This article will teach you why and how to make your PDFs compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
What's the fuss? Why make PDFs, or any other document, ADA-compliant?
- It's the law. As a state and federally-funded institution, you must comply with Section 508, Section 504, and the ADA.
- It can also affect a program's accreditation standing.
- It's the right thing to do.
What is ADA Compliance?
Simply stated, ADA compliance means we make every effort to make information accessible to those with disabilities. This includes those who are visually and audibly impaired.
What Makes a PDF "ADA Compliant"?
Some of the features of an ADA-compliant PDF include:
- Searchable text
- Note: PDFs created by scanning may actually be an image and not searchable text.
- Images with Alt Text
- Note: Alt text is the hidden text that is used to describe an image to one visually impaired.
- Bookmarks for documents over 9 pages
- Logical reading order (left-to-right) in tables
- No background images or watermarks
- Table rows that don’t split across pages
A checklist to ensure your PDF document is ADA-compliant is provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
PDF Converter Notes
The built-in PDF Converter will convert documents to PDF form, but the produced PDF is highly dependent on the original document's formatting. The resulting PDF can be compliant if a screen reader can recognize the text and characters. If a user can select text or content with the mouse and copy it, then the PDF converter or a screen reader should be able to read the content as well. PDF documents based on images are not considered searchable or readable. If the original document meets ADA compliance, then the converted PDF should also be compliant.
Ideally, a PDF document should be created with the program that the document was originally created in. For example, if the original document is created in Word, then Word should be used to export the PDF. The built-in PDF converter is designed to be an ease-of-use tool and does not contain the options of a dedicated document editing application.
PDF/A documents include additional formatting which makes them ideal for long-term archival. The built-in PDF converter does not produce PDF/A compatible documents. An appropriate document editing application will be necessary for creating documents of this type.
View the attached resource to view how to:
- Remove background image/watermark in Word
- Prevent table rows from splitting across pages
- Convert PDF to searchable text
- Add Alt Text to Images
- Add Bookmarks
- Run Accessibility Checker
- Add Tags
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