Accessible Design: Part 1

Though estimates vary, most studies find that about one fifth (20%) of the population has some kind of disability. Not all of these people have disabilities that make it difficult for them to access the internet, but it is still a significant portion of the population”

“Each of the major categories of disabilities requires certain types of adaptations in the design of the web content. Most of the time, these adaptations benefit nearly everyone, not just people with disabilities. Almost everyone benefits from helpful illustrations, properly-organized content and clear navigation. Similarly, while captions are a necessity for Deaf users, they can be helpful to others, including anyone who views a video without audio.

image of eye and ear for accessible design postMy goal is to increase awareness and generate conversation among designers so that  the very important accessibility  conversation with clients, friends, and colleagues  starts at the  beginning of the collaborative brainstorming process.

The first posting is a  primer and set of resources for  creating accessible PDFS. There are more resources available but these are the ones that I have been delving into recently. Please feel free to add additional resources in the comments area.

PDF’s are created in a variety of ways from a variety of applications and for a variety of purposes.

Key characteristics of an accessible PDF are:

  • Searchable Text
  • Fonts that allow characters to be extracted to text
  • Interactive Form Fileds
  • Buttons, Hyperlnks and Navigational aids.
  • Meta Data: Document language is essential.
  • Security features that will not interfere with assistive technology
  • Alternative Text Descriptions for images and charts.

Document structure tags and proper reading order.

A document needs to make sense when it is read aloud by a screen reader or reflowed by a mobile device. This is achieved with careful tagging of the document.

Document structure tags in a PDF define the reading order and identify headings, paragraphs, sections, tables and other page elements.


The resource links below are to detailed information and training on the process of preparing a document to become an accessible PDF and to evaluate and optimize current PDF’s for accessibility.

Adobe TV has recently created the following episode with a major section on optimizing accessibility in Acrobat

Preparing InDesign Files for Accessibility

Adobe had an accessibility blog with resources on a number of different Adobe technologies.

Adobe Accessibility blog

The most helpful area I found on the Adobe website for creating Accessible PDF’s was the acrobat accessibility training resources page:

Acrobat Accessibility Training Resources

PDF accessibility page on the site

PDF Accessibility