Links within websites should link to webpages whenever possible, not to documents. Some reasons for this include:
- web pages are easier for screen readers to interpret
- web pages are faster for browsers to load and use much less mobile data
- document-readers such as Word or Adobe Reader may be missing from the user’s system, but a browser is always available
- browsers on different systems handle web pages more or less the same, but each system can choose to handle documents in different ways
Use HTML instead of PDF or Doc files when possible
Web pages are the most accessible files – no matter the operating system, browser / screen reader or device, the user is fairly certain to be able to get to your content. However other file formats are not so universal. Word, Powerpoint and Excel types require a Microsoft reader; PDF requires an Adobe reader; although these formats are very prevalent they are not as accessible as HTML and frequently the issues are harder to remedy.
⇒ So your content should be in HTML.
That said there are times that other formats are an acceptable compromise:
- You already distribute the content in another medium, such as print or by download, and it is important that the web version be the same
- A large repository of documents exists and are not yet converted or are prohibitively expensive to convert
These are real-world reasons – just remember that you are potentially compromising some users’ accessibility to these documents.
Creating an accessible PDF
If you’ve determined that you must present the information in a PDF, you will need to take some additional steps to ensure that the online PDFs are accessibility-compliant and can be read by assistive technology. A common issue with PDF files is that they do not contain information about structure by default (such as heading elements and paragraph elements which can be parsed by a screen reader.) Fortunately, there are solutions in place which address these issues by “tagging” the document to enable compatibility with assistive technologies.
How to Create the PDF
- Get a copy Adobe Acrobat Pro (contact Software Services if you need a copy)
- Get your original source document, Word is preferred but you can also use the PDF
Lynda.com has several hours of great instruction available if you have a Lynda account.
- https://www.lynda.com/Acrobat-tutorials/Creating-Accessible-PDFs-2014/147579-2.html (4 hours of instruction)
- https://www.lynda.com/Acrobat-tutorials/Creating-Accessible-PDFs-Acrobat-DC/372675-2.html (5 hours of instruction)
- https://www.lynda.com/Acrobat-tutorials/Advanced-Accessible-PDFs/372674-2.html (2.5 hours of instruction)