Document Accessibility: Everything You Need to Know

April 26, 2018
Photo: Blind person using a Braille display


Documents are often overlooked when considering website accessibility—yet inaccessible electronic documents can be a significant barrier for people with disabilities.

Common Types of Document Accessibility Errors include:

  • Documents scanned to PDF format that contain no data for assistive technology devices
  • Documents authored using older versions of Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, or other software that is missing critical accessibility features (i.e. alternate text for images)
  • Documents authored using Apple pages or other software that is not accessibility supported
  • Documents authored using the latest publishing tools, but missing key accessibility features (i.e. structured headings, alternate text, etc.)

What Standards Apply to Documents

The Word Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) apply to documents published on the web and distributed in electronic formats. Specifically, WCAG 2.0 checkpoints that apply to documents include:

Identifying Inaccessible Documents

Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat both include an automated accessibility checker to help you identify errors in your documents. Automated accessibility checkers can help identify basic accessibility errors such as: missing alternate text descriptions, reading order problems, and more.

To get a complete picture of document accessibility, we recommend testing documents with a screen reader to identify barriers and determine compatibility with assistive technology devices. A screen reader can catch accessibility errors that automated scanners might miss including:

  • Alternate text that does not fully describe the content on an image
  • Documents with reading order problems caused by text boxes or table layouts
  • Tab delimited pseudo tables that are missing formatting for assistive technology devices

FREE Document Accessibility Audit

Aurora offers free document accessibility testing for MS Word, PPT, and PDF documents.

Request a Quote