How to Make a PDF ADA-Compliant?

Graphical picture of How to Make a PDF ADA-Compliant

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that stops discrimination against people with disabilities in public places. ADA Title III covers businesses called “public accommodations”, such as colleges, stores, banks, hospitals, and
restaurants. In 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that websites also count as “public accommodations” under the ADA. This means websites must be easy to use for people with disabilities like vision or hearing problems. It’s
important to know that the ADA also applies to other parts of businesses’ online spaces, not just their websites. This includes things like emails, videos, and documents online, such as PDFs.

Why Should PDFs be ADA-compliant?

PDF, or Portable Document Format, is a popular way to share documents online. A PDF document has different parts, such as paragraphs, images, and tables, and each part is tagged. Assistive technologies, such as screen readers and
text-to-speech devices, use these tags to convey the document properly to people with disabilities. The ADA document remediation guidelines require PDFs to be fully accessible to assistive technology. Unfortunately, most PDFs are not tagged
efficiently. Such untagged PDFs create information barriers for people with disabilities.

Read More: Types of PDF Standards and Compliances

How to Create an ADA-compliant PDF?

When you make an accessible PDF, remember these tips:

  1. Choose the Right Language : Make sure your PDF is set in the correct language. This helps screen readers understand the text correctly and avoids confusion.
  2. Begin with an Accessible Document : If you can, start with a document that’s easy to access. Then, change it into a PDF while keeping its accessibility features intact.
  3. Use Clear Headings and Structure : Arrange your information with clear headings and in a way that makes sense. This helps readers navigate through the document and grasp the content easily.
  4. Add Descriptions for Pictures and Charts: Make sure all important images, charts, and other non-text elements have descriptions. This helps people who use screen readers understand what’s in the images.
  5. Tag Tables and Forms Correctly: When you use tables and forms, tag them properly so they’re easy to navigate. Tables should have header rows and columns labeled correctly. Remember to use specific tags like for the
    whole table and for individual rows.
  6. Ensure Good Color Contrast: Make sure there’s enough contrast between your text and background colors. This helps everyone read your content, especially people with vision problems like color blindness. To learn
    more about how color contrast works in ADA-compliant documents, you can check out our guide here.
  7. Use Easy-to-read Fonts and Consistent Formatting: When creating PDFs, it’s important to use fonts that are easy to read and keep the formatting consistent. This ensures that everyone can access the information
    without any difficulty.
  8. Make Links Easy to Understand: Hyperlinks in your PDF should have clear and descriptive text so that readers know where they’ll go when they click. This is especially helpful for people using assistive technology.
  9. Ensure Accessibility: After finishing your document, run a check to find any accessibility problems. This helps ensure everyone can use your PDF without trouble.

Read More: Common PDF Accessibility Errors to Avoid

Where Can You Utilize ADA-compliant PDFs?

Educational Materials: Schools and universities can make PDF versions of textbooks and handouts so that differently abled students can easily read them.

Government Documents: Government agencies can create PDFs of reports and brochures that follow ADA guidelines, making them accessible to everyone.

Healthcare Materials: Hospitals can make PDFs of patient forms and consent forms that meet ADA standards, allowing patients with disabilities to understand and fill them out.

Business Documents: Companies can produce ADA-compliant PDFs like employee manuals and marketing materials, ensuring all employees and customers can read them.

Legal Documents: Law firms can make ADA-friendly PDFs of legal papers like contracts and court filings. This means including things like alt text for images and clear headings so that people with disabilities can understand
them too.

What Happens if Your PDFs Are Not Accessible?

If digital documents don’t meet ADA accessibility rules, they could become targets for lawyers looking to make quick money through lawsuits. These lawyers sue document owners and often win cases easily, leading to hefty settlement costs. On
average, settling a lawsuit after getting an accessibility demand letter can cost $5,000, and some companies end up paying over $25,000. From court decisions to digital rights activists, most agree that digital documents should be
accessible to people with disabilities. Not following the rules is more costly and troublesome than just making documents accessible in the first place. When you adhere to ADA digital accessibility guidelines, you also get added benefits
like a better brand image and more users. How to Remediate an Existing PDF Document? Turning a regular PDF into one that meets ADA standards is called PDF remediation. It involves checking for issues that make the PDF hard to use for people
with disabilities, like missing tags or wrong formatting, and fixing them. Even though it sounds simple, PDF remediation can get tough when there are lots of PDFs to fix, especially if they have tricky elements. That’s why many businesses
turn to experts like PREP to help them fix their PDFs. Most experts know all about the rules for making PDFs accessible and can handle big projects with ease. They understand the sections of the rules that apply to PDFs and can handle even
the most complicated fixes.

How can PREP Help in Creating an ADA-compliant PDF?

PREP is a PDF remediation tool that processes inaccessible documents and extracts data with the help of advanced AI technology. It ensures efficient data conversion into a logical format by
understanding the context of each document. PREP also provides customized solutions for unstructured data. The compliance guidelines undergo updates frequently, and these constant updates can make it challenging to keep up with compliance
manually. However, the robust built-in ADA-compliant accessibility checker and PDF checker in PREP validate the document’s compliance with the WCAG and ADA guidelines.
PREP can automate the remediation of complex documents in multiple formats at affordable prices and a quicker turnaround time.

Closing Thoughts

Creating accessible documents helps your organization in many ways –

  1. Adhering to compliance guidelines set by ADA, section 508 and WCAG
  2. Improving readability by assistive technologies
  3. Reaching a larger audience
  4. Establishing moral leadership
  5. Establishing an all-inclusive business strategy

One cannot emphasize the importance of PDF accessibility enough. When PDFs are marked up for accessibility incorrectly, people with disabilities may face navigation issues. The navigation problems result in non-compliance and heavy penalties of up to $150,000. Apart from all other benefits, your organization should make documents accessible because ‘it is the right thing to do.

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Editors:

Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

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

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