Accessible PDFs

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If a document has been created in Word and is accessible, many of the accessibility features will be present in the PDF after conversion. However, if you did not create the document, or it was not created using Word, you may need to amend it to ensure that it is accessible. Using Adobe Acrobat you can improve the accessibility of a PDF document.

Creating the PDF

The most straightforward way to create a PDF is to convert it from a Word document. You can also convert a PowerPoint presentation if you wish to create handouts of your slides. If you are starting with a hard copy, for example a book, you will need to scan the section you need and then run optical character recognition (OCR) in order to create text, rather than an image of the text which cannot be accessed by screen readers or text-to-speech (TTS) software.

Accessibility Basics

You can use the action wizard to create an accessible document, and the accessibility checker to check for any big issues with the accessibility of your document. You will need to set the language specification for screen readers or TTS software, and you may need to use the TouchUp Reading Order tool to make sure it is structured correctly. Make longer documents easier to navigate by adding bookmarks.

Using Images

Learn how to find images to use in your documents, how to avoid copyright difficulties and how to attribute the materials you use correctly. Ensure they have alt text added and that it is meaningful. You can use screen tips if you need extra information. Alternatively, if the image is used to improve the appearance of the document but doesn’t add any important information, it is better to tag it as an artifact that is ignored by screen reader software.

Using Tables

Keep the structure simple, and bear in mind that screen readers will read the content from left to right when deciding on a structure. Add a table summary to explain your table to visually impaired readers and make sure it is meaningful. Use the TouchUp Reading Order tool to check that the table is tagged properly

Reading PDFs

Adobe Reader is free and has features that make it easier to read PDF documents on screen. You can quickly check for accessibility to warn you of any accessibility issues and the setup assistant to make sure the software is set up for either screen readers or magnifiers, or change the reading options before you start to read your document. You can adjust the accessibility preferences to find more suitable colours, page layout, zoom and other options.

The bookmarks and pages views can help you to navigate around long documents and find specific information, and you can use reflow, automatically scroll and read out loud to customise the way you read the document. The read out loud function can use either the voice built into your computer or a different voice if you prefer.

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