The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a popular format for sharing content on the Web, especially when the precise formatting of the document is essential. PDF files are also common for creating forms and providing a downloadable version of content. Even with the ease of creating PDFs and the near ubiquity of end users being able to read PDF files, they do introduce a number of accessibility issues that need special attention. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when creating PDF documents.
- Ask yourself if the file needs to be delivered as a PDF.
Could it be adequately delivered as an HTML document?
HTML documents provide more flexibility in terms of delivery and are often easier to make accessible.
- Make sure the software you are using to create the PDF document is capable of creating an accessible PDF. The most common work flow is to use Microsoft Word to create PDFs. In this case, it is important to create your Word document correctly to make the process of creating an accessible PDF format as simple as possible. It is significantly easier to make an accessible PDF when the document is created correctly in the authoring software.
- In Microsoft Word, this means using things like the built-in styles for providing a semantic structure to your document, such as using Heading 1 and Heading 2, instead of simply making certain text bigger and bolder to denote a heading.
- In Microsoft Word, only the Windows version of Word supports creating accessible PDFs. PDFs created in the OS X version of Word will not be accessible. In this case you will need to either
- simply give the user the original Microsoft Word document that has been authored according to best practices
use Adobe Acrobat to retrofit the necessary accessibility information
- It is essential that you make a “tagged” PDF document to make it accessible. Within products like Microsoft Word, there is often an option for creating the PDF as a tagged document. Tags can also be added with Adobe Acrobat after the PDF is made, but it is easier to do it in the original authoring software.
- If your document uses tables you will need to manually add the appropriate tags into the PDF document using Adobe Acrobat.
- WebAIM provides a number of good tutorials for how to make accessible PDF documents, and also how to author your Microsoft Word document correctly to facilitate making accessible PDFs.
- Adobe also provides training resources for creating accessible PDFs, including how to properly create your source document in Microsoft Word.
- Accessibility Cheat Sheet on creating accessible PDF documents.