you can create accessible PDF documents using a variety of applications including Adobe InDesign, Acrobat Pro and MS Office.

At creativelab we’ve been spending some time investigating current approaches and tools, here are our top five tips for creating accessible PDFs.

1.It’s much more effective to make source documents accessible than to make subsequent PDFs accessible. Acrobat has a full set of accessibility tools as well as a thorough accessibility checker but it’s much faster to set up good practices using Word and InDesign.

2. When working with source documents, do use built-in features such as Paragraph and Character Styles, Table styles, Tables of Contents, Bookmarks they make formatting faster but they also add accessibility functions automatically.

 

Screenshot of InDesign Paragraph Styles

InDesign Paragraph Styles

3. Metadata is important in accessibility so make sure you understand how to add it (MS Office and Adobe applications have built-in metadata fields) and also what terms to use. You may need to develop an organisational taxonomy if you have a large number of users and documents.

 

Screenshot of MS Word metadata panel

MS Word metadata panel

4. Do use Acrobat Pro’s accessibility checker to verify your document’s compliance but don’t expect it to pass first time. Even the best configured document will normally require some manual remediation (even if it’s just a visual check), you can use Acrobat’s accessibility tools to complete the process.

 

Screenshot of Acrobat accessibility checker

Acrobat accessibility checker

5. Do get some advice on what accessibility standard you are trying to meet so you can be sure the adjustments you make are the right ones. Acrobat Pro uses the current w3c standards in it’s accessibility checker. In the UK, the Web Accessibility Guidelines are the commonly used reference.

Creativelab offers training and support in creating accessible documents from both MS Office and Adobe applications, contact us if you’d like to know more.

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