Non-HTML Documents

In addition to all of the other principles listed here, PDF documents and other non-HTML content must be accessible. If you cannot make it accessible, consider using HTML or providing another accessible alternative. Files/content posted to the website or submitted for remediation should never contain confidential information.

Accessible Documents

Even if the original purpose of a PDF or Word document was for print only, as soon as it is put on a website or emailed, it becomes a digital document and the accessibility standards apply.

Before deciding to post a PDF to the web, the first questions to ask is “Can this be an HTML web page instead?” Avoid posting PDF and Word documents when possible.

Guidelines for Documents

The same guidelines that apply to a web page are true for PDFs and Word docs. Before publishing documents, consider the following:

  • Avoid using PDF and Word documents on the web if possible. Use an HTML page instead.
  • Start with an accessible document. If you are starting with a Word document and converting it to a PDF document, ensure that the Word document is accessible first.
  • Ensure that images have informative alt text.
  • Correctly uses headings, lists, and tables.
  • Provide meaningful link text.
  • Check color contrast.
  • Ensure keyboard-only users can tab through the document in a logical order.

Creating an Accessible Word Document

These instructions are for Word 2016 on PC

  1. Title the document: File > Properties > Title
    A screenshot showing how to set the title of a word document
  2. Set the default language: File > Options > Language
    A screenshot showing how to set the language of a word document
  3. Use appropriate headings with a logical hierarchy.
  4. Use numbered and unordered lists where appropriate.
  5. Add alternative text for images: Right click > Pictures > Alt Text.
    A screenshot showing how to set the alt text of an image
  6. Only use tables for tabular data (not for design purposes).

Creating an Accessible PDF from Word

Using Word as the starting point is not required, but it is a good way of ending up with an accessible PDF.

  1. Start with an accessible Word document (See Creating an Accessible Word Document above).
  2. When saving, use the options and ensure that the “Enable Accessibility and Reflow with tagged Adobe PDF” is checked.


The following links provide excellent resources for learning how to create accessible documents.


If you are unsure how to create an accessible document you can find help by using a 3rd party vendor. 24/7 Accessible Documents » is a partner and can provide assistance.