In this article, we will discuss PDF accessibility and how to make sure your documents are compliant with standards for people with disabilities.
Table of Contents
- Method #1: Use Proper Document Structure
- Method #2: Use Appropriate Fonts and Colors
- Method #3: Add Alternative Text for Images
- Method #4: Use Descriptive Hyperlinks
- Method #5: Create Tables with Proper Headers
- Method #6: Make Forms Accessible
- Method #7: Test Your PDF Document for Accessibility
PDF accessibility is the ability of a PDF document to be accessed and understood by people with disabilities, including those who are visually impaired, have motor impairments, or have learning disabilities. PDF accessibility is essential because it ensures that all users can access the information contained in a document, regardless of their ability.
If you want to learn more about PDF/UA file format, you can read about it in our previous blog article.
As digital documents become increasingly common, it’s essential to ensure that they are accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. One way to do this is by making sure your PDF documents comply with standards for people with disabilities.
Here are some tips on how to achieve this.
Method #1: Use Proper Document Structure
Ensuring that PDF documents meet standards for people with disabilities involves various measures, and one of the critical steps is using the correct document structure. PDF document structure refers to the organization and hierarchy of information within a document. The proper structure makes it easier for users with disabilities, such as visual impairments and learning disabilities, to navigate and access information.
- Headings and Subheadings
One way to ensure correct document structure is to use headings and subheadings. Headings are essential for structuring content into logical sections, and they should be organized in a hierarchy from the most important heading (H1) to the least important (H6). Proper use of headings helps users with disabilities to navigate through the document easily and find the information they need quickly. When creating headings, use descriptive and meaningful text that accurately reflects the content of the section.
Another critical aspect of proper document structure is the use of lists. Lists make information easier to read and understand by organizing it into smaller, more digestible chunks. Lists can be either ordered (numbered) or unordered (bulleted), and they should be used to break up large blocks of text into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Paragraphs are another important component of document structure. A well-structured paragraph should have a clear and concise topic sentence that sets out the main idea, followed by supporting sentences that develop that idea. Paragraphs should be kept relatively short to make the document more accessible and easier to read. Additionally, using white space between paragraphs can help to make the text more readable.
Lastly, when creating PDF documents, it is important to ensure that they are tagged correctly. Tagging involves assigning labels to each element in the document, such as headings, paragraphs, and lists. Tagging makes the document more accessible by allowing screen readers and other assistive technologies to identify and navigate through the document’s structure. Correct tagging ensures that users with disabilities can access the content in the correct order, making the document more accessible.
Ensuring that PDF documents meet standards for people with disabilities requires using the correct document structure. This involves using headings, lists, paragraphs, appropriate fonts and formatting, and correct tagging. A well-structured document not only meets accessibility standards but also improves the overall readability and usability of the document for all users.
Method #2: Use Appropriate Fonts and Colors
Using appropriate fonts and colors can greatly increase the accessibility of your PDF documents.
- We recommend using Sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, or Calibri because they are easier to read, especially for people with dyslexia. Avoid fancy or decorative fonts and use a font size of at least 12 points to ensure readability. Use bold, italics, and underlining sparingly to emphasize important points, and avoid using all capital letters as they can be difficult to read.
- Choosing the right colors is also important. Low color contrast can make it difficult for visually impaired people to read and understand images. Black font on a white background is recommended, but if other colors need to be used, make sure they are sufficiently contrasted.
- A structured layout makes it easier for people with cognitive disabilities to understand the content. Use headings, lists, and tables to organize information and make it easier to navigate.
By following these tips, you can make your PDF documents more accessible to people with disabilities and ensure everyone has equal access to the information.
Method #3: Add Alternative Text for Images
- When adding alt-text to images in PDF documents, it is important to provide a clear and concise description of the image. The description should convey the information presented in the image, such as a graph, chart, or photograph. It is also important to provide any relevant details that may not be immediately visible in the image. For example, if an image shows a map, the alt-text should describe the location and any relevant details about the area.
- The length of the alt-text should be kept short and concise, while still providing enough information to convey the meaning of the image. The text should be written in simple language that is easy to understand. It is also important to avoid using overly technical language or jargon that may not be familiar to everyone.
- When creating alt-text, it is also important to consider the context in which the image is presented. For example, if the image is part of a larger document, the alt-text should provide information that is relevant to the document as a whole. If the image is part of a chart or graph, the alt-text should describe the data presented in the chart or graph.
Adding alt-text to images in PDF documents is essential for ensuring that everyone, including those with disabilities, has access to the information presented in the image. The alt-text should be clear, concise, and provide relevant details about the image.
Method #4: Use Descriptive Hyperlinks
A hyperlink is a clickable link that takes the reader to another page or website. In PDF documents, hyperlinks are often used to provide additional information or to reference external sources.
- When creating hyperlinks in PDF documents, it is important to use descriptive link text. The link text should provide a clear and concise description of the destination of the link. For example, instead of using generic text like “click here” or “read more,” the link text should provide a specific description of the content being linked to. This helps people who use screen readers to understand the context of the link and its relevance to the document.
- It is also important to ensure that the hyperlink is set up correctly. The link should take the reader directly to the content being referenced, rather than to a general page or website. For example, if the link is referencing a specific section of a webpage, the link should take the reader directly to that section, rather than to the homepage of the website.
- In addition to using descriptive link text, it is also important to ensure that the hyperlink is easily visible. The link should be underlined and/or in a different color than the surrounding text. This helps people who have difficulty with visual perception to easily identify the link.
- Another important consideration when creating hyperlinks in PDF documents is to ensure that the link is not placed too close to other clickable elements, such as buttons or form fields. This helps prevent accidental activation of the wrong element.
Method #5: Create Tables with Proper Headers
Proper headers help people who use screen readers to understand the structure of the table and access the information presented in the table.
- When creating tables in PDF documents, it is important to use the proper markup to define the structure of the table. The table should be marked up with the appropriate tags, such as “table”, “tr” and “td”, to define the rows and columns of the table. This helps assistive technologies to recognize the table and read it in the correct order.
- It is also important to provide headers for each row and column in the table. The headers should be marked up using the “th” tag, which stands for table header. The “th” tag is used to identify the header cell in a table and distinguish it from other cells. This helps people who use screen readers to understand the structure of the table and access the information presented in the table.
- When creating table headers, it is important to use descriptive and concise text. The header text should provide a clear and concise description of the content of the column or row. For example, if the table is displaying sales data, the headers could be labeled “Product Name,” “Sales Quantity,” and “Revenue.” This helps people who use screen readers to understand the content of the table and access the information presented in the table.
- In addition to providing proper headers, it is also important to ensure that the table is formatted correctly. The table should have a clear and consistent layout, with rows and columns aligned properly. This helps people who have difficulty with visual perception to easily understand the content of the table.
Method #6: Make Forms Accessible
Making forms accessible involves providing alternative ways for users to interact with the form, as well as ensuring that the form can be navigated and understood by people who use assistive technologies.
- One way to make PDF forms accessible is by using proper form fields. Form fields provide a way for users to enter information into the form, and they can be marked up with appropriate tags, such as <input>, <textarea>, and <select>, to define the type of input expected from the user. It is important to provide clear labels for each form field, using descriptive and concise text. This helps people who use screen readers to understand the purpose of each form field and enter the appropriate information.
- Another important consideration when making forms accessible is to ensure that the form can be navigated in a logical and intuitive way. This involves providing a clear and consistent layout for the form, with form fields organized in a logical order. The form should be easily navigable using keyboard commands, and there should be clear indicators of where the user is within the form.
- It is also important to ensure that the form can be submitted in multiple ways. For example, users should be able to submit the form by clicking a submit button or by pressing the enter key. Additionally, it may be useful to provide alternative ways for users to complete the form, such as providing a printable version of the form or allowing users to submit the form via email or mail.
- In addition to providing proper form fields and navigation, it is important to ensure that the form is compatible with assistive technologies. This involves testing the form with a variety of screen readers and other assistive technologies to ensure that the form can be accessed and completed by people with disabilities.
Method #7: Test Your PDF Document for Accessibility
Testing your PDF document for accessibility is an important step in ensuring that it can be accessed and understood by people with disabilities. There are several tools available that can help you test your PDF document for accessibility, including automated accessibility checkers and manual testing.
- Automated accessibility checkers are software tools that scan your PDF document and identify potential accessibility issues. These tools can help identify common accessibility issues, such as missing alt text for images or improper headings. While automated tools are useful for quickly identifying potential issues, they are not foolproof and may miss certain accessibility issues.
- Manual testing involves testing your PDF document using assistive technologies, such as screen readers or magnification software. This can help identify issues that may not be caught by automated tools. For example, manual testing can help identify issues with navigation, such as difficulty navigating tables or forms.
It is important to note that accessibility testing is an ongoing process. While testing your PDF document before publishing is important, it is also important to continue testing and updating your document as needed. This can help ensure that your PDF document remains accessible over time and as technology evolves.
In addition to testing your PDF document for accessibility, it is also important to ensure that your audience is able to access your document in a format that works for them. This may involve providing alternative formats, such as HTML or text-only versions, or providing access to assistive technologies.
Creating accessible PDF documents is crucial to ensure that all users, including those with disabilities, can access and understand the content. The seven methods of PDF accessibility discussed above – using proper document structure, appropriate fonts and colors, alternative text for images, descriptive hyperlinks, proper table headers, accessible forms, and testing – are all important steps that should be followed when creating accessible PDF documents. By implementing these methods, you can help ensure that your PDF documents are accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities, and provide a better user experience for all users.