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Accessible digital documents benefit all users by providing clear, concise, and easily understandable information. When you plan, format, and structure document content with accessibility in mind, you ensure usability for individuals with disabilities and those using different devices, software, and hardware.

Here, we provide general tips to ensure document accessibility, along with detailed guidelines for various document formats. Additionally, we offer a set of steps to minimize the number of inaccessible documents on your website.

Bake accessibility into your process
  • Create source documents with accessibility in mind from the beginning. This prevents rework and ensures efficiency.
  • Keep the source document available. This is the document version from which a PDF originates, often Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel files. It’s much easier to remediate from the source document than from a PDF.
  • Use a method that preserves accessibility when exporting to a PDF.
  • Allocate extra time during the document creation and website posting process to address accessibility issues.
  • Utilize accessibility checkers to evaluate your documents.
  • Join our training session on creating accessible digital documents.
  • Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need assistance.
Start with three easy steps

If you’re unsure where to start, here are three simple steps to significantly enhance the accessibility of almost any document:

  1. Ensure that your headings and subheadings have a semantic ‘heading style’ applied to them. Avoid using only bold or larger font sizes to indicate headings, as assistive technologies may not interpret them correctly. Refer to the instructions on how to set headings in Word.
  2. Review link text and ensure it is descriptive enough to provide clear information about the destination when it is read independently from the surrounding content. Avoid using generic terms like ‘read more’ or ‘here’ as link text. Refer to the instructions on how to create a more meaningful links in Word.
  3. Include alternative text for images. All images should have concise and descriptive alt text unless they are purely decorative and do not provide any relevant visual information. Strive to keep the descriptions brief. Refer to the instructions on how to set alt text in Word.
Reduce the number of inaccessible documents on your website
  1. Review the list of public-facing documents, such as PDFs, on your website. Remove any outdated or redundant documents from the site. Determine which PDFs can be converted into web pages or web forms. HTML format benefits the widest range of users when publishing online. Web pages and web-based content are inherently more accessible than documents and are also easier for all users to discover and navigate.
  2. Convert inaccessible PDF documents or forms into accessible web pages and web forms.
  3. Evaluate the remaining PDFs for accessibility and follow the provided guidance to make them accessible. If you lack in-house resources, you may consider hiring a vendor to make PDFs accessible.
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