Making PDFs Accessible (Section 508 Compliant)

By | 2016-10-31T10:35:56+00:00 April 21st, 2016|Categories: Web Development|

Est. Reading Time: 2 minute

As 508 compliance becomes more and more crucial for higher ed and ecommerce sites, many developers are encountering Priority 1 issues regarding PDFs. Depending on who owns the document it might seem prudent to send the PDFs to a separate department (those content people who write words good) as the task of tagging each img and table and metadata can seem daunting to those used to working with code. Thankfully this task need not induce panic in us developers, as there is a rather fast method for cleaning up PDFs that I’m happy to share with you all (even you content folks with all them fancy vocabulistics).

A couple prerequisites before we begin: Microsoft Word, and Acrobat Pro DC, a trial of which can be obtained here: Click here to start your free trial of Acrobat Pro DC.

  1. Open the PDF you’d like to make accessible with Acrobat Pro DC
  2. In the right column expand the “Export” section. If the current document isn’t pre-populated select it, and then select Microsoft Word (.docx) and click “CONVERT”
  3. After the conversion is complete you’ll be able to save it to your local machine.
  4. Open the newly generated docx file in Word.
  5. The final step depends on the version of Microsoft Word, but version specific instructions can be found in each version by pressing F1 and scrolling down to the accessibility section. In Microsoft Word 2013 you’ll click on Save As, select the location you’d like to save the file to and click on PDF in the “Save as type” drop down, then click “Options…” and make sure “Document poperties” and “Document structure tags for accessibility” are both checked.

There you have it, accessible PDFs without the perceived headache associated with tagging PDFs manually. Enjoy all your new found free time!

About the Author:

John Vine
John carefully crafts a great user experience for the many types of visitors to college and university websites, while maintaining focus on best practices. He specializes in custom HTML, CSS and JavaScript, including server side logic for more complex solutions. Over the last 6 years, John has helped to optimize websites for Beacon clients Clark Atlanta University, Husson University, Hawaii Pacific University, CSU Pueblo, Lees McRae College. John holds a bachelor's degree in Game Development from Full Sail University.