Accessible PDF Files

All PDF (Adobe Acrobat’s Portable Document Format) documents we put online are required to be accessible. We recommend making your content a Web page instead of a PDF, when possible.

Required Link to Adobe Acrobat Reader

As with all links to files that require your visitor to have a plugin, you must include a link to the Adobe Acrobat Reader wherever a PDF is present on your website.  Example text: You may need to install Acrobat Reader to access this document.  The link should include the ending slash (i.e.,  http://get.adobe.com/reader/  )

How to Make an Accessible PDF

This tutorial was created using Adobe Acrobat Pro XI on a Mac. Get a free trial version of Acrobat Pro XI. The instruction should be relevant for comparable versions with some variation and additional instruction can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/acrobat-training. Documents created in Microsoft Word for Mac and saved as PDF files are not accessible.

Watch on YouTube. Please contact the cofawebmaster@austin.utexas.edu if you are unable to access this video.

This video covers how to:

  • Include property information and set the language of the document.
  • Make links that function properly on all devices and in all technologies.
  • Provide instruction to the computer about the desired hierarchy and rendering order of content.
  • Provide alternate text in case images do not appear as expected.
  • Adjust the reading order.

Extra BenefitThere are benefits in addition to making screen readers and other assistive technologies work better. An accessible PDF is always going to rank higher on search engines than a PDF that is not accessible. At any time a technological variable may cause your document not to display as you would like. Following the steps in this tutorial will help you to ensure your content is presented consistently.

‘Scanning’ or ‘Print As’ Options

The end result of choosing ‘Print As’ or scanning a document to make a PDF file is basically one big untagged graphic. The resulting files are completely inaccessible to persons using assistive technologies. PDF’s created this way can only be made accessible with the Adobe Acrobat software or optical character recognition (OCR) software and an investment of extra time.

As A Courtesy

We recommend that you provide the file size and type next to the link to a PDF. Not all visitors will be happy about downloading a file, especially a large one. The common recommendation for document file size is to keep it below 1 MB.

Forms and Applications

We recommend using Qualtrics to create online “fill in the blank” forms instead of PDF files.  Qualtrics forms will be accessible and have the added advantage of the results automatically being stored in a database.

Other file types

Visit the Office of the Governor’s Creating Accessible Microsoft Office Documents tutorial.

Learn More

Denis Boudreau excel spreadsheet on PDF testing checklist. Adobe Training Resources for accessible Acrobat documents. Guidelines from the Ohio State University Information Technology team.

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