PDF accessibility

With over 1,200 PDFs on our site, we have a lot of work to do to make sure they are all accessible.

Over the last few months, we’ve been working hard to reduce the number of documents on our site with accessibility issues. We’ve been doing this in several ways.

Stopping PDFs being added in the first instance

The first thing we have been doing is taking a harder stance on the necessity of PDFs being on the site.

If there isn’t a justification for it being added, we’re learning to say no. This is often the case for when we are asked to add posters or leaflets to the site.

Converting current PDFs into web pages

We don’t have a set course of action for converting PDFs into pages but are working with documents that are sent to us for updating, as well as those that are looked at during the regular content review process.

We don’t have a specific HTML document page template, so we are restricted in doing this to those documents that are short enough to work on a page. If it’s possible to present the information in an alternative way though, we’re trying to do that.

For example, we’ve been working with teams to change terms and conditions PDFs into content pages, for example with the Registrars team.

Turning documents into web pages

We’ve also worked with the libraries to turn their posters into more engaging web pages!

Library lessons – from word file to web page

Plain English, web standards and documents

One of the areas we need to do some work on is understanding how we can fit the content of official statements and documents within our site.

Whilst we can copy the content over, sometimes we are unable to re-word this to make it meet our web standards, including plain English and using content design principles.

A future piece of work will need to be working with teams to make sure that content created corporately also meets the required standards so transforming it into accessible web content is straightforward!

Retro-fixing PDFs for accessibility

Whilst not the most exciting, quick or easy job, one way we are making sure all our documents are accessible is by retro-fixing those that we can. We’re doing this a lot in spare moments between other work.

At the moment, our checking system indicates 811 documents with issues. This number is slowly being reduced as we work through the list. When doing this, we’re focusing on those documents with the most views, rather than the documents with fewer views. This helps give us some order to work in.

Different accessibility checkers showing errors

Retro-fixing might mean adding alt text to images, making sure the heading structure is correct (or exists in some cases) or simply making sure the language definition is set.

Slow and steady progress

In all, we’re doing a lot of work to make our documents accessible.

This might be a long, slow project, but it will hopefully result in less documents, making it easier to view and find information and creating a more accessible website.

3 thoughts on “PDF accessibility

  1. Awesome read and I love the examples you’ve shown. This resonates with the approach I’m introducing at my council (Hammersmith & Fulham). My team and I have discussed restricting who can upload documents to the website and we’ve gone through all 3000 plus PDFs to see what can go or be turned into web content.


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