Accessible documents: managing PDFs on websites

June 23, 2023

PDF document accessibility plays a vital role in the overall accessibility of websites. In order to provide an equal experience for all users, regardless of disability, you must develop all of your digital content with accessibility in mind.

Before deciding to post a PDF to the web, the first question to ask is “Can this be an HTML web page instead?” Avoid posting PDF and Word documents when possible.  If you can't avoid posting non-HTML documents - create documents that are accessible to people with disabilities or people who use assistive technologies. 

Before publishing documents, consider the following:

  • Start with an accessible document. If you are starting with a Word document and converting it to a PDF document, ensure that the Word document is accessible first.
  • Ensure that images have informative alt text.
  • Correctly uses headings, lists, and tables.
  • Provide meaningful link text.
  • Check color contrast.
  • Ensure keyboard-only users can tab through the document in a logical order.

Learn more about creating accessible documents.

In some cases, departments have traditionally posted publications and other resources as PDFs and have not had the time or resources to convert those to web pages or accessible documents. In that case it is recommended to add language acknowledging the issues and offering alternative methods for accessing that information.

  • Suggested language for websites with inaccessible PDFs

    • Some of the resources on this site may cause barriers for those using assistive, or accessibility-related technologies. Alternate formats are available upon request. If you encounter barriers, please contact the webmaster.

Learn more about accessibility at UA.