DES 3.3 Provide accessible alternatives - don't rely on PDF/Word

Portable Document Format (PDF) documents have become widely used on the web. PDFs are good for printing but poor for accessibility compared to good web documents.

Not everyone has Word and it is poor for accessibility compared to good web documents.

  • Always provide documents in accessible HTML (web) form unless totally unpractical to do so:
    • Provide PDF and Word in addition to, not as a replacement for, good web content.
  • For long documents that are intended for printing provide an accessible HTML (web) summary.

PDF accessibility: PDFs can be made more accessible but will not be as accessible as well-coded HTML (the underlying code used to make web pages). In general, it is much easier to make an accessible HTML version of a document than try to make the PDF more accessible. You should however strive to make all PDFs that you will place on your site as accessible as possible (see the access.adobe.com site for more information on making PDF documents more accessible).

Practicality: Much of your existing content may be in PDF form. It may be impractical to convert all of this to HTML and recode the PDFs to make them more accessible.
The priority must be to:

  • convert all important and frequently visited content
  • ensure all new content has an accessible HTML version.

You should offer to convert old and infrequently visited PDF-only versions upon request.

Good: Clear links to online version, with alternatives: PDF, word and a zipped HTML format too