Woman with glasses and a short hair cut looks at iMac

Susan Lee

Knowledge is power. How to personally validate whether or not your online documents are accessible.

Can you be assured all the content on your website is accessible to people with disabilities—including those with visual impairments?

No organization is exempt from accessibility legislation. Yes, larger companies like Target, Wells Fargo, and Netflix are more likely to make headlines for million-dollar lawsuits brought against them. But every day, smaller companies are also being sued for lack of compliance—resulting in massive legal fees, lowered productivity, decreased employee and customer engagement, and bad press.

All this to say, it is critical to your organization’s well-being to ensure your website can be accessed by people who are blind, visually impaired, cognitively impaired, or color-blind. And that means your online content must follow several compliance standards.

Ensuring your online content follows global standards like WCAG and PDF/UA can significantly reduce your risks of digital accessibility non-compliance. However, achieving that level of compliance can be a massive undertaking. And without an expert digital accessibility audit, it can be challenging to know if your entire website is properly accessible (or just a metaphorical “sitting duck” for a lawsuit).

But it’s not all bad news! You can do things yourself to get started on your journey to accessibility. And it begins with looking at the PDF documents on your website.

Defining an accessible PDF

As the native file format of the Adobe Acrobat family of products, the Portable Document Format—aka PDF—is widely used by government and private organizations on their websites, apps, and other digital offerings. The format’s popularity is due to users being able to view and share electronic documents conveniently without losing or tampering with information.

A PDF document is considered accessible if everyone can read it. More specifically, an accessible PDF enables people with disabilities to read the document using assistive technology software and devices like screen magnifiers, screen readers, speech-recognition software, text-to-speech software, alternative input devices, and refreshable Braille displays.

If you have PDFs on your website, chances are that the authoring tool you use is not making them accessible. Worse yet, without a means to validate each PDF, you very likely would not know which errors are present.

Checking for and validating PDF accessibility

The good news? Software exists to help you test whether a given PDF document is accessible or not.

Generally speaking, an accessibility validation tool will run the PDF document through a set of predetermined tests and checkpoints—looking at several properties including but not limited to metadata, tags, tables, and forms. If the document passes those tests, congratulations! You have an accessible PDF that anybody can read, regardless of ability or disability.

Software features to look for

To ensure you select the most effective PDF accessibility validator for your organization, ensure it embodies the following:

  • It tests against common compliance standards. A good PDF accessibility checker should be able to test your PDF documents against the most widely used standards, including WCAG, PDF/UA, and HHS.
  • It generates and provides an accessibility compliance report. A certification report offers a breakdown of the accessibility status of your PDF document according to the chosen accessibility standard.
  • It’s free! Paying to use a software tool to verify your PDFs is not necessary. Before you pull out your wallet, look at free tools—many offer the features you need at zero cost.

Move towards accessibility with better peace of mind

Imagine having peace of mind that all the content on your website is compliant with accessibility standards. Using a PDF accessibility checker is a significant first step toward providing equitable access to all users—not to mention achieving the validation you need to ensure you’re aligned with current legislation.

Ready to get started on your organization’s accessibility journey?