Continued accessibility education at BGSU  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌  ‌
Equal Access | BGSU
Quarterly Newsletter
Thank you for helping us take proactive steps to ensure our digital experience is accessible for all. This quarterly newsletter contains answers to common questions about accessibility, provides tips and tools that will help create accessible online materials and provides resources for further learning. Thank you for all you are already doing to make BGSU even more welcoming and accessible for everyone.
This issue focuses on the importance of creating accessible PDFs and teaches the basics of evaluating PDFs for accessibility. Please also find additional resources for further learning at the end.
First ask: should this even be a PDF?
When to use an accessible PDF vs a web page
When sharing resources online, it can sometimes be difficult to determine when to create a PDF file and when to use a web page.
Using a web page allows content to be linked or shared via email or social media, and it's easier for accessibility tools to read. Often a web page is a much better experience for all users, especially those on smaller devices; and smaller devices regularly account for large amounts of web traffic.
It's important to remember that PDFs were originally created to share documents among users who were on different platforms, who may have not had access to the same applications and tools to open and view them as they were created in. The capabilities of sharing information on the web have expanded greatly since then, a webpage itself is platform-agnostic, and the reasons for needing PDFs have evolved.
Here are the basic criteria you should consider when deciding what format to use:
  1. Will your document primarily be distributed in person/hard copy? If so, you should use a PDF in addition to your web page.
  2. Do you have a document that is more than 10-15 pages long, such as a booklet? If so, you should upload a native read-only document format such as Word or Excel to your web page.
  3. Otherwise, if your document will be viewed on a computer or mobile device, you should use a simple web page instead of attaching a PDF.
The simplest answer: anything that a user may want to read on their screen should be turned into a web page, and anything meant specifically for printing and distributing should be a PDF. Just because you think a user may want to print it, does not mean it should be a PDF. Printing the content from a webpage may be more than sufficient for the user to have a hard copy.
It’s important to understand that PDF formats were intended for a standard sheet of paper and to be printed, not to be read in a browser window.
Examples of documents that can be PDFs are flyers that will be printed and posted in residential halls or checksheets that will be printed and physically distributed to students.
What is an accessible PDF?
A digitally accessible PDF document is a file that anyone who has any type of disability can access, use and – most importantly – understand via assistive technology. Assistive technology software and devices include (but are not limited to) screen magnifiers, screen readers, speech-recognition software, text-to-speech software, alternative input devices and refreshable Braille displays.
By following the accessibility standards in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, WCAG 2.1, Section 508 and PDF/UA, we are making sure the PDFs we create are accessible for all.
Why does a PDF need to be accessible?
PDFs are a convenient and reliable way to package and send information. Here are some examples of why people need accessible pdfs and how assistive technology interacts with a PDF:
  • Those who are blind or have low vision often use a screen reader to read content for them. If a PDF doesn’t have correct formatting, this makes it much harder to do (or even impossible in cases of a scanned PDF).
  • Those who have motor impairments may not be able to use a mouse and must instead use their keyboards to navigate PDFs. Optimizing every document's navigation, formatting and semantics is key to enabling that use. One example is to make sure a form PDF uses formatted and fillable fields.
  • A wide range of people with and without disabilities may struggle to read text that is hyper-stylized or text present in a low-resolution scanned document.
  • Those with visual impairments may not be able to visually scan a document or distinguish color combinations due to low contrast. For instance, a document where the header background is orange and the header text is red would have low color contrast.
How to make an accessible PDF?
While it would be great if creating an accessible PDF could be done with the click of a button, the process is a bit more in-depth than that. For step-by-step instructions on how to ensure that your PDF is accessible, please visit our Creating Accessible Documents.
Did you know?
Scanned PDFs are not accessible
Scanning a physical document to create a PDF is never accessible. To screen reading technology, the PDF is simply an image, a picture of words. It cannot detect the text within the image and reads the word “image” to the user of the screen reading technology. Optical character recognition (OCR) can sometimes convert an image into live text, but it is unreliable and does not add the correct headings and tags. Scanned documents are also almost always at a slight tilt, and scanned text is usually grainy and hard to read. This practice should be 100% avoided.
Additional Articles about Accessibility
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