Accessible Documents Accessible PDF

Difference Between Standard PDF and Accessible PDF

a locked laptop and a person on wheelchair working on a laptop

An accessible PDF is a PDF document that can be read and understood by everyone including people with disabilities. This includes people who use screen readers

Nerd Alert!

What is a self-contained and independent file that do not rely on any software or hardware and contains texts, links, graphics and tables? You guessed it right, it’s a PDF! Did you know that PDF is the most popular file extension on the web? Its accessibility, ease of use, and reliability across a wide range of platforms makes it easy for the PDF to be such a popular file type.

A crossover between a Standard PDF and an Accessible PDF

PDF was invented by Adobe in 1993. PDFs continue to advance by including innovative and modern features like encryption, digital signatures, layers and so on. One such feature of note was the “Accessibility feature” created for people with disability or people using assistive technology.

A PDF is considered to be accessible if it meets certain technical criteria and can be used by people with disabilities. These include people with mobility impairments, the blind, the visually impaired, the deaf and people with hearing and cognitive impairments.

When creating PDFs, it is essential that they are readable by all. Providing Accessible PDFs is now a requirement as per Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 & AODA.

PDF/Universal Access

PDFs are used by millions of users worldwide. They can be opened and viewed on any operating system or software application that supports it. The beauty of PDFs lies in their universality and for this reason the ISO published PDF/Universal Access or PDF/UA specification on July 15, 2012.

This specification allows for accessibility in PDFs for people with disabilities and conforms to assistive technology such as screen magnifiers, screen readers, speech recognition software, joysticks, alternative input devices, and text-to-speech screen readers. The PDFs under the PDF/UA specification also must have useful features such as image descriptions or alternative text descriptions for images and graphics.

On February 18, 2015, the US Access Board announced its proposed US federal accessibility policy, known as Section 508. The rule identifies PDF/UA as the equivalent of WCAG 2.0 for appropriate content.     

Tags in PDF

You can check if a PDF file has been tagged by opening the document in Adobe Reader and selecting Properties under File menu. In the pop-up window Document Properties, search the word "Tagged PDF" at the bottom of the screen.

Tagged PDFs can be redirected to adapt their presentation to different screen sizes, for example, to offer higher quality to users with smart mobile devices. A tagged PDF can also contain hidden accessibility markups that can be used to optimize the reading experience for screen readers and other supporting technologies.

To know more about Tagged PDFs, check out our detailed article.

Can you convert any PDF into an Accessible PDF?

 The answer is yes, you can! Any PDF can be made accessible, but the amount of work will depend on the source file.  

Along with adding tags to the PDF, you will also need to scan the documents through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to provide text and other components instead of just one image. PDF accessibility cannot be completely automated. With complex PDFs that include forms, graphs, tables, and media, remediation is a thorough process that can take dozens of hours for a single document.

This is where our team at 247 Accessible Documents help you out. We are not only specialists, but we also test with people with disabilities. They test with the PDF Accessibility Checker in Adobe Professional and ensures that a manual quality check is thoroughly implemented on the tags and the content. Write to to know how we can support you with making your PDF Accessible.



By Moiz Yamani

Futuristic and an enthusiast!