Understanding the Importance of PDF Accessibility in Higher Education

PDF Accessibility in Higher Education

Key Takeaways:

  • Higher education institutions must embrace accessibility to ensure a democratized education system.
  • Students with disabilities still face difficulties with PDF accessibility and other barriers in an academic environment.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is one of the many higher education laws that protect students with disabilities.
    The best way to ensure ADA, WCAG, and 508-compliant PDFs is to choose a professional digital accessibility service.

Technology has become a powerful resource for education. Students worldwide access websites and PDFs daily for academic purposes. Higher education is a crucial step in their lives. It helps them determine their future careers. Hence, these institutions must accommodate students from all backgrounds, languages, and disabilities. Creating a diverse and inclusive student body means disabled and non-disabled students have equal access to everything. At the same time, a truly accessible campus is a challenge. Higher education institutions must research, plan, and commit to understanding the importance of digital accessibility. This blog will discuss why PDF accessibility is vital to higher education.

What are the Accessibility Barriers Students Face in Higher Education?

An academic institution’s website has become a bridge that connects the student and faculty. It provides students of colleges and universities with downloadable study material, easy paper submissions, and even payments. On the other hand, it also helps administrators and professors interact with students; this was a boon during the pandemic.

Students and faculty were forced to adapt to this change to ensure higher education life continued as usual. However, while it improved access to education, students with disabilities faced a tough time. For instance, PDF documents are primarily distributed online or through digital platforms. But without PDF accessibility, people with disabilities who use assistive technology cannot access it as intended.


Here are some of the common barriers students with disabilities face in an academic environment:

What are the Higher Education Laws for Accessibility?

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) focuses on creating equal access for all people with disabilities, including students. Though it focuses on the accessibility of physical spaces, Title III states that ”Places of Education’ must accommodate the needs of their students with disabilities. This requires schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions to ensure their courses, examinations, and other resources are accessible and provide assistive technology support as needed. Among the higher education laws, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act explicitly states that people with disabilities are not to be:

  • Denied any benefits
  • Excluded from participating in activities and programs
  • Faced with any discrimination under a program or activity that receives governmental financial assistance.

Section 504 protection only applies to students who qualify for the academic and technical standards for admission and participation in educational activities. They must have a physical or mental disability that interferes with daily functioning, such as vision or auditory impairment or a learning condition. Students must also provide proof of their disability and regarded as being impacted by the disability. .

How to Ensure PDF Accessibility For Higher Education?

PDF or Portable Document File documents comprise a large part of the study material distributed through the websites of colleges, universities, and other educational institutions. Though it is the most common format used in educational institutions, these PDFs may not always be accessible, making it difficult for people with disabilities to read them. That’s why colleges and universities must be careful while selecting and procuring digital learning materials and accessibility tools to ensure all students can access new learning opportunities.

PDF accessibility isn’t that simple—the best way to ensure compliant PDFs are to choose an expert who can help you make digital accessibility a priority.

PREP’s professional PDF remediation services simplify document remediation to achieve 100% compliance. Having assisted organizations and institutions across industries in implementing proper compliance protocols to make their resources accessible, PREP ensures PDF accessibility through:

  • Cutting-edge AI-powered PDF remediation software that provides accurate results with every review
  • Cost-saving and faster document remediation
  • A cloud-based platform that is accessed anywhere, anytime
    Easy-to-use PDF accessibility software that anyone can learn quickly

What Makes PREP the Right Choice for Your Institution?

Creating an accessible digital experience is no longer an option but a requirement. PREP’s powerful AI-enabled PDF accessibility software makes document remediation simple, economical, and scalable. PREP also supports higher education institutions, such as universities or colleges, to create an inclusive learning environment. It supports faculty, administrators, and others to enable learners with assistive technology to access all educational materials.


Here’s a case study that demonstrates how PREP converted data for a higher education institution. The client was required to turn many low-quality scanned PDF documents into editable Word files. While preserving the content format, PREP’s automated PDF accessibility software identified and converted complex structures, including tables, lists, and equations. Subject matter experts then reviewed these Word files for quality and accuracy. PREP helped the client turn low-quality scanned PDFs into editable Word documents for their learners in less than three weeks. This enabled learners to access and edit documents easily.

Final Thoughts

  • Creating a digitally accessible environment in a higher education institution consists of research, planning, and commitment.
  • There are still many barriers regarding PDF accessibility in an academic environment.

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects students with disabilities who qualify for the academic and technical standards in educational activities.
  • Higher education can select digital learning materials and accessibility tools to ensure that students with disabilities get equal access to learning opportunities.
  • Professional PDF remediation service PREP is an expert solution to ensure ADA, WCAG, and 508-compliant PDFs.

PREP’s AI-powered automated PDF accessibility software supports educational institutions such as schools, universities, or colleges in creating an inclusive learning environment by making learning material accessible.

Get AI-Driven Accessibility Solutions

Empower your organization with scalable, cost-effective, and efficient tools for an inclusive user experience.


Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

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

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