PDF Accessibility

Further to the recommendations of the Portable Document Format (PDF) Accessibility Review Project, in March 2011 a series of PDF Accessibility Education Sessions for the Australian Government were delivered by Adobe with collaboration from AGIMO.

The following information provides guidance on creating more accessible PDF files. Agencies are encouraged to review this advice to better inform themselves of the accessibility capabilities of PDF. However, agencies should note a wide range of PDF creation and accessibility checking tools exist and AGIMO does not endorse the use of any specific creation or testing products or services.

Accessibility conformance

PDF does not yet have approved Sufficient Techniques to claim WCAG 2.0 conformance, so it cannot be ‘relied upon’ in the provision of government information. At least one other format must be provided with all PDF documents. AGIMO review this position when formalised Sufficient Techniques become available for PDF.

This does not mean that PDFs cannot be made accessible to some people in some conditions. If prepared well, it can be a highly accessible and usable document format. To improve the accessibility of PDF, agencies should first consider the needs of their users. Is the information to be presented best handled by a PDF? If so, agencies should:

  • always tag PDF files;
  • work with properly structured source files; and
  • avoid scanned PDFs, or at least optimise them for accessibility (e.g. using Optical Character Recognition).

Finally, to improve the availability of government information, AGIMO encourages agencies link to a list of free downloadable PDF Readers instead of linking directly to PDF readers from agency websites.

Improving accessibility

Andrew Kirkpatrick, Group Product Manager of Accessibility at Adobe Systems gave two presentations to the Australian Government on 2 and 3 March 2011 about making PDF documents more accessible. AGIMO thanks Adobe for making this information available.

The following slides and associated alternative formats are copyrighted to Adobe Systems and are reproduced here with permission.

Last Reviewed: 2011-04-01