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Accessibility Toolkit for Open Educational Resources (OER): PDFs [Updated 2020]

Accessibility guide for creating OER

General PDF Accessibility Tips

PDFs must be accessible to ensure the widest possible readership and to allow all students to participate fully in online courses. It's easiest to produce an accessible document by creating it in WORD or PowerPoint or HTML and then to save it as a PDF.

First:  Scan with OCR “Optical Character Recognition.” 

Make sure your phone app produces "OCR" scans.

"Dropbox Enterprise License" version allows for OCR scans.

CUNY users login to Dropbox using CUNYFirst login for the enterprise version.

Second: Apply Adobe Acrobat Pro “Accessibility Checker” (instructions below) to address accessibility issues.

Third: Provide a WORD transcript of a scanned PDF if the PDF is not accessible.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC Accessibility Checker

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC has an "accessibility checker" to:

  • Check that a PDF is OCR.
    • Optical Character Recognition mean each letter is recognized and text is searchable.
  • Check that a PDF is “tagged” with hidden labels. 
    • Tags describe the document structure (e.g. header, paragraph, table cell).
    • Screen readers use tags to orient readers with audio cues to the document.
  • Check the "reading order" of the PDFs (especially important with documents containing columns).
  • Check for "alt-text" alternative text to describe images and graphs for screen readers.

Tip: limit black edges on scans to reduce the toner required to print a scan.

US Dept HHS PDF Instructions

Creating Accessible PDF Video from Library Publishing Coalition

A Library Publishing Coalition webinar on the requirements for PDF accessibility, including how to create an accessible PDF and how to evaluate and confirm the accessibility of existing PDFs.


Attribution: [Library Publishing Coalition] (2017, Dec 13) LPC Webinar: Creating Accessible PDFs (52:04) [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Ex-XdcO7hjk

Creating Accessible PDFs


Attribution: [April Pierson] (2016, Jan. 24) Making a PDF accessible with Acrobat Pro DC (3:12) [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/_fIPUYEJWdI

PDF Remediation videos from UA Tech Accessibility

This recorded webinar covers how to use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to create PDFs that are accessible to people with disabilities: what it means for a PDF to be accessible; generating accessible PDFs from Microsoft Office and other applications; and using Acrobat’s Accessibility Checker and Make Accessible Action Wizard to evaluate the accessibility of a PDF and make basic accessibility fixes.



Attribution: [UA Technology Accessibility] (2020, Apr. 6) Creating Accessible PDFs with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC 57:06 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ndNuOHeA4CI


This recorded webinar covers how to use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to correct basic tagging issues in a PDF, preparing Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for accessibility work and solving tagging problems related to logical reading order, lists, artifacts, tables, and figures.


Attribution: [UA Technology Accessibility] (2020, Apr. 6) PDF Remediation Basics 46:58 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ZPRhqbcd6Wo



You’ve mastered the basics of creating accessible PDFs, but what about more complex documents? This recorded webinar covers advanced techniques such as working with scanned documents, complex tables, and complex lists. Exercise files courtesy of Adobe and Microsoft.



Attribution: [UA Technology Accessibility] (2019, Apr. 24) Advanced PDF Accessibility with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC: Scanned Documents, Tables, and Lists 46:58 [Video File]. Retrieved fromhttps://youtu.be/BjWPNDZMd68

PDF Remediation Video Instructions from NCRTM

This National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM) videocast series reviews remediating accessible PDF documents.These brief tutorial videos are a fast and easy way to get started and/or review how to check and remediate documents in Adobe PDF.

  • Part One (9 min.) covers tagging/reading order, artifacting, lists and table of contents.
  • Part Two (11 min.) covers simple data tables, images/alt text, color contrast and forms.

Attribution: [National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials] (2017, Feb. 6) PDF Accessibility - Remediating Part One 8:35 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/PJvDoArpZ0g



Attribution: [National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials] (2017, Feb. 6) PDF Accessibility - Remediating Part Two 10:50 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/2YL6PklVgag

Fixing Annotations

A quick video on how to correct a PDF scan which has tagged annotation fails.

Attribution: [Wolf Helping Hand] (2017, Oct. 20) How to make a correction during a PDF accessibility check when it says, tagged annotations failed. (3:36) [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/yPRKMdw5oe0