Much like your website, the PDFs that you link to on your site should be ADA compliant too. You will find that both share similar items such as headers, images, and tables that need to be handled similarly. While customers are responsible for handling ADA compliance on their PDFs. The information in this article is provided to help you understand what you need to do. 

Below you will find a list of questions with pointers, that you can use to review while making your PDFs compliant. 

  1. Is your document set up correctly?
    • All documents should have a Title and it should show instead of the file name. 
    • Has the Language been set for the document? For ADA compliance, PDFs should have their language be set so that readers know what language it is reading. This usually can be set in the Document Properties. 
  2. Are all of the elements of the document tagged?
    • All elements of a PDF should have a tag similar to a web page. 
      • Headers - Are your headers tagged with the appropriate header tag? H1 being the primary header while others are H2, H3, H4 and so on for less important headers.
      • Text - tagged with P (paragraph)
      • Lists - a combination of a L (the entire list), LI (each list item - for example, each bullet point), Label (the bullet in the LI) and LBody (list body in the LI)
      • Images - tagged with Figure
      • Tables - both the tables and their header cells. Tagged with Table (the entire table), TR (row), TH (header cells) and TD (column).
      • Forms - All form fields need to be tagged with Form
      • Media -  Any multimedia needs to be tagged or marked as an Artifact.
  3. Do all of your images have Alt text?
    •  All images should have Alt text assigned to them just like on your website. 
    • Also if possible, if images contain text such as scanned forms, the image should be converted to readable text using an OCR (optical character recognition) which is built into Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. That way the text can be read by text readers. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Pro DC we have listed several options below with no liability. Others can be found with a quick internet search.
  4. Does your document have tables, how are they built?
    • All tables must contain the same number of columns in each row and the same number of rows in each column. Also, all tables should have headers (header cells) in them. 
    • It is also recommended to include a Summary for each table for those using text readers. 
  5. Is there a form?
    • Form fields should have Descriptions for those that use text readers. Also see the following article, ADA - Handling Forms for additional information. 
  6. Does the document contain multiple pages?
    • If so, the document will need to be set so it can be read using the Document Structure. Each page will need to be set that way for ADA compliance
    • If the document has multiple pages it should have bookmarks that parallel the document structure. This allows those that use assistive technology an easier way to navigate a document.
    • Consider creating a Table of Contents that is using the bookmarks to make it easier to use. 

There are also other items that you can take into consideration while reviewing your documents. These items may not be automatically fixed by a program but should be thought about as you make your PDFs compliant.

  • If abbreviations are used throughout the document provided an Expansion ( non-abbreviated version ) or a Definition of the abbreviation for the first occurrence of the abbreviation. 

  • Links should be clear in the link text or in the context that they are being used in so that it is clear that it is a link and what it will do when clicked on. We also recommend not having links to other PDFs within a document since that could confuse viewers and harder for document management.

  • Keep in mind the Logical Reading Order of the document. The logical reading order is how a text reader will read the document to those that may not be able to read the site. You can test the PDF in a text reader or the Read Out Loud function which is built into Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.
  • Be aware of color contrast between elements in the PDF. Using high-contrast colors for those with visual impairments such as color blindness.

  • PDFs should not be script-dependent. Especially if they interfere with keyboard navigation or prevent the use of any input device. 

  • If the document contains Timed Responses, they should be extended so that a visitor is given enough time to read and then respond or remove the time limits.

Scanning your documents for ADA compliance

While we used Adobe Acrobat Pro DC in the video located in the Fixing your documents section, there are other applications that you can use to either test or fix PDFs for accessibility. We list several options below with no liability. Others can be found with a quick internet search.  

  • Free PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC 2) - a freeware program that provides a fast way to pdf files for accessibility. (Windows Only)
  • Tingtun PDF Checker - An online, open-source tool that checks pdf documents based on WACG 2.0.
  • PAVE - An online PDF Accessibility Validation Engine. It allows you to fix tags and other things outlined in the questions above.

Fixing your documents

While there are numerous applications that can be used to fix your PDF documents so that they are accessible, we recommend using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC but we have included links below to resources that review how to create ADA compliant documents in various application and then exporting them out as a pdf. 

The video below shows how to review editing a document in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, to make it accessible. Please remember that each PDF document is different, so the fixes that will need to be done to make them accessible may be different on per document. 

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC - ADA Compliance from Campus Suite on Vimeo.

If Adobe Acrobat PRO DC is not available to you or your documents were created using another application a quick search might help you in creating an ADA compliant PDF document. Some of the popular ones are listed below; 

Outside Sources

If you have a large number of PDFs that you need to make ADA compliant or you do not have the time to fix your pdfs there are companies that will handle this for you, some are listed below. While we do not endorse any of them, if you do a search on the internet you will be able to find companies that can assist you with making your PDFs compliant. 

Additional Tools and Articles