Making digital content accessible
When authoring documents, it is important to follow a few basic steps to assure your document is readable and usable by everyone, including people with disabilities. On this webpage we share a few resources for creating accessible content.
The most common electronic document file types are PDF files (.pdf) and Microsoft Word files (.docx). PDFs are the least accessible type of document and require additional work to be made accessible.
The following content will guide through some basics in document accessibility:
- Core Principles of Accessible Documents
- Creating Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word
- Creating Accessible Presentations in Microsoft PowerPoint
- Creating Accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word
- Scanning Content: Creating High Quality Scans
- Checking PDFs for Accessilbity Using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
Consider before you upload
Before uploading any electronic document, consider:
- Does it really need to be a PDF? PDFs are inherently the least accessible type of document
- Can the content be added onto a regular webpage? A Canvas page?
- Can the content be uploaded as an Office document?
- Is the PDF from a Library Database? Provide the article Permalink along with the PDF so students have more format options
- It is best practice to have information on a webpage rather than within a Word document or PDF when possible. We are so used to creating PDFs that we usually do not deeply think about access and effectiveness when creating content.
- Webpages use Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML, the most accessible format for information on the web. After HTML or webpages, in terms of accessibility, MS Office documents are next, then PDF. The least accessible type of document is a PDF form.
- If content needs to be shared as a PDF, some basic steps are required so it is accessible. One way involves saving the document properly, followed by checking accessibility in Acrobat Pro.
- If the source editable file is not available, then it requires remediation (or making the PDF accessible in a PDF editing program) to ensure the information can be accessed by all users. You can do this remediation work with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, submitting re-usable PDFs to the UW-IT Remediation Service or sending the file to a PDF Remediation 3rd Party vendor.
Not all students who need disability accommodations or assistance register with the DRS office. This may be related to fear, lack of resources, thinking they can do it on their own, or perhaps they are not aware they have a disability. Making content as accessible as possible from the start benefits all students, including busy students and English as a second language learners.
The resource, Things You Can Do Right Now to Make Your Course More Accessible, offers great tips to make course content more accessible to all students.
MS Office documents, PDFs, Canvas content
Training for how to create accessible MS Office documents, create Canvas pages or internally remediate PDFs is offered on a request basis to individuals or departments.
For PDF remediation (process to make a PDF accessible), Adobe Acrobat DC needs to be purchased by the department and installed by UW Bothell IT. For more information and training, please contact Ana Thompson at UW Bothell IT Digital Learning.
Academic & Access Technologist
The UW offers an online Document Conversion Service to help students, faculty, and staff at the University of Washington to produce alternative versions of documents quickly and easily. The service is free to anyone with a UW NetID, and can be accessed at tinyurl.com/uw-doc-convert.
Please note the following limitations of this service:
- The source file needs to be of good quality in order to maximize conversion accuracy.
- Some file outputs may require additional editing after conversion.
- This service is intended to provide a quick temporary solution, but is not the final solution for accessibility. For faculty and staff who are producing documents, please consult the above links for information on how to create accessible documents in various document formats.
- Students requesting alternate materials as an accommodation, please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS).
Accessible Technology Services (ATS) will remediate a limited number of PDF documents through a service supported by UW-IT. Individuals, departments, and other units at the UW are encouraged to apply to remediate highly visible, high-impact, multiple use, and/or strategic PDF documents. Examples include:
- PDF documents available to the public on a high-use website
- PDF documents that will be used multiple times in a course
- PDF documents developed by several faculty members to be used in several different classes
If you are interested in submitting one or more documents for consideration, please complete the UW PDF Document Remediation Service Application.
Any UW faculty, staff, or student is eligible to apply for accessibility remediation of one or more PDFs as long as the PDFs are owned/authored by the UW. The highest priority is PDFs that have a high impact (as defined above).
Note: If PDF documents are required for students who have a documented print disability (e.g., students with specific learning disabilities or visual disabilities), please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS). DRS provides free remediation services for individual student accommodations.
ATS is available to provide technical support or training to UW faculty and staff who wish to create accessible electronic documents and otherwise make IT accessible. Contact Gaby de Jongh at email@example.com for assistance.
Need an accessible PDF but lack the time or training? We have an UW-approved vendor available in Ariba, Open Access Technologies (OAT). When considering this option, take into account the cost of employees training and time spent in remediation work for a more realistic cost comparison.
Open Access Technologies (OAT)
Open Access Technologies (OAT) provides document remediation services at prices and turnaround times that seem to be a good match for higher education institutions. Contact the vendor for a quote:
Glenn Gross, Director Account Management
In terms of accessible web content requirements, University of Washington follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), version 2.1.