What is an accessible PDF?

A man creates an accessible PDF on his laptop computer.
What is an accessible pdf, and why does it matter?

Learning how to make an accessible PDF ensures you’re creating a document that is universally easy to use and meets established accessibility standards.

Why PDF accessibility matters.

An accessible PDF is a document that is universally easy to use and meets established accessibility standards. It enables most people to view, read, or interact with your document. Since your audience may include people whose vision, hearing, mobility, or cognition is impaired, your document must support assistive technology like:

The more accessible your PDF is, for example, the easier it is to hear on a mobile device. Or view it with a screen magnifier. Or fill it out without a keyboard. Actually, this increased ease of use benefits everyone in your audience, regardless of their various abilities.

So, let’s dive in further — what is PDF accessibility, and how can you apply it in your next document?

Differences between a regular PDF and an accessible PDF.

Accessible PDFs, as opposed to regular PDFs, prioritize inclusivity and provide a better user experience for individuals with disabilities. Here are the key differences:

How to create an accessible PDF.

Start by reviewing PDF accessibility standards like those outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These guidelines include minimum requirements and steps to ensure your documents are universally accessible. Although this isn’t a complete list, here are some things most accessible PDFs include:

Your goal is to make your PDF accessible to as many people as possible. Pause for a moment to consider your audience. Then take all necessary steps to ensure they can find your document, access it, and, if appropriate, interact with it. Use tools like the Accessibility Setup Assistant in Adobe Acrobat to help you get started.

Accessible PDF example.

Imagine you’re a content creator working on an important document that needs to be accessible for a user who relies on a screen reader. For example, someone may need to have a PDF read aloud to them. Let’s walk through the process of creating an accessible PDF specifically tailored to their needs.

  1. First, you start by organizing the document with clear and meaningful headings, allowing the screen reader to navigate the content smoothly. You then add alternative text descriptions to all images, ensuring that the screen reader can convey their meaning effectively.
  2. Next, you carefully tag each element in the PDF, such as paragraphs, headings, lists, and tables. Proper tagging helps the screen reader understand the structure and present the information in a logical order to the user.
  3. To enhance navigation, you provide descriptive text for hyperlinks instead of using generic phrases like “click here.” This allows the screen reader user to understand the purpose of the link without relying on visual cues. Additionally, you include bookmarks and a table of contents, facilitating easy navigation within the document.
  4. Considering visual accessibility, you ensure the PDF has sufficient color contrast and avoid relying solely on color to convey important information. This way, visually impaired users can still access and understand the content effectively.
  5. If the PDF contains forms, you ensure that all form fields are properly labeled and allow for keyboard navigation, making it easier for screen reader users to complete the forms independently.
  6. Finally, you review and test the PDF with a screen reader, ensuring that it reads the content in a logical order, correctly identifies headings, and properly interprets alternative text for images. This step helps to identify and resolve any accessibility issues that may arise.

By following these steps, you create an accessible PDF that offers a smooth reading experience for individuals using screen readers, ensuring equal access to the information presented in the document.

Explore everything you can do with Adobe Acrobat to create accessible documents today. You can edit PDFs, fill PDFs and forms, combine PDFs into a single file, and much more.