Accessibility laws apply to all forms of online content, including PDFs and documents.
You have a role in ensuring that everyone has equal access to information regardless of the format.
By making PDFs and documents accessible to people with disabilities, you’re making all digital content easier for everyone to access, understand and use.
- PDFs and documents are only accessible if you make them accessible. They are not accessible by default.
- PDF is intended for a printed page and not for screens.
- Do not use a PDF to present digital content that could be a web page.
- HTML is always the most accessible, mobile-friendly, easy-to-update, and user-friendly format.
- Making a non-accessible PDF into an accessible PDF, a process known as remediation is time-consuming and may be technically challenging.
- Many websites have a print to PDF feature
- Learn more about PDF usability issues, Nielsen Norman Group
What is an accessible document?
- Legible: A document that can be physically read by sighted readers including sight-impaired readers and readers with cognitive disabilities. For example, legible documents use font families and sizes that are easy to read with high contrast between the type and the background. Contrast and Color Accessibility, WebAIM
- Scannable: A reader must understand the information after a quick scan of the document. Writing for Web Accessibility, W3C
- Searchable: Words within the document can be searched for by a digital device used by the reader.
When Should I Use PDFs?
- Secure documents
- Downloadable documents
- Print documents that need to keep formatting
- Documents that provide more detail
- Interactive forms
- Low usage documents (large documents, archives)
How do I create accessible PDFs and Documents?
- Page Structure Guide
- Adobe Acrobat DC (Free), Adobe: “Though Acrobat Standard provides some functionality for making existing PDFs accessible, Acrobat Pro must be used to perform most tasks — such as editing reading order or editing document structure tags — that are necessary to make PDF documents and forms accessible.” - Adobe
- Adobe Acrobat Pro, Adobe: Create and verify PDF accessibility
- Google Docs, Google Support
- Google Slides: Present slides with captions, Google Support
- Microsoft Word, Microsoft Support
- Excel, Microsoft Support
- PowerPoint, Microsoft Support
Resources for State of Colorado Agencies
Siteimprove: Siteimprove’s software helps to improve State website usability and accessibility by automating the process of finding errors and problems. Siteimprove alone will not make websites accessible but is part of a holistic approach to managing web services.
For questions about using Siteimprove or Siteimprove Academy, please contact Theresa Montano, OIT Solutions Architect of Accessibility at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't have access to Siteimprove? Use these free browser extensions:
- WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, WebAIM
- Siteimprove Browser Extensions (Chrome and Firefox), Siteimprove
- Selecting Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools, W3C
Siteimprove Academy, Siteimprove (Requires a login)
To request accessibility testing:
Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, section508.gov