More About Accessible PDFs

PDFs have been the industry standard for years. PDFs are inherently inaccessible until accessibility strategies are applied. Accessible PDFs are the only form of PDF that can leave ICI. You must have Adobe Acrobat Pro DC (free of charge through UMN) to make accessible PDFs. The UMN has an  Explore each of the topics to learn more about accessible PDFs and if they’re the right choice for your project.

PDFs are only considered accessible if they can be used and accessed by everyone.

  • Even accessible PDFs pose challenges for inclusivity.
    • PDFs are not designed for screen readers
    • PDFs are not responsive meaning they do not change size to fit all devices and orientations
    • PDFs can be hard for people to access across different browsers, operating systems, etc.,
  • Accessibility practices (e.g. headings, color contrast, context-independent links, etc.) should be attended to from the beginning of the document creation process. This means applying accessibility practices to your source document (e.g. Word doc, Google doc, PowerPoint, InDesign file).
  • If you choose a PDF, your PDF must be accessible. If you need training and support on how to make accessible PDFs visit the resources listed below or contact for more information. 
  • If time and budget allows, consider making a WebPub in addition to your accessible PDF to maximize inclusion.
  • Making an accessible PDF takes time.
  • Estimate 1 hour of time per 5 pages of basic, one-column text with one image per page.
  • Complicated PDFs with images, tables, and multi-column layouts can take quadruple the amount of time to make accessible.
  • Final accessibility work should only be done after it is confirmed that no more changes will be made to content or layout. If changes are needed after final accessibility work is completed, accessibility work will need to be redone.
  • If working with one of ICI's graphic designers, budget for a graphic designer's time. ICI’s graphic designers are skilled in accessibility strategies and will work with you to make your PDF accessible.
  • If not using ICI's graphic designers, creating accessible PDFs will require budgeting for staff time to implement accessibility strategies and evaluate accessibility before release.
  • Budget for the likelihood of needing to redo accessibility work due to changes in content and layout.
  • Accessible PDFs are easy to print.
  • Accessible PDFs will print exactly as they appear on screen.
  • If your document needs a specific layout or an exact number of printed pages, an accessible PDF is your best option.
  • Once accessibility work is completed on an accessible PDF, no more changes can be made without having to repeat accessibility work.
  • Accessible PDFs should not be used for documents that require regular updates.
  • Accessible PDFs can be shared by via social media and email by sharing a link to their location. Links can be shortened by using z-links .
  • You can collect information on how many people clicked on your PDF link.
  • WebPubs allow you to collecct more analytics.


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