PDFs and Accessibility

There’s an excellent article about portable document files (PDFs) and accessibility written by Joe Clark at the newly relaunched A List Apart.

See: Facts and Opinions About PDF Accessibility

It’s one of the best practical articles I’ve seen on the format, including when it is best to use PDFs, and when not to, how to optimize them best for screen readers, a description of the format itself, and the different authoring tools that can be used.

I’m not sure how effectively search engine indexing programs can handle the different tags in a PDF, but this is an excellent introduction to the format itself.


2 thoughts on “PDFs and Accessibility”

  1. I think PDF could be useful for saving content for later offline reading, or properly printing content of a page, if for example the web site does not have a print version (as with StyleSwitching – CSS, ASP or PHP). More: http://css-discuss.incutio.com/wiki/Style_Switching

    Anyway, if you use PDF files, make them at least accessible. See here howto: http://webaim.org/resources/reader/

    If the question is about linking to such document, opening a new window could be also usable, while will allow document to download in the background. It also prevents users from accidentally closing the browser window when they close the document. More: http://www.webnauts.net/new-window.html

  2. Hi John,

    Those resources are a nice addition to the article from Joe Clark. Thanks for posting them.

    Great points about offline reading, and about opening PDF files in a new window.

    I do see a number of sites wherepeople could have benefitted from having html pages instead of PDF files. The navigation structure of the site is abandoned when they do that, possible link popularity from internal linking is lost, and the only thing they might gain is a nice looking printed document.

    I liked the list from Joe about when a PDF may be appropriate because I often see too many sweeping suggestions from people that such documents are never appropriate, and that isn’t really true.

    Again, Thanks.

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