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Creating Accessible PDFs

Creating Accessible PDFs

The disadvantages of PDFs in terms of usability and accessibility are significant; and the process of making PDFs accessible is complicated.

Generally, ACPS web content should be posted as HTML. Posting information as PDF -- or as PDF in addition to HTML -- may be appropriate when the PRIMARY intent is that the information  be downloaded or printed.

Authoring & Processing for Accessibility

The most effective way to begin the process of making an accessible PDF is to create an accessible document in Word or another authoring application that supports exporting tagged PDFs. (PDFs created by "Printing to PDF" will NOT be accessible!)

Then evaluate the PDF using Acrobat Pro's built-in Accessibility Check function.  The results of that report will describe repairs needed -- typically to edit properties, tagging and reading order using tools in Acrobat.

To learn more about the process of creating accessible PDFs, please refer to these online resources:

NOTE: PDFs that are produced by document scanners are IMAGES of text, and are NOT accessible. Such PDFs can be made accessible only by processing it with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software, which attempts to interpret the image and export actual text. Adobe Acrobat Pro X & higher incorporate OCR functions.

Why this matters

Disadvantages of PDF

  • not easily made accessible
  • not easily updated -- must be re-processed for accessibility
  • do not work well with smaller devices
  • cannot be readily translated
  • requires special software to be installed
  • provides no context, navigation, or access to supporting information

Get Acrobat PDF Reader You may need the free Acrobat Reader to access information presented in PDF format.