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LibGuide Design: Best Practices and Guidelines

Overview: accessible attachments, files, tables and PDFs

  • All applets, scripts and plug-ins (including PDF and PowerPoint files, etc.) and the content within them are accessible to assistive technologies, or else an alternative means of accessing equivalent content is provided. 

  • A PDF file can be made accessible to screen reader users, but it may be best to include an accessible HTML version of a document instead of or in addition to PDF. 

Creating accessible PDFs using Adobe Acrobat Pro

Accessible PDFs include but are not limited to the following characteristics:

  • Searchable text
  • Sans-serif fonts that allows for characters to be extracted to text
  • Document structure tags and proper reading order
  • Alternative text descriptions for non-text elements such as images, video and audio
  • Interactive features: Hyperlinks and Navigational Aids such as table of contents that link to sections, and defined headings that will allow users to navigate through the content without having to rely on a screen reader to read through the entire document. 

Learn more about creating Accessible PDFs by reading Adobe's PDF Accessibility Overview

Additional Sources for verifying PDF accessibility

Create and verify PDF accessibility (Acrobat Pro)

Acrobat tools make it easy to create accessible PDFs and check the accessibility of existing PDFs. You can create PDFs to meet common accessibility standards, such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and PDF/UA (Universal Access, or ISO 14289). The simple, guided workflow lets you do the following:

Make PDFs accessible: A predefined action automates many tasks, checks accessibility, and provides instructions for items that require manual fixes. Quickly find and fix problem areas.

Check accessibility: The Full Check/Accessibility Check tool verifies whether the document conforms to accessibility standards, such as PDF/UA and WCAG 2.0.

Report accessibility status: The Accessibility Report summarizes the findings of the accessibility check. It contains links to tools and documentation that assist in fixing problems.

Creating accessible documents in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint

Accessible documents created in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint have the following characteristics:

  • Alternative text descriptions for all visuals
  • High contrast colors, and color is not used as a primary means to convey, differentiate or categorize information
  • Rarely includes tables. If document includes table, ensure that tables are accessible
  • Use built-in headings and styles provided by Microsoft product suite
  • Meaningful hyperlink text and screen tips.  Hyperlink text should make sense as standalone information, and gives the reader accurate information about the destination target

Learn more about accessible documents created with Microsoft Office applications. 

Tools in Microsoft Office applications to verify accessibility of document

Accessibility Checker

Before sending your Outlook email message or sharing your Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation, run the Accessibility Checker to make sure your Microsoft Office content is easy for people with disabilities to read and edit.

Immersive Reader

Try reading the document you're drafting with Immersive Reader to experience what it sounds like to a person relying on the use of a screen reader. 

Writing effective alternative text

Alternative text (alt text) is descriptive text which conveys the meaning and context of a visual item in a digital setting, such as on an app or web page. When screen readers such as Microsoft Narrator, JAWS, and NVDA reach digital content with alt text, they will read the alt text aloud, allowing people to better understand what is on the screen. Well-written, descriptive alt text dramatically reduces ambiguity and improves user experience.

Creating accessibile tables

Accessible tables have the following characteristics:

  • defined column and row headers to convey meaning to the table structure
  • prefaced by a summary of table's contents and purpose for non-sighted user that will be read aloud by their screen reader
  • not used as a layout device unless necessary 
  • do not have split cells, merged cells or blank rows and columns 

Learn more about creating accessible tables

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