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Digital Accessibility

Documents & PDFs

Every time you share a document in a digital format, you will need to follow the right steps to ensure the information it's communicating is accessible to all.

How to Create Accessible Documents

If you incorporate accessibility best practices into your work every time you consider sharing documents digitally, ensuring accessibility compliance will become a natural part of your process fairly quickly. 

Only share content as a document when absolutely necessary.

It's always a better idea to provide content as information on the screen (like on a web page or in Blackboard) rather than inside a document. This is a best practice that helps everyone interacting with your content, not just those using assistive technology. You should only present content in a document if, for someone reason, there is no other alternative. 

Provide a content hierarchy with headings and subheadings.

All users rely on headings and subheadings that provide the correct hierarchy to navigate a document. Use the built-in heading feature provided by the software you are using to create headings and subheadings.

Heading Hierarchy Tutorial »

Use the list option provided by your software toolbar.

Any content organized as a list should be created using the built-in options in your toolbar for bulleted lists and number lists rather than manually created. Doing this helps those using screen readers better understand how the content is organized. 

Consider alternative text for all images.

Alternative (alt) text describes an image in words for someone who cannot see the image, for whatever reason. In very rare cases, an image might be "decorative," which means it contributes no additional information to the content on the page, and can be marked as such. 

Adding Alt Text in Specific Platforms

Alternative Text Tutorials »

Identify the document’s language.

Set the language of the document (English, Spanish, etc.) to ensure that screen readers will read a document correctly. 
Adobe Instructions for Setting Document Language in PDFs

Use tables correctly.

Only use tables to display data that belongs in a table, never to control the layout of your information. Keep the following in mind when creating tables:

  • Use the table option in the toolbar offered by your document creation program.
  • Set column and row headers.
  • Keep your tables as simple as possible.

Make text easy to read.

Your document will need to have the right contrast ratio between the color of the text and the color of the background behind it. This ensures that those with vision-related disabilities like low vision, color blindness, and nearsightedness can read your text. Even if text looks easy to read to you, it's always a good idea to check it.

Make fillable forms accessible.

Adobe Acrobat Pro is the best document tool for making this type of form accessible.
Adobe Fillable Form Instructions 

Check Your Accessibility Before Uploading

Always check for accessibility issues that you'll need to correct before you upload and share your document.

Accessibility Check Instructions for Specific Programs

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