PDF Guidelines

Should you use a PDF? 

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, easier for users requiring screen readers, and easier to be viewed on a tablet or mobile device.  

All PDFs on the website need to be legally accessible to all users, and legally allowed on the website. Starting September 1, 2020, PDFs that do not meet these standards may be deleted from Krieger School websites.  

PDFs should be reserved for: 

  • Downloadable forms 
  • Documents that are commonly printed 
  • Non-copyrighted research and publications  

Avoid posting PDFs for: 

  • Images with text, such as event flyers 
  • Brochures 
  • Newsletters
  • Faculty or author proofs of books or articles 
  • Articles that would normally be behind a paywall 

What to consider if using PDFs

Legal Restrictions on PDFs 

Publications are subject to copyright, even if the author is a faculty or staff member at Johns Hopkins. Advance proofs and faculty copies of articles, research, and books are not legally allowed on our website. Any PDF that would normally be behind a paywall should not be posted. 


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.

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.