UMass Boston

Accessible PDFs

Providing course materials as PDFs (Portable Document Format) is a common practice and a recommended one due to the ease of access across browsers and platforms this format provides. However, when converting an original file to PDF from a program such as Word or PowerPoint, or scanning a resource to a PDF, it’s important to take steps to ensure accessibility of the document.

Scanning a PDF in an Accessible Way

Using scanners equipped with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology, you can scan documents in a way that is searchable and accessible. Without OCR these scans would be inaccessible photocopies of the resource. Use the list of scanner locations on campus to find a scanner near you. The following video offers detailed instructions on how to use the OCR scanners.

Testing a PDF for Accessibility

The accessibility of PDFs are in part due to a hidden, structural “tagging” system. A way to test for this is to simply try highlighting the content in the PDF. An accessible PDF will allow you to do so, line by line. An inaccessible one will not.

PDFs and Microsoft Office

Conversion to PDF in the most recent versions of Microsoft Office is easy. If a document is created using the General Practices on the Accessible Documents page, simply saving the file as a PDF will ensure accessibility with no additional steps. All students, staff and faculty can access the newest Microsoft Office software at the UMass Boston Microsoft Office webpage. For older versions of this software, steps to convert to PDFs can be found on the NCDAE Cheat Sheets webpage.