PDF Accessibility

When people talk about "accessible" PDF files, they are usually referring to "tagged" PDF files. PDF tags provide a hidden, structured representation of the PDF content that is presented to screen readers. They exist for accessibility purposes only and have no visible effect on the PDF file. There is more to an accessible PDF file than tags, but an untagged PDF would not be considered "accessible".

HTML tags and PDF tags often use similar tag names (e.g., both have tags named h1) and organization structures. If you are comfortable with HTML, you will probably have an easier time creating and editing tagged PDF files, but knowledge of HTML is not necessary.

Creating Accessible Documents

When creating content, there are a few basic steps that should be followed in order to assure your content is accessible. The core steps needed for accessibility are the same regardless of whether your document is in HTML, Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF, or another document format:

  • Use headings
  • Use lists
  • Use meaningful hyperlinks
  • Add alternate text to images
  • Identify document language
  • Use tables wisely
  • Understand how to export from one format to another

  • To gain a better understanding of these core issues, see our Overview of Accessible Documents.

    To apply each of these concepts to a particular document format or authoring workflow, select one of the following topics:

  • Checking PDFs for Accessibility

  • Creating High-Quality Scanned Documents

    sometimes it is necessary to scan a document for an instructional need. When documents are in electronic form, they are easier to distribute and can be more accessible than print documents for students with disabilities. However, in order to be fully accessible, certain steps must be followed to be sure the scanned document is of high quality. Even if a document is not needed for a person with a disability, a poor scan often negatively impacts the end user’s experience. For details, see Creating High-Quality Scans.

    Please note the following limitations of this service:

  • The source file needs to be of good quality in order to maximize conversion accuracy.
  • Some file outputs may require additional editing after conversion.
  • This service is intended to provide a quick temporary solution but is not the final solution for accessibility. For faculty and staff who are producing documents, please consult the above links for information on how to create accessible documents in various document formats.
  • Students requesting alternate materials as an accommodation, please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS).

  • high-impact, multiple-use, and/or strategic PDF documents. Examples include:

  • PDF documents available to the public on a high-use website
  • PDF documents that will be used multiple times in a course
  • PDF documents developed by several faculty members to be used in several different classes

  • Vainqueur is available to provide technical support or training to faculty and staff who wish to create accessible electronic documents and otherwise make IT accessible. Contact

    Outsourcing PDF Remediation

    Vainqueur provides document remediation services at prices and turnaround times that seem to be a good match for higher education institutions. Contact the vendor for a quote:

  • Director of Account Management
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