PDF Accessibility Strategies For Web Content

web accessibility
Creating accessible PDFs ensures that individuals with disabilities can access and engage with web content without facing any discomfort. When PDFs are not appropriately designed for accessibility, people with visual impairments or cognitive disabilities may face barriers in accessing the necessary information, such as financial documents, educational materials, or government reports. To address these challenges, it is crucial to implement strategies that prioritize accessibility in PDF conversion.
In this article, we will explore effective documentation strategies to make PDFs accessible, providing you with practical steps to optimize the content and enhance the inclusivity of your documents.

Preparing Web Content For Accessible PDF Conversion

PDFs are a standard format for sharing and distributing information online. However, these can pose a significant challenge for individuals with disabilities if not fine-tuned with their needs in mind. PDF accessibility ensures that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can access and understand the content contained within these documents. It eliminates barriers and promotes equal access to vital information, promoting inclusivity and complying with the relevant accessibility standards.
Follow the guidelines below to effectively convert web content into accessible PDFs, enabling individuals with disabilities to access and comprehend the information.

Addressing Accessibility Measures

Before converting web content into PDF format, it is vital to ensure the source document is well-prepared, keeping accessibility at the forefront. Addressing formatting and structural issues in the original document, such as inconsistent headings or improper use of styles, should be a top priority. What’s more, ensuring accuracy and clarity by correcting any text errors or inconsistencies dramatically increases the accessibility of the document.
Following the guidelines mentioned below can vastly improve the ease of understanding information in a converted PDF document
  1. Choosing The Appropriate File Format For Conversion

    When selecting a file format for conversion, consider the accessibility features of different formats, such as Word or HTML. It is also important to note that each format has its benefits and limitations when it comes to PDF conversion. Evaluating which format best preserves the structure and accessibility features of the original content will help avoid any re-formatting or inconsistencies in the final PDF.
  2. Ensuring Proper Text Formatting And Semantics

    Text formatting and appropriate semantics are vital in creating accessible PDF content. Using semantic markup for headings, paragraphs, and lists allows assistive technologies to navigate the content effectively. Applying appropriate text styles and formatting, such as bold or italics, to convey emphasis or importance guarantees information hierarchy.
  3. Adding Alternative Text And Descriptions

    Alternative text, or alt-text, is crucial for making images, charts, and non-text elements accessible. It provides a description that enables screen readers to convey visual information accurately. When adding alt-text, manually describe images and graphics to establish concise and descriptive text for each element. For efficiency and timely generation of documents, automated tools such as Continual Engine’s PREP can help generate alternative text by analyzing the individual image content.

Accessibility Considerations For PDF Design And Layout

By implementing the suggested best practices, you can further enhance the accessibility and usability of your PDF templates, ensuring that they are inclusive and user-friendly for all individuals, regardless of their abilities or the assistive technologies used.

Designing Accessible PDF Templates And Stylesheets

Accessibility-friendly PDF templates and stylesheets are essential for consistent visual designs. Optimizing layouts for readability and navigation, as well as ensuring content is streamlined, is critical to creating a logical flow for readers. Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind when designing accessibility-friendly PDF templates and stylesheets.
  1. Maintaining Consistent Formatting For Headings, Paragraphs, And Lists In The Source Document And Resulting PDF

    When content is structured consistently, it becomes more accessible for individuals with visual impairments or reading disabilities who rely on screen readers or assistive technologies. Clear and well-formatted headings, paragraphs, and lists enable these users to navigate the document effectively and understand the content more easily.

    Maintaining consistent formatting for headings, paragraphs, and lists in both the source document and the resulting PDF is necessary. It ensures the content structure remains intact during conversion and facilitates more straightforward user navigation.
  2. Adhering To Accessibility Guidelines For Color And Contrast

    When preparing web content for accessible PDF conversion, it is crucial to follow color and contrast accessibility guidelines. Using color combinations that provide sufficient contrast makes the content easier to read for individuals with visual impairments or color vision deficiencies.

    Additionally, it is important to note that color should not be the sole means of conveying important information. Some users may need help perceiving specific colors or using devices or software that do not accurately display colors. Therefore, it is crucial to provide alternative methods of conveying information in addition to color, such as using descriptive text or icons.

Optimizing Visual Elements For Accessibility

Visual elements such as images, charts, graphs, and descriptions must be optimized to ensure maximum accessibility. This helps visually impaired users navigate the document more easily and understand the relationship between the visuals, structure, and accompanying descriptions.
By providing a cohesive structure for images and textual summaries, you can enhance the accessibility of your web content and PDF conversions and enable a broader range of users to comprehend and engage with the information presented.

Providing Alternative Text For Images, Charts, And Graphs

Including descriptive alternative text for images, charts, and graphs is crucial for ensuring web accessibility and preparing content for conversion into accessible PDF formats. Alt-text is a concise and descriptive text added to these visual elements. It serves as a textual representation of the image, chart, or graph, allowing individuals who are visually impaired or using screen readers to understand the content.
When creating alt-text, keeping it concise while providing enough detail to convey the meaning is important. The alt-text should be relevant and specific to the image, chart, or graph it describes. Moreover, placing the alt-text near the corresponding visual element is crucial to ensure it is appropriately associated.

Using Proper Table Structures And Headers For Data Representation

Tables should be structured appropriately to convey data effectively. By using table headers and organizing table cells effectively, you can boost the accessibility of tabular data, allowing screen readers to identify table headers and provide a clear understanding of the data relationships. Here are some best practices for optimizing table accessibility:
  • Using Table Headers: Identifying header cells in the table by using the <th> element for table header cells instead of <td> informs screen readers that the content within those cells represents headers for the respective columns or rows.
  • Associating Headers With Data Cells: Using the scope attribute in HTML helps associate header cells with corresponding data cells. For column headers, use scope="col"; for row headers, use scope="row". This helps screen readers understand the relationships between the titles, headings, and data cells.
  • Providing A Summary Or Caption: Including a concise summary or caption for the table describes its purpose or includes context. This helps users understand the table's content and its relevance within the document.
  • Using Row And Column Labels: Consider including row and column labels to provide additional context for complex tables. This is especially helpful when there are multiple header levels, or the table spans multiple pages.
  • Using Appropriate Table Markup: Using semantically correct HTML markup for tables, such as , , and elements, enhances the structure and accessibility of the table.

Leveraging Automated PDF Accessibility Software

Automated PDF accessibility software can significantly streamline the process of checking and correcting accessibility issues. PDF accessibility tools such as Continual Engine’s PREP (PDF & Document Remediation Platform) efficiently analyze PDFs or documents for accessibility errors, saving time and effort, particularly when handling large volumes of content. Consider factors such as integration with existing workflows, user-friendliness, accuracy, and compatibility with assistive technologies when selecting the right tool for your needs.

Final Thoughts

Creating accessible PDFs and documents is crucial for providing inclusive digital experiences. By following the above strategies discussed in this article, you can ensure that your web content is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Remembering to address format and structure issues, adding alternative text and descriptions, considering accessibility in PDF design and layout, and leveraging automated PDF accessibility checker software such as PREP to meet accessibility guidelines will significantly increase accessibility.

To request a free PREP trial or learn about our affordable and scalable PDF accessibility services, contact us at contact@continualengine.com or visit https://www.continualengine.com/prep-pdf-remediation-software/.

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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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