Accessibility for PDFs and other documents

Avoid uploading PDFs and publish your content directly within the website where possible.

Publishing your content directly within the website instead of as a PDF (or other document) has many benefits:

  • much easier to meet accessibility standards: you benefit from the work done to make the entire website meet accessibility legislation
  • easier to maintain and update: better version control as you know you are always updating the current version 
  • better SEO: your content will rank higher in search engines and be more searchable
  • a better user experience: text can reflow to suit the screen you are viewing it on.

Adhering to accessibility legislation

If you have to publish a PDF, be aware there is legislation requiring it to meet accessibility standards.

We are obliged to remove PDFs from the website that do not meet the requirements set out in legislation.

Other things to consider before publishing PDFs on the website

Does this content really need to be published on the website?

  • If the audience is internal, consider other tools to share and manage this content that won't risk a breach of accessibility legislation (you should still aim to make it accessible though). 
  • If the audience is external, or a mix, does the information in the PDF already exist elsewhere? Are you sure they will need the information in the PDF? 

PDFs from an external source

  • Always request that an external organisation publishes their PDF on their own website. This means they, not us, take on the responsibility for making sure it meets accessibility legislation.
  • Then, provide a link to this external source instead of uploading it onto our website directly.
  • Do not upload externally produced PDFs onto our website unless you are certain they adhere to accessibility legislation. We will remove PDFs that breach these standards.
  • Encourage other organisations to take their responsibilities seriously. As a condition of us sharing and promoting their work, we should insist that their documents meet the required standards.

Requests from managers or colleagues to upload PDFs to the website

If someone has requested that you upload a PDF to the website, consider the above points and advise them on our responsibilites and suggest alternative approaches where possible.

Advocacy from the webteam 

We can help if you aren't sure how to deal with requests from colleagues for PDF uploads.

We can:

  • Advise your colleagues on accessibility legislation and our responsibilities
  • Help propose suitable alternative approaches

For advice contact:

Making documents accessible

If you have considered all of these things, and still need to upload documents like PDFs to the website, there is practical advice for making documents accessible here: