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Open Access Resources

Open Access and Accessibility

What is an accessible PDF and why is it necessary?

Part of ensuring open access for all means creating accessible documents. An accessible PDF is designed and formatted in a way that makes it accessible to everyone regardless of visual impairments or cognitive disabilities. This means that the document can be read and understood by assistive technologies, such as screen readers or screen magnifiers, and that it includes features that make it easier for people with disabilities to navigate and interact with the document.

How to Make Your PDF Accessible

Start with an accessible Word or Google Doc

If you plan, format, and structure your document appropriately from the start, it guarantees that the document is accessible and can be converted into various alternative formats (e.g., PDF or braille), while retaining its accessibility features.

Accessibility Checklist

  1. Add alternative text descriptions for images and other non-text elements. Mark them as decorative if the image has no meaning.
  2. Use proper headings and formatting to organize the content.
  3. Ensure that the document is tagged appropriately and in the correct order. This includes nested headings, lists, tables, and form fields.
  4. Use descriptive text for links instead of just "click here" or "read more".
  5. Use meaningful and consistent labels for form fields and buttons.
  6. Ensure that the contrast between text and background is sufficient. Use a colour contrast tool like colorsafe. 
  7. Avoid using colours alone to convey information.
  8. Include a table of contents and bookmarks to facilitate navigation.
  9. Avoid tables if possible. If you do use a table, include table headers, avoid fixed width settings, and ensure the table does not spread over multiple pages.
  10. Make sure that the PDF is structured in a way that is compatible with assistive technologies, such as screen readers. In addition to Adobe Acrobat Pro, these web-based Optical Character recognition options can make your text machine-readable.

PDF Creation and Checker

Adobe Acrobat Pro

Further learning

Accessible Slides

  • Fonts
    • Limit to no more than three font types.
    •  Sans serif text is easier to read from a distance.
    • Ensure the font is large enough that it can be read from a distance (18pt or larger)
  • Colours
    • Establish a colour scheme that contrast and complement each other.
    • The minimum contrast ratio between two colours should be 4:5:1, use a colour contrast checker for reference.
    • If using colours to signal meaning or relationships (eg. A pie chart), use a grayscale.
  • Titles and Headings
    • Give each slide its own title.
    • Plan a heading structure with your content and use default heading templates if needed.
  • Hyperlinks
    • Clearly distinguish your hyperlinks from the regular text in your designs.
    •  The hyperlinked text should be meaningful and descriptive to the destination link.
  • Text and Images
    • Create your own text instead of using an image file with text on it.
    • Include alt-text in any visuals.
  • Alignment
    • Align your text and images, don’t let your text run on too long as it can crowd your slides.
    • You can wrap visual elements “in line with text” for ease.
  • Figures and Tables
    • Avoid using tables if possible, if you must make the tables simple with clearly specified header columns and rows.
  • Videos
    • Include subtitles or captions for any videos included or provide video description if possible.
  • Animations and Transitions
    • Avoid automatic transitions if possible.
    • Animations should be brief and simple so as not to distract.

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