PDF files are frequently used in day-to-day studies. For people with visual impairments or dyslexia, such files can only be read with the help of so-called screen readers, which convert textual information into verbal information. If PDF documents are not created barrier-free, the screen reader often cannot convey the files in a way that is understandable.
The charitable organization Aktion Mensch has dealt with the topic of creating accessible PDF files and created a short introduction to the topic and a checklist. It gives examples of typical types of PDF files and how they can be made accessible to a wide range of user groups. The checklist can be downloaded at the following link: www.einfach-fuer-alle.de/artikel/checkliste-barrierefreie-pdf/
First Tips for Creating Accessible PDF Documents:
Clearly structure documents so that screen readers can interpret them properly. This includes the consistent use of style sheets, especially for the assignment and hierarchical structure of headings, but also for (bulleted) lists, footnotes, tables, etc. (so-called “tags”).
It is recommended that you structure documents in a linear way and add page breaks instead of successive blank lines. This ensures that the end of a chapter/section is clearly recognizable.
In texts, you want to activate the “wrap text” function as “in line with text”. This adapts the arrangement of text blocks in accordance with the zoom level so that the text always remains completely visible on screen regardless of the zoom setting.
Use descriptive internal and external hyperlinks and make sure they are active and lead to the proper page.
Do not use any colored backgrounds or text highlights.
Do not use any self-drawn tables. They are not recognized by screen readers.
Add descriptive alternative text to images or charts.
All images and inserted objects should be positioned “in line with text”.
Avoid using manual or automatic hyphenation techniques. These are usually not displayed properly when a document is converted to a PDF.
If you use colored headings or text components, ensure that there is sufficient contrast (set to a minimum of 4.5:1).
In MS Word, you can check if your document is accessible, if you select “file”, “check for issues”, and then “check accessibility”.
In order to produce barrier-free PDF documents, the TU Dresden provides easy-to-understand instructions (in German) that explain in detail which steps are necessary to convert a Word or PowerPoint document to a perfect PDF file.
Instructions for converting a Word document to an accessible PDF document: https://elvis.inf.tu-dresden.de/dokumente/upload/737e1_anleitungword_2013.pdf?menuid=44
Instructions for converting a PowerPoint to an accessible PDF document: https://elvis.inf.tu-dresden.de/dokumente/upload/01473_anleitungpowerpoint_2013.pdf?menuid=45