How to make your PDF accessible for people with disabilities

Accessible documents ensure that everyone can follow and understand the information presented. A document or application is considered accessible if meets certain technical criteria and can be used by people with disabilities. This includes access for users with blindness, motor impairments, hearing impairments, visual impairments, cognitive disorders, age-related impairments and more.


Although Paperturn’s flipbook system is fully accessible and compliant with the WCAG 2.1 at the AA Level, US Section 508, ADA Title III. & more, there are also some important aspects for you to consider when creating your original PDF in order to make your flipbook 100% disability-friendly.


General tips on how to create an accessible PDF:


1. Clear structure and logical reading order
To read text and present it in a way that makes sense to the user, your PDF file needs to have a clear structure and follow a logical reading order. You can create a clear structure by using document tags to define reading order and identify headings, sections, paragraphs, tables and other elements within your PDF. Document tags also allow for your PDF to be resized and reflowed for viewing at larger sizes and on mobile devices.


2. Selectable & searchable text
If your document consists mainly of scanned images containing text, it is inherently inaccessible. This is because when text is inside of an image, it cannot be read or extracted by assistive technology software (like screen readers). Additionally, your viewers would not be able to select and edit the text or manipulate the PDF for accessibility.  If you must use scanned images, make sure to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to convert image-based text into selectable text. 

3. Descriptive hyperlinks 
All hyperlinks that are included in your PDF should convey clear and accurate information about the destination, so that the reader knows where the link is leading to without having to click on it. 

Did you know? 
Paperturn offers a super easy way to include descriptive hyperlinks in your flipbook: simply add a title to any link you inserted with our flipbook editor, and it will appear as a mouseover text in the viewer. Screen Readers will recognize this text and give information about where this link leads to. Check out our help guide to find detailed instructions about using this feature. 


4. PDF document language and title
When creating your PDF file, make sure that you have the language set to whichever language the document is written in. By setting the appropriate language, certain screen readers can switch the speech synthesizer to be able to correctly pronounce content in different languages. Providing a document title allows the user to easily locate and identify the document.


5. Less colour, more contrast and readable fonts
It is a rule of thumb to ensure the text in your PDF has a high contrast; for example, black text on a white background, or white text on a black background. It is also advisable to use “simple” fonts like Arial, Comic Sans MS or Verdana which are at least 14px in size. You can use a bold font if you’d like to emphasize or highlight information but should avoid italics and upper-case letters if you can. The spacing between lines of text should be at least 25 to 30 percent of the point size so that readers can move their eye more easily to the next line of text.

6. Alternative text descriptions for non-text elements
All non-text content like images, icons and videos should have a text alternative (Alt-text/ Alt-tag). Alt text is written copy which communicates the content and function of an image, symbol or icon to people who have visual or cognitive impairments so that the screen reader can effectively communicate that content to its users. 

All video content should include transcripts so that people with visual and hearing impairments can understand what is happening in your video. Transcripts should include the dialogue, identify who is speaking and describe all non-speech information that is communicated through sound (like sound effects). 


How can I improve the accessibility of my PDF even more? 

Our suggestions above are the most important aspects that you should consider when creating an accessible PDF file. You can find even more detailed information about how to improve the accessibility of your PDF files by visiting our accessibility blog post or by reviewing our Voluntary Product Assessment, which outlines and elaborates each of the WCAG 2.1 requirements.


Accessibility checker 

If you would like to check how accessible your PDF files actually are, you can use one of the many accessibility checkers online, for example the Adobe Acrobat PRO DC - Accessibility Checker. These programs scan your document and look for common elements that need further action, like missing alt-text for images, form fields, tables and so on. For a compliance check, you can take a look at Section 508’s checklist.

Click on the flipbook cover below to see this feature in action:

Copy of Disability-Friendly Website  (8)


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