WebAIM survey finds no significant improvement in PDF accessibility in more than 6 years. Why?

WebAIM recently published it's sixth screen reader user survey. It finds that perceptions of the accessibility of PDFs hasn’t improved significantly in over six years.

PDF is not an inherently inaccessible format

PDF is not an inherently inaccessible format. If you know how, most PDFs can be made as accessible as content in any other format, and in some cases, more so. The real problem is a dearth of relevant skills and know-how.

Over-reliance on automated PDF accessibility checkers

The PDF accessibility checker built into Acrobat Professional (versions 11 onwards) is a useful tool. However, it is important to understand that no automated checker will test the accessibility of a PDF and give you a yes or no answer. I have written about this previously elsewhere,…

PDF background colour bug returns in Acrobat/Reader DC

In December I posted that a long-standing PDF accessibility problem, namely a serious background colour bug, had been eliminated with an update to Acrobat/Adobe Reader 11. However, six months on, and with the release of Acrobat and Reader DC, the bug has returned.

Soft hyphens in InDesign

Question: when is a hyphen not a hyphen? Answer: when it’s an artifact. As hard and soft hyphens look the same, for sighted readers the consequences of confusing the two are likely to be minimal, if any. But to a screen reader user, a passage of…

Fixing broken anchors in PDFs

Fixing broken anchor links in PDFs. This problem is specific to Word-originated files. It does not occur with documents created in InDesign

PDF background colour fix with latest Adobe updates

Specifically, if the original colours were, say, black text on a pink background, and if a user set his or her preferences to yellow text on a black background, Acrobat or Reader would convert the text colour to yellow as required, but would not recognise the background correctly and so leave its colour unchanged. The outcome, of course, would be (a hard-to-read) yellow text on a pink background.

Creating accessible links in PDFs

Creating accessible links in PDFs is a basic accessibility requirement. This article looks at a selection of techniques for tagging links correctly to ensure that they are both keyboard operable and usable with a screen reader. It also looks at, amongst other things, how to make URLs more intelligible for screen reader users. It is helpful to screen reader users to provide a text alternative for such links in order to make them easier to understand

Text justification – issues and techniques

Justified text used inappropriately can cause serious readability problems. With simple justified text the uneven variation in spacing between words makes the text more difficult to read because, instead of moving smoothly along the line, the eye has to jump from word to word. For people with certain disabilities such as dyslexia the problems can be serious; justification can interfere with their ability to understand the text at all.


Used correctly, italics can enhance copy by adding both meaning and style. However, a little care needs to be taken to ensure readability, correct semantics and the avoidance of potentially serious page layout problems.