Explore UAB

PDFs are used frequently across our UAB websites. The goal for this page is to offer information and resources to help you understand what makes a PDF accessible, how to create an accessible PDF, and how to check if an existing PDF is accessible. It is our responsibility to offer accessible content to all users of our UAB websites. Our standards for web accessibility follow the WCAG 2.1 AA requirements.

What makes a PDF accessible?

  • Searchable text (do not use scanned images of text)
  • Fonts that allow characters to be extracted to text
  • Interactive labeled form fields with accessible error messages and no timing
  • Other interactive features: Hyperlinks and navigational aids
  • Document language and title indication
  • Security that will not interfere with assistive technology
  • Document structure tags and proper reading order
  • Alternative text descriptions for non-text elements
  • Do not rely on color or sensory characteristics alone to convey meaning
  • Use color combinations that provide a sufficient degree of contrast
  • Controls for audio
  • Use of text instead of images of text
  • No use of flashing or blinking elements
  • No focus changes without user initiation
  • Consistent navigation and identification of elements

View the source of the information above here that includes further documentation on each item.

How can I create an accessible PDF?

First, it's important to start a document knowing the elements that make a PDF accessible. You can review those elements above.

Second, once you're ready to start a document in a word processing or desktop publishing application, you can watch these videos from the Accessible Electronic Document Community of Practice to learn how to create an accessible document from the start before you export the document to the PDF format.

How can I check if an existing PDF is accessible?

You can follow the guidelines on Adobe's website to learn how to analyze and enhance your PDF documents to make them accessible to all users. You can also learn more about the Accessibility Checker tool in Adobe Acrobat.

Further Resources

By following the guidelines through the different links above based on whether you're working with an existing document or starting from scratch, you can ensure the accessibility of all users to the valuable content in your PDF files. We also provide a list below from UAB Disability Support Services (DSS) for further support and resources on PDF Accessibility:

You can learn more about the different tools and resources the UAB Disability Support Services office offers on the DSS website.

Feedback/Need Help?

Can't find what you need? Do you have suggestions for items to add to our brand and communications toolkit? Email marketing@uab.edu, and we'll connect you with the right Marketing & Communications team member.

Back to Top