Publishing accessible documents online
We have a responsibility to ensure any documents we publish meet accessibility standards. This means everyone should be able to get the same information, including those with disabilities. Documents include PDFs, Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.
You should avoid online documents where possible and use web pages as the primary way for publishing information online. This has many benefits:
- Accessibility: The templates and content types on the College website meet AA standards. If you follow our advice on headings, links and images your content will be accessible too.
- Responsive design: The College website template displays on different screen sizes – from phones to large display screens.
- Usability: College web pages should offer a better user experience than someone downloading and opening a document.
- Easier to find for users: Web pages have a much higher search ranking by Google than PDF or other documents.
- Quicker and easier to update: Once a web page is created, small changes can be made easily. This is much quicker than updating and publishing a PDF.
- More control of the truth: Web pages usually have the most up to date version of the content. With documents there is a risk of people sharing old and inaccurate content.
- Branding: the website design meets College branding standards.
- User data: There is much more data about visitors to web pages so you can get insights on how they interact with your content.
Forms and surveys
You should use the College’s form and survey tool, Qualtrics rather than a PDF or word document. Qualtrics forms can be embedded directly on to your web pages. You can also check out our guidance on writing accessible surveys.
Rather than send your internal newsletters as documents, we would recommend you use the Poppulo, the College's centrally-supported tool for managing and sending internal email newsletters to staff and students. Read the guidance on how to write email newsletters and how to get access to Poppulo.
Writing accessible PDF and other online documents
If you have to publish a document, it should be in addition to your web pages.
A good example of this is the Annual Report and accounts. This was created as a printed piece which was broken down into several web pages, to give it the greatest reach possible. The PDF version is offered as the secondary way to consume this information.
The Nielsen Norman Group have written a great article on why you should avoid PDFs for on-screen reading as well as some guidelines on how to use PDFs effectively.
Advice for making PDFs more accessible
Adobe have some great advice on how to Create and verify PDF accessibility using Adobe Acrobat.
Adding a document title
One of the most simple, but important things you can add to your PDF document is a document title. The document title is stored in the file metadata and is often read by a screenreader user before they download the document, so adding this really helps them understand what the document is.
Adding a title in Adobe Acrobat
- Choose File > Properties > Description.
- Enter a title in the Title text box.
- Click Initial View, and then choose Document Title from the Show drop-down list.
- Click OK to close the Description dialog box.
Using Microsoft Office to create PDF documents?
If you are creating your PDFs in Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint, there are instructions for adding a document title in Microsoft Office.
Guidance for creating accessible Microsoft Office documents
We have put together some guidance covering the main things you can do to make your Office documents more accessible.
Please ensure you always use the latest College PowerPoint templates, which have been designed to be accessible.
- Avoid PDFs for on-screen reading (by Nielsen Norman Group)
- Our top tips for uploading documents online
- How to add documents to your T4 web pages
- Creating Accessible PDFs (Lynda.com)