PDF Documents

Guidelines for creating accessible documents.

How to Make PDF Documents Accessible

Making PDFs accessible can be difficult. If you can deliver your content as a web page instead, that is the better option. However, if you must use the PDF format, be aware of the following:

  • Word or PowerPoint: The easiest approach is to start with an Accessible Word or PowerPoint document. If your source document is accessible, you can export to PDF and the accessibility will be retained. (See Word Template and Guidelines or PowerPoint Template and Guidelines)
  • Google Docs or Slides: At the time of writing, Google Docs and Google slides do not export to an accessible PDF. Unfortunately, all tags are stripped out. Tags describe paragraphs, lists, headings, and more. Instead, export your Google Doc to Word, or Google slides to PowerPoint. You can then export to PDF from the Microsoft product (See Google Docs Template and Guidelines or Google Slides Template and Guidelines). Alternatively, the paid version of Grackle Docs allows you to create accessible PDFs from Google generated documents.
  • Remediating an existing PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro: Remediating an existing document for accessibility is difficult, time-consuming and there is a learning curve. Adobe Acrobat Pro is the document most often used for this purpose. (See Adobe Acrobat Pro: Create and verify PDF accessibility)
  • PDF forms need to undergo remediation for accessibility. Due to the interactive nature of form fields, you must add extra tags in Acrobat Pro to ensure accessibility (See Adobe Acrobat Pro: Create and Distribute PDF forms). Unfortunately, making them accessible in authoring tools is not currently possible. Opting for web forms like Qualtrics or Google Forms is recommended whenever possible.
  • Foxit PDF Editor: Foxit PDF Editor is a tool for validating and remediating PDF accessibility. It provides a built-in accessibility checker. The checker does not identify all issues but looks for things such as missing document title, tags, alternative text, and other barriers to accessibility. It is a PAID application but offers a free evaluation before purchase. Access Foxit PDF Editor in the Microsoft Store.