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Course Accessibility Guidelines and Tutorials


The first thing you need to do is ask yourself, "Does this really need to be a PDF?" If it doesn't, just post the file itself. But if the answer is yes, begin by making PDFs using the Office product that was used to create the document originally and don't use "Save as..." or "Print to..." to do it.

There is an Adobe command in the toolbar of Office products. If you don't see it displayed on your screen, go to File - Options - Customize Ribbon and select Adobe.

Screen shot of Adobe Command in an Office product's tool bar

Once you have the Adobe command visible, in Word, PowerPoint, or Excel click Acrobat - Create PDF and Run Action - Make Accessible.

Screen shot of Acrobat Create PDF and Run Action selections


Screen shot of Adobe's accessibility toolThe document will open in Adobe - click each item in section 1, 2. and 3.

Perfect Accessibility Score iconGetting to Green

At a minimum, the document must have a Title provided in the Document Description.

Check the text that appears in the Title box for accuracy. While you're there, also check what's in the Author text box - it might surprise you!

Images must have alt-text.

Alt-text doesn't always convert when you make a PDF, so be sure to run the checker and add alt-text as needed.

Major issue foundMaking Fixes

Issue: The document does not have any headings 

The easiest way to fix this is to add headings in Word and make a new PDF of the document.

In this video, Christina goes through the whole process of adding headings in Word, making a new PDF, uploading the PDF into Canvas, and seeing the new accessibility score.

Major issue foundMaking Fixes

Issue: The document contains images without a description

The easiest way to fix this is to open the file in Adobe and run Adobe's accessibility checker. This way, you can add missing alt-text but you can also fix errors like missing Titles and tags that will get flagged elsewhere (trust us - don't just fix the image descriptions - the same PDF will most likely be dinged later for another accessibility issue that you could easily fix right now). Save the corrected file, and upload it to Canvas within the Accessibility Report issue dialog.

Note: Making these fixes may not bring the PDF into the green - that's ok! It's still more accessible than it was before. Many PDFs with score low for not having headings - headings can be easily fixed if the PDF is of a document you created yourself. But, if the PDF is an article, for example, you simply won't be able to add headings to that PDF.

Major issue foundMaking Fixes

Issue: The document is scanned but not OCRed

This when a PDF is truly a scanned image - none of the text in the document is machine readable. This often happens with older PDFs or PDFs that were made using a scanner or copy machine. To fix this issue, you need to provide a different copy of the resource. If it is a document you created yourself, open the original in the original software (for example, open a document in Word or Excel or PowerPoint) and then make a PDF using that software - see the instructions for each document type in this guide.

If the PDF is an article, find a text or HTML copy - chances are it's available in one of the Library's databases. If you need help, ask a librarian or an instructional designer. 

In this video, Christina explains the issue, looks for a replacement copy of an article she uses in class, and provides students a link to a screen-readable version of the article instead of the PDF provided by the vendor.