An Accessible PDF

How to Create Accessible PDFs

Creating accessible PDFs ensures that all users, including those with disabilities, can access and interact with your documents effectively. Follow these steps to make your PDFs accessible and compliant with accessibility standards.

Understanding Accessible PDFs

They ensure that content is perceivable, operable, and understandable to a wide audience.

An Accessible PDF
Accessible PDFs

Steps for Creating Accessible PDFs

Use Proper Document Structure

Accessible Features: Ensure your document structure is clear and logical. Use headings (H1, H2, etc.) to organize content hierarchically. Headings help users navigate through the document and understand its organization.

Add Alternative Text to Images

Alternative Text: Include alternative text (alt text) for all images, graphs, and charts. Alt text provides a textual description of visual content, allowing screen readers to convey this information to users who cannot see the images.

Choose Accessible Fonts and Colors

Font and Color Accessibility: Select fonts that are easy to read and avoid using very small sizes or decorative fonts. Ensure there is sufficient colour contrast between text and background to enhance readability for all users.

Include Descriptive Hyperlinks

Descriptive Links: Use descriptive link text that indicates the link’s destination. Avoid generic phrases like “click here” or “read more.” Instead, use specific text that informs users about the linked content.

Ensure Proper Reading Order

Reading Order: Check the reading order of your document. Ensure that content flows logically from left to right and from top to bottom. Screen readers follow this order to present information to users.

Provide PDF Navigation Aids

Navigation Aids: Include navigational aids such as bookmarks and table of contents (if applicable). These aids help users quickly navigate through longer documents and find the information they need efficiently.

Test Accessibility Features

Accessibility Testing: Use accessibility tools and software to test your PDFs. Verify that all accessibility features, including alt text, headings, and reading order, function correctly and provide the intended user experience.

Textual Content

Avoid embedding text within images or using scanned PDFs. The text should be selectable and searchable within the document for screen readers.

Document Language Specification

Specify the language of the document using the <html> lang attribute or PDF metadata. This ensures screen readers pronounce words correctly according to the document’s language.

PDF Tags

PDF tags (like <H1>, <P>, <H2>, etc.) define the structure of the document. Use them to label headings, paragraphs, lists, and other content elements to enhance navigation and understanding.

Text Descriptions for Links

Use descriptive link text (e.g., “Download PDF Accessibility Guide” instead of “Click here”). This helps users understand where the link leads without context.

Document Properties

Set metadata such as title, author, subject, and keywords in the document properties. This information aids in searchability and categorization, especially for large PDF collections.

Text-to-Speech Compatibility

Test PDFs with text-to-speech software to ensure compatibility and readability. This verifies that screen readers can accurately interpret and vocalize the content.

Accessible PDF Viewer

Recommend using accessible PDF viewers that support screen readers and other assistive technologies. Some viewers offer features like magnification, text customization, and navigation aids.

File Size Optimization

Optimize PDF file size by compressing images and removing unnecessary elements. Smaller file sizes improve download times, benefiting users with slower internet connections or limited data.

Regular Testing

Regularly test PDF accessibility using assistive technologies. This helps identify and correct any accessibility issues that may arise during document creation or updates.


Provide training to content creators on accessible PDF creation. Educate them on best practices, accessibility standards (like WCAG), and tools available to ensure compliance and usability.


Creating accessible PDFs is crucial for ensuring inclusivity and providing equal access to information for all users. By following these guidelines and incorporating accessibility features into your PDF documents, you can make sure that your content reaches a broader audience and meets accessibility standards effectively.

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