Remediating Inaccessible PDF Content

If you haven't already checked out the Digital Accessibility Basics Training Series or our growing IT Accessibility Knowledge Base, please do! These resources will provide some context for the phased troubleshooting and remediation resources you’ll find below.

We also recommend that you refer to our IT Accessibility Knowledge Base article on https://portlandstate.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/ITA/pages/1741717717/Creating+Accessible+Non-HTML+Content, as documents, forms, and presentations that are initially authored with accessibility in mind will be more sustainable and easier to maintain.

Determine Scope of Remediation Work

Before remediating an inaccessible PDF, it’s important to determine the scope of work in order to figure out which remediation methods and/or tools are most appropriate. Consider the following checkpoints:

  1. Typography

    • Does the document employ serif fonts and avoid ALL CAPS (outside of explained acronyms)?

    • Is the font size 12 pt. font or larger for documents and 18 pt. or larger for presentations?

  2. Color

    • Are headings, lists, and other structural tools used strategically such that color alone is never used to convey meaning?

    • Is there appropriate color contrast between foreground and background?

  3. Properties

    • Is there a descriptive title, and is the document language correct?

  4. Reading Order

    • Was the document scanned? Does it require optical character recognition (OCR)?

    • Is there logical reading order for all content?

  5. Alternative Text

    • Is there appropriate alternative text for all non-decorative images?

  6. Tag Structure

    • Are all headings, lists, links, tables, and table headers tagged accurately?

Some of these questions require a little more investigation than Adobe Reader allows. To validate accessibility more thoroughly, please refer to our IT Accessibility Knowledge Base articles on https://portlandstate.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/ITA/pages/1946223175/Validating+PDF+Accessibility+in+Adobe+Acrobat+Pro or https://portlandstate.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/ITA/pages/1946223278/Validating+PDF+Accessibility+in+Equidox.

Repair Inaccessible PDFs and Re-publish

The following are several options for remediating PDFs with noted accessibility issues. As content editors are responsible for the accessibility of any content they make available on their public-facing sites, the IT Accessibility team encourages departments to validate the content to which they link and correlatively reach out to associated site owners or external organizations if or when there are any accessibility issues.

Please refer to our IT Accessibility Knowledge Base article on https://portlandstate.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/ITA/pages/1964245065/Reporting+External+PDF+Accessibility+Issues for more information.

Repair in Microsoft Office/Adobe InDesign

If you have access to the original document, form, or presentation, the IT Accessibility team strongly recommends recreating or repairing in Microsoft Office or Adobe InDesign. This is the most sustainable option in terms of long-term resource management, since any subsequent updates could be made to the original document, and republishing and validating as an accessible PDF would be relatively easy.

Please refer to our IT Accessibility Knowledge Base article on https://portlandstate.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/ITA/pages/1741717717/Creating+Accessible+Non-HTML+Content for more information.

Repair in Adobe Acrobat Pro or Equidox

If you do not have access to the original document, form, or presentation, and recreation in an accessible authoring platform like Microsoft Office or Adobe InDesign in unfeasible, PDFs may be remediated in either Adobe Acrobat Pro or our new self-service, semi-automated PDF remediation software, Equidox.

Please refer to our IT Accessibility Knowledge Base articles on https://portlandstate.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/ITA/pages/1946190451/Repairing+Inaccessible+PDFs+in+Adobe+Acrobat+Pro or https://portlandstate.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/ITA/pages/1946190478/Repairing+Inaccessible+PDFs+in+Equidox for more information.

Note that PDF forms may only be created and validated for accessibility in Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Employ a Third Party PDF Remediation Service

If there are significant accessibility issues in your document, form, or presentation such that timely, in house recreation is unfeasible, it may be more cost and time effective to hire a third party for this work. There are several PDF accessibility service providers who offer paid accessibility training and remediation services.