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PDF and non-HTML documents training resources

These PDF and non-HTML document resources are part of Pope Tech’s Monthly Accessibility Focus topics. You can use them as-is or edit them to fit your needs.

We built these resources for anyone who’s an accessibility champion, whether that’s your official role or not. If you want to share accessibility ideas with your team or entire organization, these topics start with the basics and build to more intermediate ideas, so you and your team get what you need to know.

The PDF and non-HTML documents training resources include:


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using #AccessibilityFocus.


Resources to share

The main resource you can share with your team is Pope Tech’s PDF and non-HTML documents article, which you can also get training ideas from.

We also created a planning spreadsheet for the PDF purge activity (Excel). Both are already linked in the email text below.

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Timeline

This suggested timeline includes when to send out emails and have training. You can customize this timeline by sending emails or holding training on days you know work best for your organization.

We recommend emails because people can get information quickly and review it on their own time, and the training because it’s a way to get people together for a discussion.

First week of the month

Send an email introducing this month’s topic – PDFs and non-HTML documents.

Second or third week of the month

Have a training reviewing PDFs and non-HTML documents and introducing this month’s activity.

You could send an email invite and reminder for the training.

Right after training or the last week of the month

If you do a training, send a follow-up email 1-3 days after. Otherwise, just send an end-of-month email.

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Email text

These are the emails for the first week of the month and right after training or the last week of the month. Use them as-is or edit them as needed.

Email introducing PDF and non-HTML documents topic and resource

Subject: Most PDFs are inaccessible – are yours?

Email text:

Creating more accessible websites or courses means taking the time to learn accessible design, which is why we created monthly focus topics. Each month, take anywhere from 5 minutes skimming resources up to 60 minutes studying resources and attending a training. This month’s topic is PDF and non-HTML documents.

PDFs, Word docs, Excel sheets, and PowerPoints are linked across the web. When creating documents, we still need to use accessible design techniques like alternative text, high contrast between colors, proper heading structure, descriptive links, and tables that are used for data to name a few.

On top of that, PDFs, in particular, have additional steps to make them accessible including tagging and checking the reading order, which is why most PDFs on the web are inaccessible.

Take 5 minutes to learn more about PDF and non-HTML documents including what makes documents accessible and how inaccessible documents affect assistive technology users.

We’ll also be hosting a training on [insert day, date] where we’ll go over [insert specific topics, demos, etc.]

Email right after training or last week of the month

Subject: Make a plan to fix inaccessible PDFs

Email text:

Thanks to everyone who was able to attend this month’s training. If you weren’t able to make it, we hope to see you at the next one.

Whether you were at the training or not, we want everyone to be part of this month’s activity – a PDF purge. The goal is to remove unnecessary PDFS or convert PDFs to accessible HTML page.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. If you haven’t already, take 5 minutes to learn what makes documents accessible and how inaccessible documents affect assistive technology users.
  2. Use the Canvas Accessibility Guide, Pope Tech Platform, or WAVE extension tool and scan for PDF documents.
  3. Once you know where the PDFs are, review them to see if they are still necessary or convert them to HTML web pages. If you’d like to create a plan for this project, check out our PDF purge planning sheet (Excel).

[Could insert video demo-ing the activity for the tool of your choice]

Next month we’ll continue reviewing accessibility with video and media content.

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Training ideas

If you decide to hold a training, here are some ideas and resources to use.

  • Reference the PDF and non-HTML documents article for potential topics to discuss. Some topics could be how inaccessible documents affect assistive technology users, what makes documents accessible, manually testing documents, and converting documents to HTML web pages.
  • Send an email reminder the day before the training and include a way for people to insert questions they have beforehand.
  • Review 10 tips for more engaging virtual training or 6 tips for leading a training.
  • End by explaining the activity (below) they can do for their own content. If you have a PDF to HTML converter tool, you can demo it, or demo converting a PDF to HTML in your organization’s content management system.

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PDF and non-HTML documents activity

This activity is supposed to help improve accessibility by giving folks something specific they can go do. If you do a training, introduce the activity at the end and again in the follow up email. Otherwise, you can just include the steps in the email.

To complete the activity, people should follow these steps:

  1. If you haven’t already, take 5 minutes to learn what makes documents accessible and how inaccessible documents affect assistive technology users.
  2. Use the Canvas Accessibility Guide, Pope Tech Platform, or WAVE extension tool and scan for PDF documents.
  3. Once you know where the PDFs are, review them to see if they are still necessary or convert them to HTML web pages. If you’d like to create a plan for this project, check out our PDF purge planning sheet (Excel).

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If you subscribe, we’ll email you web accessibility insights or things we learn a few times a month. You can unsubscribe at any time.


    Common questions

    When should I use a PDF instead of HTML?

    In general, HTML is easier for people to use and most PDFs could be HTML web pages. There are some situations where a PDF could be better:

    • When the format needs to be exact, like a floor plan.
    • Content that needs to be saved offline.
    • Documents that are meant for printing.

    How much does it cost to fix an inaccessible PDF?

    The cost to fix an inaccessible PDF varies based on the size and complexity of the PDF. For example, a PDF with interactive forms is more complex than a PDF with just headings, images, and text.

    The general rule, though, is making PDFs accessible is more expensive than recreating the content as an accessible HTML web page.

    Are PDFs accessible on mobile devices?

    PDFs on a mobile device can be accessible, but many accessible features in PDFs don’t work on the most popular screen readers for iOS and Android. Plus, PDFs can be really painful to read as you pinch to zoom in. Large PDFs can also download really slow on wireless data.

    How do I create an accessible PDF? 

    Review WebAIM’s PDF Accessibility guide to learn how to create accessible PDFs.

    Is having an accessible HTML web page version of an inaccessible PDF a viable solution?

    Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering putting an HTML web page next to an inaccessible PDF as a solution:

    • Would a user who needed an accessible version want to save the content in a PDF? If so, an HTML web page wouldn’t be an equivalent solution.
    • Why is the PDF required to begin with? If you’re going to be making an HTML equivalent anyway, can the PDF be removed?
    • Are the PDF and HTML web page going to always be 100% equivalent in content? With a PDF and HTML web page, the content will need to be updated so it’s the same in both places.

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