Accessible documents and PDFs

PDF Accessibility

PDF documents are useful for making sure the visual presentation of a document remains consistent, but many PDF documents aren’t accessible for people who use screen readers. An accessible PDF has searchable text, alt text for images, a logical order when you tab through it, and a detailed internal structure called the “tag order,” among other properties.

Do I need a PDF?

Because PDF accessibility can be very complex, sometimes it helps to consider if PDF is the best format for a document, or if there are ways to present the document in an additional format that might be more accessible. For example, a link to an online article is generally more accessible than a PDF of that article, and a Word document will generally be more accessible than a PDF for screen reader users.

How do I create an accessible PDF?

How do I fix an inaccessible PDF?

If the PDF was generated in a different program and you have access to the source files, you may be able to fix accessibility issues and re-export the file to PDF.

Otherwise, the PDF will need remediation. Most remediation requires Adobe Acrobat Pro; there are instructions for purchasing and installing Acrobat Pro at Mines. If you need help remediating a PDF, request accessibility remediation through Mines IT.


What should I avoid when making accessible PDFs?

  • LaTeX: Publishing LaTeX to PDF generally does not result in accessible PDFs. Visit the Math and Equations page for recommendations on generating accessible math.
  • Marq: Although Marq has an “accessible PDF” option, the reading order is generally not accessible, so we recommend only using Marq to design print content.
  • Scanners or cameras: If you scan a document and create a PDF, make sure that you use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to create digital text. The PDF won’t have an accessible structure, but will be more accessible than an image of text.

Microsoft Word Accessibility

Microsoft has a detailed article about creating accessible Microsoft Word documents.