PDF Accessibility Issues and Solutions

PDF files are a challenge to make accessible, potential issues include:

  • PDF documents are usually formatted to be printed vertically, but computer monitors are generally horizontal. This mismatch causes users to scroll PDF files more often than on a web site, which can be difficult for users with mobility impairments.
  • PDF files are larger than a Word file or html pages; it takes longer to load.
  • The interface of a PDF file is not consistent across platforms and browsers.

Appropriate uses of PDF files:

  • Posting material that uses technical fonts and/or specialized characters, such as in fields like music, foreign languages and mathematics.
  • Posting print manuals and print forms online.

PDF Issues & Recommendations

Accessible Alternatives to PDF Files:

  • Create content in a web page rather than uploading PDF files.
  • Save files as .docx/.pptx/.xlsx etc. and publish via their original formats.
  • If you scan materials from paper publications, use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) programs and export the file as a Word document. Materials you scan shouldn't contain a lot of graphics. If this is the case, you may need to scan the file as a PDF and OCR the file. See "Repair" section on this page.
  • Use “Protected Document” feature in Office. how to protect Office document.

If you have existing PDF documents or PDF is the original format, you can do the following:

  • Replace:
    • Replace the content; present it as a webpage.
    • Replace PDF files with Office an document. Export a PDF file to a Word document to save some of your work: Open Adobe Acrobat, Click on File < Save As < Microsoft Word < Word Document. Specify settings, and then save the file.
  • Replicate:
    • If you choose to publish a PDF, e.g. an image intensive brochure. Create alternative version(s) of the same content, i.e. a web page, or a simplified, text version in Word.
    • If you choose to publish PDF files, you may need to provide a Word version, if a users needs accommodation.
  • Repair:
    • If the PDF file is from a scanned document. You need to ensure it is OCR-ed. How to OCR a PDF using Adobe Acrobat.
    • If a PDF contains written comments and notes from a scanned document, you can OCR the document. Save the PDF as a Word Document and use the Comments/Tracking tools in Word.
    • Make a PDF document accessible. make a PDF file accessible.

This page developed and maintained by IT, Center for Instruction & Technology. Send comments and suggestions to cit@ccri.edu.

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Last Updated: 10/3/17