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:
- Checkpoint 1.1.1 – Non-text Content: All non-text content that is presented to the user has a text alternative that serves the equivalent purpose, except for the situations listed below. (Level A)
- Checkpoint 1.3.1 – Info and Relationships: Information, structure, and relationships conveyed through presentation can be programmatically determined or are available in text.
- Checkpoint 1.4.1 – Use of Color: Color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element. (Level A)
- Checkpoint 1.4.3 – Contrast (Minimum): The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, except for the following: (Level AA)
- Checkpoint 1.4.5 – Images of Text: If the technologies being used can achieve the visual presentation, text is used to convey information rather than images of text (Level AA)
- Checkpoint 2.4.6 – Headings and Labels: Headings and labels describe topic or purpose. (Level AA)
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.
Document Accessibility Checkers
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.