Learning Paths » Accessibility » PDF Accessibility

PDF Accessibility

Whenever possible, we recommend creating pages on your website for content. It's always better to create a new page for the PDF content rather than linking to a PDF. Edlio Pages have built-in code to make that content accessible.

Placing your content directly onto your webpage has multiple advantages:

  • it makes the text searchable so people can find your information easier
  • search engines can read the text, which helps with SEO
  • content can be translated
  • plus it's easier for you to update anytime, right in your Edlio CMS

PDFs on your website

Before uploading a pdf to your website make sure it has an appropriate file name.
Keep in mind that the accessibility of the PDF "depends on the accessibility of the original document." (Source: WebAIM)
The keys to accessible PDFs are similar to those for accessible webpages:


One of the most important principles to creating accessible PDFs is structuring the original document appropriately.


First, provide a clear and uniform heading structure. This helps screen readers navigate through the document, just like a sighted person skims for large, bold headings.
Be sure to format headings with the built-in styles for Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc. instead of just applying visual-only changes like bold or larger font sizes.

Keep headings in order. Skipping a level, jumping from Heading 1 to Heading 3 for example, confuses the document's hierarchy.

Lists and Columns

If the document has lists or columns, apply ordered and unordered list styles instead of relying on indents or other visual changes to imply the structure.

Table of Contents

If the document is long, include a table of contents at the beginning.

Data Tables

Column and row headers in data tables in documents should be identified & associated appropriately.

Non-text content

Alt text

Just like images on your website, non-text content such as pictures, illustrations and charts need alternative text. Include information about its content or function in the surrounding text.

Visual Elements

While you may be thinking of screen readers, accessibility also includes improvements for sighted individuals.


  • Use descriptive link text and underline links to help them stand out.


  • Use simple language.
  • Ensure the font size is large enough, at least 11 points.
  • Choose a legible font family.


  • Choose text and background colors that highly contrast each other.
  • Don't rely on color alone to convey content.
  • Beware of watermarks; they may interfere with readability.
Read more about these principles on WebAIM: Create Accessible Documents with Microsoft Word

Validate and Fix PDF Accessibility

What if you have PDFs but no longer have the original file?
You might try using something like PAVE. Pave is a free online tool to validate and fix the accessibility of PDF files.