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Designers and website administrators are encouraged to avoid using PDFs where possible. The primary purpose of UT websites is to communicate information. Relying on document formats other than HTML can add unnecessary obstacles for site visitors.

PDFs by their nature force a particular layout on readers that may not always work well on their devices. In particular, PDFs are difficult to read on small screen devices like phones since they are typically optimized for presentation on an 8.5” x 11” printed page.

PDFs and other documents that are posted online should follow WCAG 2.0 AA standards for digital accessibility. You can make PDFs more accessible by using Adobe Acrobat Pro to tag them, add alt text to images, and add reading order to text elements. However, this is not always a simple and straightforward process. Making PDFs accessible can be incredibly time consuming—and potentially more expensive—than simply presenting the content of the document as a web page.

For instructions on making an accessible PDF, visit WebAIM’s PDF Accessibility guide.

PDF tips

  1. Avoid “burying” information in PDFs by building web pages from the document’s content instead.
  2. If you absolutely must post a PDF for download, remember that documents that are posted online must also follow WCAG 2.0 AA standards for digital accessibility.
  3. Do not use a “page flip” service to make your PDF more book-like. Remember, you are working in a different medium. Be creative!
  4. Do not scan pages from books or documents and convert them to PDF. All PDFs should have selectable text and be tagged for assistive technology.
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Don’t scan documents and place on websites as PDFs or images.
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DO make sure all PDFs have selectable text and are tagged for assistive technology.

For more information, visit the Accessible Information, Materials, & Technology website.

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