Creating accessible PDF documents

Published by | Friday, November 4th, 2011

In a May 2010 report, the U.S. Census Bureau disclosed that there are 1.8 million people age 15 and older who can’t see printed words, and 1 million who are unable to hear a conversation.

With discussions about Section 508 compliance heating up and questions about accessibility trickling down, we have an unprecedented need to use today’s technology tools to create truly accessible content. Perhaps you need to know how to create accessible documents or movies for your students, or maybe you do business with an entity that requires accessibility compliance.

We’re planning a course to help you create accessible PDF documents using Adobe Acrobat. We’d like to hear what topics interest you most as you approach accessibility with your PDF documents. Please rate the importance of each topic on our 1-5 scale, with 1 being most important and 5 being least important.
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Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section. Your feedback will help us shape this upcoming course. Thank you!

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10 Responses to “Creating accessible PDF documents”

  1. Mark DuBois says:

    I teach a class in web accessibility and on of the topics we cover deals with creating accessible PDF documents. Having students reference tutorials would be a great addition to this section in my class.


  2. Kathy Simic says:

    I work with students at TAFE who have a vision impairment, and I am regularly have to reformat pdf documents either to make them accessible for students, or using the ocr to convert the document into text to enlarge. This is often very difficult. I would really appreciate any tips that you could give on making this a more streamlined, and less time consuming process. Thank you, Kathy

  3. drs18 says:

    Your tweet said you’re planning a course in making a PDF accessible; I raised a wary eyebrow. Actually, it seems to be in making PDFs 508 compliant. There’s a difference, and I’m glad you’re going this route. I’d actually prefer WCAG2 compliance, but 508 ain’t so bad.

  4. Mark Hale says:

    I hope you start from the document source (e.g. making good documents in Word, etc.), not just from the perspective of remediating PDFs.

    Also, I hope you generalize the accessibility beyond 508, e.g. to include WCAG 2.0, for those whose standards aren’t tied to 508.

  5. mike says:

    PDF is designed to replicate the printed page. But, in theory at least, I’ve always felt it should be possible to reflow text at any font size, for any display size, and for any paper size (or orintation). Furthermore, it should be possible for PDF to be read aloud by a PC in the correct order and with appropriate Alt text. In practice, PDF’s nods in these directions have all proved, shall we say, a bit hit-and-miss, at least for the complex technical documents I produce. I’ve always felt the PDF would have to designed from the ground up to reliably achieve any of these goals, and even that PDF might be the wrong format. If it’s going to be that constrained, why wouldn’t I use ePub? Well, one reason might be because I care more about producing controlled document spaces than I do about selling as such. So, if your trainers know how to deliver PDF for section whatever compliance, you may be tapping into a wider audience, simply by showing how to make PDF work better for a broader range of devices: tablet > netbook > laptop > dual-screen workstation.

  6. Laurie Iten says:

    In academia we often have links to pdf files from published journal articles. I’d like this new “Creating accessible PDF documents” class address the question of what are the accessibility requirements for “published” pdf files that we have links to within a website that must be 508 compliant?

  7. Thank you for the terrific feedback–we’ll be taking it into account as we plan the course.

  8. Gary says:

    I hope that you generalize beyond screen readers. Not all disabled persons are visually impaired and not all who use assistive technology use screen readers. many of us use speech recognition software for dexterity impairments. the accessibility industry’s narrow-focus is very frustrating and counter-productive.
    Surveys with ranking: 1 should be the lowest – 5 or whatever other number should be the highest. yours in counter-intuitive.

  9. pete warren says:

    please email when course is available.

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