Non-HTML content, such as documents, forms, and presentations, are considered accessible if they meet certain technical requirements. It is necessary for non-HTML content to be accessible for people with disabilities to use the web. People with disabilities include those who are hard of hearing, have visual impairments, cognitive disabilities, and motor disabilities. It also benefits those without disabilities, such as people who speak English as their second language, people who are older and aging, people new to the web, and people who use mobile devices.

Avoid Uploading PDFs

Non-HTML documents like PDFs (Portable Document Format) often pose accessibility barriers due to their non-HTML nature, meaning they have no underlying structure to assist disabled individuals in navigating the page.  Many existing PDFs need to be remediated to be accessible and compatible with assistive devices, but remediation is complicated. Accessible PDF documents usually refer to “tagged” PDF files. These document structure tags provide a hidden structure of the PDF and does not affect the PDF visually. Tags define the reading order and identify headings, paragraphs, sections, tables and other page elements. The tags also allow for documents to be resized and reflowed for viewing at different sizes, such as on larger monitors or mobile devices. Images and scans of PDFs and other non-HTML content are not considered accessible.

The first thing you should ask yourself is: “Does this content need to be in PDF format?” PDFs are usually in a fixed format and are difficult to modify. PDFs were meant for distributing documents to print. They provide a poor experience for both mobile and desktop users. Remediating PDFs is difficult, time consuming, and expensive. To avoid this, you can:

  1. Convert the content into HTML web pages.
  2. Convert the content into HTML web pages, and also provide the PDF as a "print-friendly" alternative.
  3. Provide the PDF, and also create a Web page as an "accessible" alternative. The content of the accessible version must satisfy ADA requirements.

Best practices:

  • First, ask if the content needs to be in PDF format. Most content will not need to be unless you are specifically needing to print. If the content can be converted to HTML to avoid PDF remediation, then do so. 
  • If you decide you must provide the content in exclusively PDF format, create accessible documents, forms, and presentations using Microsoft Word, Microsoft Powerpoint, and Adobe InDesign.
  • Check for proper structure and visuals. Make sure the document is tagged.
  • Export accurately
  • Validate accessibility before uploading
  • Remediate existing PDFs to be accessible only if necessary - otherwise convert the content to HTML web page format.

Applicable WCAG Success Criteria


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