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It’s fantastic to see more and more business owners understanding the importance of creating and maintaining accessible websites, however there is one thing that can often be overlooked… PDF uploads.

It is up to us as PDF authors to determine whether a document meets accessibility guidelines, making it easier for people with additional needs to access information online through a range of assistive technology software, such as screen readers or text to speech.

But how do you ensure a PDF is accessible?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple solution (if only!), however, we’ve put together some handy advice to help…

Do you really need a PDF?

As simple as it may sound, the first step is to establish whether you actually need to upload a PDF.

For example, if you are uploading something like a Privacy Policy, you could instead create a web page dedicated to this to avoid accessibility issues in the first instance.

Make sure the original document (i.e. Microsoft Word) is structured correctly. The more accessible you can make the original document before converting to a PDF, the better chance you have of creating an accessible PDF.

A key question to ask yourself to aid this decision, is ‘what value does this PDF add to the web visitor?’ If the PDF simply repeats what is on the web page, the answer is probably, not much value to add. However, if in downloading the PDF, the reader gains further insights or some clarity on the topic, or needs the asset formatted correctly to print, then great, that’s your added value.

If you do need a PDF…

Insert a PDF title

By simply providing a PDF title, you are allowing users to quickly identify the document on their devices.

Keep text simple

If you do have to use a PDF, make sure your text is kept simple and provide definitions for any abbreviations used.

Your text should not be outlined (i.e. converted into shapes) or ‘flattened’ as this means text readers will not be able to read your document.

If your text has been created from a scanned document, you must also convert this to actual text as this will not be picked up.

Add tags

Similar to HTML tags, PDF tags should be added to help provide a structured representation of the content to allow screen readers to interpret. This consists of items such as headings, paragraphs, tables, etc.

Details of how to do this can be found here.

Add ALT text to images and graphics

To assist with those who rely on assistive technology such as screen readers, all images, charts and other graphics should include ALT text.

If your document has decorative images, you can also mark them with an ‘Artifact’ tag so that screen readers know they are not essential.

Add link descriptions

As above, adding a link description will help users to understand what to expect when clicking a link. Also, adding a link description assists with SEO as both internal links and descriptions will pass on link authority to the PDF file, enabling it to rank for relevant keywords.

Ensure page numbering is correct

Is your page numbering in the PDF viewer aligned with the numbers on the pages themselves? If not, this will make it difficult for assistive technology to read.

Specify the language

Ensuring a PDF is set to the correct language can help screen readers to use the correct pronunciation of words in the document, making it easier for the user to understand.

Use contrasting colours

If your colour combinations do not provide a sufficient contrast, users with visual impairments may struggle to read your PDFs.

Utilise Adobe features

Adobe has a few different features you can utilise to find out how to make your PDFs accessible and check whether they conform to accessibility standards.

You can find out more about these features here.

Ensuring your documents meet accessibility guidelines can be time consuming, however it can make all the difference when trying to attract the right audience.

If you’re concerned about the accessibility of your website, we can help. Take a look at our Digital Services and enquire today.

This post was created on 27th October 2020
Under the category Blog News
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