Wherever possible, UAS sections should publish information on webpages rather than PDFs. One reason for this is the limited accessibility of PDF documents.
If publishing a PDF is the only feasible option, UAS sections have to maximise its accessibility to people using screen reading software (also called assistive readers).
To achieve this, PDFs should only be created from Word documents. Scanned documents or design-heavy conversions from PowerPoint lack important information that assistive readers need in order to recognise the underlying structure of a document.
Below is a list of techniques to follow when converting Word documents into PDFs.
To provide orientation for readers who use screen reading software make sure headings and subheadings are marked correctly. This information is then translated when you create a PDF.
It is not enough to change the font size or font weight of headings to distinguish it from normal text.
Instead use the Styles and Formatting menu to create and apply headings to text items. Simply mark the text that will be your heading and select Heading 1, Heading 2 and so on from the list of styles in the ‘Home’ section of the Word menu. These pre-set styles can be modified to your needs via right click.
To ensure lists are being transformed correctly into your PDF and then understood by screen reading software, make sure to use the bullets or numbering options provided by Word, rather than just using paragraphing.
- Item number 1
- Item number 2
Item number 4
Do not insert the full URL when providing hyperlinks, especially if it is very long. Instead, use a unique and descriptive link text that tells the reader what happens when they click on it. Avoid generic link text such as ‘click here’.
Readers with visual impairments find headers and footers useful for orientation within the document, especially if it contains many pages or even several chapters.
In any case, you should provide running page numbers. But additional information like chapter title and author can also be useful in longer documents.
If you are displaying your text in two or more columns, use the Page Layout menu to set this up rather than creating the layout manually with text boxes. This ensures assistive readers interpret the reading order of the document correctly.
If your document includes images or graphics that are not just decorative but contain important information, provide a description of this information - so called ‘alt text’ or ‘alternative text’. This property will be translated into the PDF and can be picked up by screen reading software.
You can find the alt text option if you right-click on an image, select ‘Format Picture’ and in the menu opening on the right hand side select ‘Layout & Properties’.
Make sure that your alt text accurately summarises any data shown in the image.
Word has only limited functionality to help screen readers interpret tables, but there are some things you can do to help.
If you want to test the accessibility of your documents, download the free NVDA screen reader. You do not need to install this on your computer, as the programme can be run directly from the downloaded file.
Lead editors - email firstname.lastname@example.org
Site editors should only contact the lead editor of their site
See information on the UAS website support process