Common Accessibility Issues: Untagged PDFs

What are some of the most common accessibility issues? What makes them problematic? And how can you fix them? In this series of blog posts we will address the most common accessibility issues that we have seen on campus and provide instructions and guidance for fixing them.

What are tagged PDFs?

A tagged PDF provides a hidden structured, textual representation of the PDF content. Tagging allows screen readers to understand your file’s reading order, where headings fall, and which objects in the document are tables, images, footnotes, etc.

What makes untagged PDFs problematic?

When a PDF is untagged it is difficult for those using assistive technology to understand the content.

How do I tag my PDF?

In order to ensure that your PDF is tagged properly, it is helpful to build your file in an accessible format before converting to PDF.

If you are creating PDFs from Microsoft Office applications (ex Word, PowerPoint):

  • Use the most recent version of Microsoft Office. Older versions of Word or PowerPoint will not create a tagged PDF. Need the latest versions? Go to Downloading Microsoft Office 365 for information.
  • Before converting your file to PDF, run the Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker. It may not catch everything, but it will pick up glaring issues and walk you through fixing them.
  • Do not print to PDF. Printing to PDF will not create an accessible, tagged PDF. Instead, save your file as a tagged PDF and ensure that it is formatted for accessibility. Go to Create Accessible PDFs for more information.

If you are building your PDF directly in Adobe Acrobat be sure to check out Adobe’s accessibility resources:

Need Assistance?

If you need assistance making your content accessible, reach out to elis@lesley.edu. You may also check out the following resources:

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Common Accessibility Issues: Scanned PDFs

What are some of the most common accessibility issues? What makes them problematic? And how can you fix them? In this series of blog posts we will address the most common accessibility issues that we have seen on campus and provide instructions and guidance for fixing them.

What is a Scanned PDF?

A common method for digitizing content is to place a paper copy (or book) onto a scanner and save the resulting file as a PDF. Unfortunately, the resulting document only contains images of the text, not the text itself.

image of scanned PDF
image of a scanned PDF

What makes scanned PDFs problematic?

Because these documents contain images of the text and not the text itself, scanned PDFs are inaccessible to anyone using assistive technology, such as a screen reader.

The text in scanned PDFs often looks off-center and can be blurry or difficult to read, slowing down reading and lowering comprehension. Images alongside the text can appear too dark or too grainy to see clearly. Additionally, students cannot search, highlight, or annotate the document for their notes.

How do I fix it?

If possible, find a digital copy of the original document. If you find a digital version online, link to it. Do not download the document and upload it into your course, as this may violate copyright.

If you cannot find a digital copy, contact a librarian. A librarian can help you determine fair use and copyright or help you search for an alternate accessible resource. Email asklib@lesley.edu for assistance.

If you are the owner of the document, or have permissions from the author or publisher to modify it, be sure to use an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) scanner or software to convert the scanned document to text. If you scan or convert your text you will still need to read through the document and update as necessary. For more information see Scan a Paper Document to PDF (Acrobat Pro).

If you need to make a PDF accessible to a student with a documented accommodation, email disabilityaccess@lesley.edu for assistance.

Need Assistance?

If you need assistance making your content accessible, reach out to elis@lesley.edu. You may also check out the following resources:

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