Tips For Making Lists Accessible In PDFs

Graphical picture of Tips For Making Lists Accessible In PDFs


With over one billion people worldwide living with disabilities, ensuring PDF accessibility has become increasingly important. By making PDFs accessible, organisations can guarantee universal access and enable optimal content consumption for all users, with or without disabilities. This inclusive approach fosters equal opportunity and allows businesses to explore an untapped demographic to drive growth.

In this article, we will explore the significance of accessible lists in PDFs and provide valuable tips to enhance readability and inclusivity. Lists, in particular, serve a crucial purpose in PDFs by providing a structured and organized approach to presenting information. Unfortunately, inadequate list organization and a lack of proper structure can pose obstacles for individuals with disabilities. By addressing accessibility issues related to PDF lists, businesses can eliminate barriers and foster an inclusive learning experience for all.

Additionally, we’ll introduce some groundbreaking accessibility solutions, including PREP, an award-winning PDF and document remediation platform, which automates and accelerates the process of remediating PDFs and other documents. Keep reading to learn more.

Making Lists Accessible in PDFs

PDFs are widely used for sharing information, but their accessibility potential often goes untapped, especially when it comes to numbered or bulleted lists. By making lists accessible, you ensure that individuals with disabilities can access and comprehend the content effectively. This includes people with visual impairments using screen readers, individuals with cognitive disabilities, and those using alternative input devices. Choosing the right list type based on the content and context of the information presented in the PDF enhances its accessibility and improves user experience.

Following the below accessibility guidelines can help create an inclusive reading experience for all users:

Use the Right Type of Lists

There are three main types of lists: unordered lists, ordered lists, and description lists. Understanding their key differences and using the appropriate list type is crucial for accessibility.
Unordered lists: Unordered lists present items in no particular order. Bullet points or other symbols are commonly used to indicate each item. Using unordered lists works when the order of the items is not important.
Ordered lists: Ordered lists present items in a specific order or sequence. These are typically numbered or lettered. Using ordered lists is important to convey meaning, as the items have a logical order.
Description lists: Description lists consist of terms and their corresponding descriptions. These are useful for providing definitions or explanations. Using description lists makes sense when associating terms with their descriptions.

Use Nested Lists and Proper Markup

Nested lists are lists within lists, commonly used to present subcategories or hierarchical information. When using nested lists, it’s essential to use proper markup to ensure that assistive technologies can interpret them correctly.

Here are some basic guidelines that shape effectively structured nested lists:
  • Use indentation or spacing to visually distinguish nested levels.
  • Provide clear and concise labels for each level of nesting.
  • Use proper HTML or semantic markup to indicate the nesting hierarchy.
  • Test the PDF with assistive technologies to ensure accurate interpretation of nested lists.
By following these guidelines, you can make nested lists in PDFs accessible to users of assistive technologies.

Maintain Consistency

Consistency in list styles goes beyond aesthetics and plays a pivotal role in enhancing the readability and accessibility of PDFs for all users. By maintaining a consistent approach to list formatting, businesses can create a harmonious reading experience that accommodates diverse needs and ensures information is easily understandable.
Here are some tips for maintaining consistency:
  • Using the same list type (unordered, ordered, or description) consistently throughout the document.
  • Maintaining consistent indentation, spacing, and alignment within and between lists.
  • Ensuring the list items’ font size, color contrast, and formatting are consistent with the overall document design.

Enhance Clarity and Compatibility

When it comes to list styles in PDFs, simplicity and clarity are key factors in ensuring accessibility for all users, including those with visual impairments. It is crucial to keep in mind these pointers for those who rely on assistive technologies to interpret content:
  • Simplify and avoid complex or decorative list styles that hinder accessibility for users with visual impairments.
  • Avoid complex list styles with intricate designs or excessive visual embellishments that pose significant barriers for individuals relying on assistive technologies.
  • Opt for simple and distinguishable list styles that provide clear visual cues and facilitate easy differentiation between list items.
  • Enhance readability and comprehension for individuals with visual impairments and cognitive disabilities with simple list styles.
  • Ensure compatibility with assistive technologies by using list styles that adhere to recognized standards and best practices.
  • Leverage assistive technologies that rely on correctly interpreting HTML tags and structural elements to navigate and present content effectively.
  • Choose accessible list styles for accurate identification and articulation of list hierarchy for efficient content navigation by users.

Test PDFs with a PDF Accessibility Checker

Testing PDFs for accessibility is crucial to ensure compliance with accessibility standards and guidelines. Continual Engine’s PREP offers a powerful PDF Accessibility Checker tool that can help identify accessibility issues and provide actionable recommendations for remediation.

The PREP PDF Accessibility Checker analyzes PDFs for compliance with standards such as Section 508, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG), PDFU/A, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Using PDF accessibility checkers, you can quickly identify any accessibility issues within your PDFs and take the necessary steps to remediate them.

The benefits of using a PDF accessibility checker include the following:

Comprehensive Analysis: The tool thoroughly scans your PDFs, examining elements such as headings, lists, alt-text for images, tables, and more. It provides a detailed report highlighting any accessibility violations or areas that need improvement.

Actionable Recommendations: The PDF accessibility checker doesn’t just identify issues; it also offers clear and actionable recommendations for remediation. This guide helps you understand how to make your lists and other elements more accessible to users with disabilities.

Compliance Assurance: It ensures your PDFs meet key accessibility standards. By addressing the identified accessibility issues, you can confidently publish compliant PDFs that adhere to these important guidelines.

Streamlined Remediation Process: Once you have identified accessibility issues with the help of a PDF accessibility checker, PREP’s artificial intelligence (AI)-driven PDF and document remediation services step in to resolve these issues efficiently. Its sophisticated technology automates the remediation process, saving you valuable time and resources.

Final Thoughts

By optimizing and ensuring the accessibility of lists in your PDFs, you can demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. This enhances the overall user experience and aligns your business to legal and ethical obligations regarding digital accessibility.

Start prioritizing accessibility in your PDFs today with Continual Engine’s PREP (PDF & Document Remediation Platform). Powered by advanced AI technology, PREP accelerates the remediation process, enabling organizations to handle large volumes of complex PDFs efficiently. Our customizable services cater to unique accessibility requirements, prioritizing users’ needs.

Integrating automation and cutting-edge technologies, PREP delivers rapid and precise remediation results that meet the highest quality and compliance standards. By streamlining your document remediation process and making PDFs accessible, you can achieve enhanced accessibility for all users, irrespective of their varied abilities with PREP.

Interested in learning more about accessibility solutions?

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Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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