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Accessibility Tip: Making PDFs Accessible


PDFs can be a great format for materials in your course, since the reader software is free and platform agnostic. However, to make PDFs truly accessible, there are a few things you must do when creating your PDF.

For scans and other “found” PDFs you may need to make it accessible without the original source document. You can do this, to a certain extent, using Adobe Acrobat Pro. Adobe Acrobat Pro can recognize text, establish a reading order and headers, and create a tagged document. Note that sometimes these interventions are not completely successful, for example if scanned text is blurred or unreadable, so you may also want to track down an original copy that can be made fully accessible for your student.

When converting Word documents to PDFs, they must be converted to a tagged format. Enable the “Document structure tags” option in Word, or the “Tagged PDF” option in OpenOffice when exporting, or use the “Make Accessible” plug-in for Adobe Acrobat.

When converting PowerPoint documents to PDFs, they must be converted to a tagged format. Select File, then Save As. Choose where you want the file to be saved. Select PDF as the Save As type, then select Options. Check the box for Document structure tags for accessibility.

These small extra steps will ensure all students can access the materials in your class and will make remediation easier in the future if you have a student who needs accommodations. For more information, check out this article from OIT about PDF accessibility.