Creating accessible documents
In order to make a document possible to be read by everyone, regardless of circumstances, you need to adapt your document to current accessibility standards.
Before you start creating a document, consider whether you can make this information available through a web page instead. Some of the issues with PDF documents compared to web pages are:
- PDFs do not resize to fit the screen (non-responsive).
- Unable to measure the use of how the contents of the PDF is read and used (such as web statistics can be measured).
- PDF documents are more difficult to navigate and orientate than a web page. The user ends up in a document reader instead of remaining on the website (which is the context of the information). There are also users who do not have software to read PDF documents at all.
- A web page text is already formatted and customized in a accessible way (partly made by web standard but also made by the visitors adjustments to the web reader settings). When you choose to create a PDF, it is instead you who must make the information accessible and readable.
- Content can be more difficult to reuse from a PDF than a web page and so-called "add-in" functions in the browser can not be used (such as Google translate which automatically translates the text on the page).
When you have decided to create a document, you need to adjust its accessibility. This means, among other things, that you need to:
- Provide as much information about the document as possible
- Use different formats for title, body text, etc.
- Use descriptive captions and alternate texts on images, figures, tables and graphics.
- Create links that clearly explain what they link to and what the link page contains.
- Categorize information in several different ways, not just by color.
- Use high contrast between text and background.
- Be mindful of how you create tables.
Here's how to take advantage of accessibility customization in the software;
When creating your document, try to provide as much information about the document as possible. Set document language, define the reading order, enter the document title, author and the date the document was created and last updated.
In longer documents, make a table of contents. This should be able to be used as bookmarks in the document.
In most text editing software there are different formats for e.g. body text, headings, etc. which you can use. When you format the text, text reading programs can understand what type of text this particular sentence is and then read out the text as e.g. a headline and not as part of a sentence.
NOTE! remember to use the headings in the correct order, ie first Heading 1, then Heading 2, etc.
Images and figures
All images in the document must have captions where it appears what the image represents and an alternative text, also called alt text, (text that appears what the image represents if you hover with the mouse pointer over the image).
If the image is decorative, for example a frame around a diploma, an alt text that says that it is a decorative image is sufficient.
All links in your document should be clearly visible and be explanatory of where the visitor will end up if the link is clicked.
The two examples below show a clear difference between a good and a bad link. The bad link has only marked a single word, which means that it is poorly visible and the reader will not find out where the visitor ends up if she clicks on the link.
Example of a bad link:
Example of a good link:
You can read more about available documents on the FUNKA's website.
Categorization of data
Categorize information in several ways, not just by color. For example, in a table, you can use both bold text and background color to show where the headings are. If you only use color, the one who is color blind may not be able to distinguish between the colors. Another example could be to use a little space between the pieces in a pie chart so that you can see the different parts separately.
There should be a big difference between background color and text, otherwise it can be difficult to see, especially if you have a visual impairment. This is called using high contrast. For example, if you have black text, use a light background color. If you use white text, have a dark background color. Preferably do not use text on top of a photo or a pattern as it can be difficult to distinguish the text.
In tables, you should preferably not use shared cells, merged cells or nested tables. When reading with the help of a screen reader, the software keeps track of the place in a table by counting cells. If a table uses any of the above features, the screen reader will lose count.
If no data exists for a part of the table, never leave that cell blank but write "0", "blank", or similar instead. Empty cells in a table can make the user of a screen reader think that there is no more data to read.
Accessibility tips for text writing software
Select the default language for the document. To do this, under the Tools tab, then select the Language function.
When saving a Word document as a pdf, remember to check the box "Show tags for document structure" to include the title formatting, etc.. You can find this box under the "Options" button.
Note! If you create a PDF from a ready-made, accessible Word file, it often happens that not all settings from Word are included in the PDF, so always review the PDF in Acrobat as well.
Read more about how to improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker i Word at the Microsoft website.
In the Acrobat document settings you can allow user to be able to copy the document. If you still want to lock/protect the document from being copied, you can in the settings panel instead check the box for making the document "available to screen readers".
If the document does not have formatted tags (headings, chapters, sections, etc.), you can add this afterwards in Acrobat.
Read more about how to use the Acrobat Pro Accessibility checker on the Adobe website.