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Creating an accessible PDF document

PDF documents can be created in a variety of ways and each has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of accessibility.

This section looks at three of the most common ways of creating PDFs and provides guidance on ensuring they are accessible –

  • Creating a PDF from a Word Processed Document
  • Creating a PDF by Scanning a Document
  • Creating a PDF from Professional Graphics Packages

Creating a PDF from a Word Processed DocumentMs Word logo

Before converting a Word document to PDF ensure the accessibility guidelines for Word documents have been followed. These will cross over to the PDF.

If you have a document that was converted from a Word document in the past you can check accessibility, and enhance if necessary using Acrobat Professional.


Creating a PDF by Scanning a Documentscanner

Using a scanner to create a PDF file creates a single image of each page. Text is not recognised as each page is formatted as an image. This makes accessibility difficult as screen readers cannot read the text.

You can use the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) function available in the software bundled with most scanners to enhance accessibility. OCR translates images of text into editable text.

Run scanned documents through the OCR process and then check it for headings tags and alternative texts for images as usual.


Creating a PDF from Professional Graphics Packagesprofessional graphics package

For publications designed for promotional purposes or for a wider audience, such as institutional prospectuses, a graphic designer would normally be commissioned. During the design process the original text is imported into Adobe Professional so that the layout of the text and any images can be easily manipulated and other design elements added.

A PDF of the design is produced to allow the commissioner to easily see what the finished product will look like. If the PDF is intended for wider use, for example to be made available to download, ensure:

  • there is a defined structure for the document, and therefore the option to navigate the document using bookmarks.
  • the reading order is tagged correctly, so that functions such as Reflow and Read Out Loud, as well as screen readers, can navigate through the document effectively.
  • images have appropriate alternative text.
  • navigation via bookmarks is possible.
  • the reading order is correctly tagged.

If it is not possible to provide this level of accessibility within the PDF then ensure the information is also available in an alternative format (e.g. word).

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Last updated 28 September 2016 by Trinity Inclusive Curriculum (Email).