Alternatives to using PDFs on the web
The first rule of creating an accessible document? Don't. Creating an accessible document for use on the web is challenging. Instead, consider these alternatives:
- Create a webpage with information from the document instead. Making an accessible webpage is much easier than making an accessible PDF.
- If the document comes from an external source (such as the American Association of Medical Colleges, for example), link to that organization's document or website instead of uploading the document to T4.
- If the document is not absolutely essential for your web users, don't add it to the web.
- Request a fillable web form from Web Technologies.
- This process takes about four to six weeks, but the service we use to create forms is accessible. Additionally, web forms are typically more user friendly for users.
If you've decided the above options do not work for your purposes and you must add a document to the web, it should be a PDF. PDFs are the preferred file type for documents on the web because they can be opened on just about any computer. Additionally, users can't modify a PDF like they can a Word document.
Create an accessible source document
If you're creating a document in Microsoft Office, keep accessibility in mind. The more accessible your source document is, the less you will have to remediate when you convert the document to a PDF.
Here are the basic accessibility rules to keep in mind when creating a Microsoft Office document:
- Don't rely on color alone to transmit information in case users cannot see it correctly.
- Include alternative text or captions for any images in your document.
- Use short sentences, plain language and bulleted lists when appropriate. Complex writing styles can confuse users.
- Avoid using tables in your documents. Following content in a table using a screen reader can be difficult.
- Ensure that your document is in a logical order to implement accessible navigation.
Microsoft Office has detailed information on how to find and fix accessibility issues in specific applications:
Once you've finished making an accessible document in a Microsoft Office application, convert the document to a PDF. Even if you've made your document accessible in a Microsoft Office application, you will still need Adobe Acrobat Pro to create fully accessible PDFs.