All PDFs on the website need to be legally accessible to all users. An accessible PDF meets certain technical criteria and can be used by people with disabilities, slower speed internet, or other needs. Making a document machine-readable allows users to search the contents of the PDF, and copy and paste its text. A PDF that is scanned is not accessible because a screen reader cannot read the words on the page.
PDFs that do not meet these standards may be deleted from Krieger School websites. At a bare minimum, PDFs must be readable and tagged.
You can always check the accessibility of a PDF with Adobe Acrobat Pro, to test for logical structure, images with captions or alternative text, tags, title, color contrast and more. There are ways you can remediate a PDF if it doesn’t pass.
If the text can be, or is already on the website, it should not be included as a PDF. This makes your content more accessible and searchable for all users, easier for users requiring screen readers, and easier to be viewed on a tablet or mobile device. This applies doubly to word documents and other non-html formats. The ideal place for content on a website is within the body of a page.
On department and program pages, some PDFs may be hosted on SharePoint or OneDrive instead of the department site. Users can then link to those services from the website. This does not apply to faculty pages or sites.krieger.jhu.edu as of 2023.
Should you use a PDF?
PDFs should be reserved for:
- Student handbooks
- Documents that are commonly printed
- Non-copyrighted research and publications
- Word documents can be used for downloadable forms if absolutely necessary, but should be interactive forms or PDFs whenever possible
- Event flyers, newsletters, and brochures only if the pdf is accessible.
PDFs that should be hosted on OneDrive or elsewhere:
- Personal journal articles
- Faculty publications
- News clips
- Other portfolio materials
Do not post pdfs for:
- Faculty or author advance proofs of books or articles
- Articles that would normally be behind a paywall
- Forms with fields that require or request file uploads that may violate FERPA, HIPAA, or other privacy laws. These files include unofficial transcripts, health records, or any other sensitive information. It is the responsibility of the form-builder to capture that information more securely, either directly or via another form builder solution.
How to make PDFs accessible
Ideally, PDFs are created in Word or Adobe, and you’ve considered accessibility throughout creation. Avoid using Canva for documents you plan to share digitally, as they are normally not accessible.
- If you start from Word, use Microsoft’s accessibility tools to add tags automatically and perform other accessibility tasks when you save a file in PDF format. You can then save the document as an accessible pdf.
- Use this checklist from JHU Accessibility to make accessible documents
- Take this JHU detailed training on creating accessible event flyers and announcements, availably to anyone with a JHED id.
Autotagging and Remediating an existing PDF
If you’ve received a pdf from someone else, you may need to remediate it. Fixing these issues only takes a few minutes. These instructions explain how to autotag and remediate existing pdfs, along with information on how to make any future pdfs accessible in Microsoft 365 for Windows, Microsoft 365 for Mac, and Office for the web.
Use WebAIM’s tutorial on PDF Accessibility in addition to following these tips to create accessible PDFs.
If PDFs are not tagged, tags can be added using Adobe Acrobat PRO using the Accessibility Checker.
- Please read through the “Check accessibility of PDFs” section to check the document, and “Fix accessibility issues” section to fix the issues.
- The most common errors we’ve found in the PDFs shared with you are listed below. Please ensure all these errors are corrected before re-uploading the file.
- The document is not tagged
- The document has no bookmarks
- The document is missing a language definition
- The document has no title
- The images or figures have no alternative text
If the PDF is from Canva
There are now some tools in Canva that create some tags and alt text, but they’re still poor quality. You may need to have the person go back to their original Canva document and take these steps to pass basic accessibility requirements:
- Use design accessibility functions
- Make sure your images have alternative text. Do not rely on the “suggest for me” text, or at least double check it.
- Try to use powerpoint to remediate the pdf
- Follow the general autotagging steps as well as possible
Autotagging and Remediating PDFs from Word
- If you have still the original word document version of the pdf, you can add tags automatically and perform other accessibility tasks when you save a file in PDF format. Please review the webpage on saving a word document as an accessible pdf.
Create Accessible PDFs from Scanned Documents
- This requires Adobe Acrobat Pro, which is available on most computers.
- Open your non-editable PDF document in Acrobat Pro and click on the “Tools” option. In the sidebar, select Text Recognition and then select “In This File”. Click ok on modal popup.
- Save file and replace it on your website
Enabling password protection on a pdf file is not allowed due to quality assurance and accessibility issues. Users should place sensitive and secure documents on a University IT-approved tool, and set appropriate permissions therein.
Note: The KSAS Web Team reserves the right to remove PDFs that are not machine-readable or have passwords without notice.
PDF Uploads in Forms
Because all Krieger Web Properties are on a public web server, they are indexable by google and other search engines. Therefore admins should not create forms with fields that require or request file uploads that may violate FERPA, HIPAA, or other privacy laws. These files include unofficial transcripts, health records, or any other sensitive information. It is the responsibility of the form-builder to capture that information more securely, either directly or via another form builder solution.