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How to make PDFs accessible

How to get started

This guide tells you how to make sure your PDF is accessible. Check who is responsible for making web content accessible. If you want to find out more about accessibility or why digital content needs to be accessible, go to our about accessible content page.

You must do manual checks to see how accessible your PDF is. Government Digital Service (GDS) estimate that automated checks only find around 40% of accessibility issues.

You can choose whether to check your source document or your PDF, but you must check at least one of them.

Check the source document

Most PDFs on our website were created using a Microsoft Office application. The easiest way to make sure your PDF is accessible is to check and edit (if you need to) the source document (eg. Word).

Follow our guides on:

InDesign resources

Check the PDF

To check your PDF, you will need:

  • To follow the advice in this guide
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro

You can also use the automated Adobe Acrobat Pro Accessibility Check. If you do, you must still follow the advice in this guide. This is because the automated check can be difficult to use and does not find all accessibility issues.

If you run the automated check and it tells you your PDF has lots of accessibility issues, check that you have converted your source document to PDF correctly before you try to fix any issues.

To do this:

  1. Go to the 'View' menu in Acrobat Pro, then 'Show/Hide', then 'Navigation Panes'
  2. Select 'Tags'
  3. If you can see tags in the tags panel, you have converted your source document to PDF correctly. If the tags panel says 'No tags available', this means you haven't converted it correctly

To reconvert your source document to PDF correctly:

If you need to fix any issues, you can edit the PDF. You should only do this if you can't edit the source document. This is because:

  • It's usually easier to edit the source document than the PDF
  • Your PDF may have accessibility issues that you can only fix in the source document
  • If you edit the PDF but then update your source document in the future, you will need to redo all the edits you made to the original PDF 

Need help?

How NCC staff can get help to publish accessible content. 

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