Drawbacks That Make PDFs Not the Best Choice for Accessibility

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Drawbacks That Make PDFs Not the Best Choice for Accessibility

For many years now PDF files have been a convenient way to deliver print documents online. When the technology debuted it was almost the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it remains a challenge to make it accessible.

A very informative article by Nielsen Norman Group about PDFs and Accessibility can be found here

Potential drawbacks to making PDFs accessible include:

  1. Developers require the full (paid) version of Adobe Acrobat to inspect and insert image alt text and other accessibility accommodations into a PDF file. Typically only the PDF reader software is available at no charge.

  2. The process of repairing PDF files is currently both time-consuming and can lead to inconsistent results. More training and plugins are required to make PDF content accessible than other formats like HTML and Word, or the accessible publishing standard, ePUB.

  3. PDF documents are usually formatted to be printed vertically, but computer monitors and e-readers are typically horizontal. This mismatch causes users to scroll more often than on a Web site, which can be difficult for users with mobility impairments.

  4. Large files can be very slow to download.

  5. PDFs consisting of or containing some scanned pages are a series of images, and therefore inaccessible to screen readers. Only an OCR (optical character reader) scanner can save a scanned document as a text file, and the formatting sometimes is messy, to say the least.

  6. The interface between a browser and a PDF file is not consistent across platforms and browsers.

If creating PDFs is still something you want to do, more information about creating accessible PDFs can be found here, at Section 508. gov. BUT…

A better solution is…ePub!


ePub is an e-book file format with the extension .epub that can be downloaded and read on devices like smartphones, tablets, computers, or e-readers. It is an official technical standard published by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). The term is short for electronic publication. ePub is the most widely supported vendor-independent XML-based (as opposed to PDF) e-book format; that is, it is supported by the largest number of hardware readers. It is free to use.

Inclusive Docs’ EPUB SOLUTION is here.

Inclusive Docs’s platform can easily ingest and display your ePubs. With the Inclusive Docs solution, you can display publications on the web, mobile web and in native apps.

With Inclusive Docs’s ePub solution, you can:

  • Have your content automatically adapt to their display screens rather than forcing the reader to pan and zoom around pre-formatted content

  • Manage your ePub documents across all your environments.

  • Seamlessly integrate and manage all your environments with one point of access

  • Stream your ePubs to any device

  • Publish once, display everywhere

  • No plugins or downloads are required by your users

  • We provide a complete set of authoring tools to enhance and distribute

  • Distribute directly to iOS and Android devices using the Inclusive Docs app

  • Deliver your ePubs in pagination display or by article

  • ePub publications can now contain video, audio, and interactivity – just like websites

Check out what Inclusive Docs can do for you.