Portable Document Format [PDF]

Are your PDFs accessible?

PDF icon, by PixabayPDF stands for portable document format and it is one of the most used file formats in today’s digital world. PDFs can preserve document formatting that helps them look the same on any device. All PDF files need to be accessible. This makes it easier for screen readers and other assistive technologies to determine a logical reading order and navigation for the file, as well as allowing for content reflow when using large type displays and mobile devices.

Related tutorials and resources: Accessible Microsoft Documents, Accessibility Checklist


Three ways to create a PDF document:

  • Convert from a source file (Word, PowerPoint, Pages)
  • Convert Google files with Grackle Docs (Docs, Slides, Sheets)
  • Using Adobe Acrobat Pro to create a PDF

Tip: The best solution is to address problems at their source. Make sure your source file has passed an accessibility check before creating the PDF.

Deeper Dive: Understanding PDF Accessibility, University of Colorado Boulder

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Converting Microsoft Office Files

Microsoft provides directions on how to create Accessible PDFs from Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio and publisher files on Windows, Mac and Web platforms.

Whether on Windows or a Mac computer, the process to convert a Microsoft Office file to a PDF is basically the same.

  1. Run the Accessibility Checker in your document to make sure it is accessible
  2. Go to your FILE menu.
  3. Click Save As. From the options, choose PDF. Options will appear and this final step varies a bit between PCs and Macs. Here are the instructions for your operating system:
    How to save an accessible PDF in Microsoft Office

Mac Users: MS Office 2016 and later have the ability to create accessible PDF files. Early versions do not.

Converting Google Files

If you choose to download your Google file as a PDF directly from the browser, you will not get an accessible PDF. You must use Grackle. The Grackle Suite for Google Docs and Slides features an accessibility checker and an export PDF option. This will provide you with a properly tagged PDF.

(ID Services is creating a Toolbox section for Google Docs [+ Grackle] or Google Slides [+ Grackle]. These will give you more information on Grackle and how to use it to make your documents more accessible. )

Using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Using the accessibility checker ensures that PDFs that are created in Adobe Acrobat are accessible and meet WCAG 2.0 and PDF/Universal Accessibility Standards. Making corrections can be time-consuming. Going back to the original document to correct accessibility issues works best.

Moodle Users: It is important to understand that when you upload a PDF to your Moodle course, Ally will only alert you to accessibility issues. It will not fix your PDFs.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC Accessibility Repair Workflow


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