Making Files Accessible


Making content accessible is not just for people with disabilities. It’s beneficial for other purposes as well such as documents meant to be read on a mobile device using page reflow, SEO optimization, or copying and pasting content for use in other file formats.

The best way to create accessible content is paying attention from the very start of creating the content – the Word document that will be a PDF, the outline that will become an infographic, or the idea that will become a video.

Use the checklists, videos, and step-by-step resources below to learn how to make your files accessible.

Reference Guides applicable to all Microsoft Office applications:



Adobe PDF & PDF Forms

When people refer to an accessible PDF file, they are usually referring to a “properly tagged” PDF file, however, there is more to an accessible PDF than simply tags. While tags provide a structured, textual representation of the content, other considerations like logical heading structure and color contrast must also be addressed for a PDF to be accessible.

Adobe Acrobat DC

Adobe Acrobat Pro 

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Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is often used as the basis for PDF and HTML files, so how you build your word document is an important first step to ensuring an accessible end product.

The following checklists and best practices are provided to help you maximize the accessibility of your Word documents.

HHS Reference Guide on creating an accessible Word document (PDF) Visit disclaimer page

Word 2016

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Are you developing a website or web application? Did you know users with reading difficulties, language barriers, visual impairments, color blindness, hearing impairments, and other disabilities could have trouble accessing or understanding your website? As a web developer or designer, utilizing accessibility best practices in coding is important to ensure as many users as possible can successfully use your website or application.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are the two core building blocks for creating webpages and web applications. HTML code provides the structure and CSS provides the visual layout of pages.

The accessibility checklist ensures that accessible HTML and CSS are implemented in areas with the greatest accessibility risks including page titles, keyboard navigation, tables, language, graphics, multimedia, and more.

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Multimedia and Social Media Content

Using video and audio on your website is a great way to make it more interesting and engaging to audiences.

But when you’re using multimedia, there are steps to take to make sure all your users can enjoy your content.


For users who can’t see, videos must be carefully scripted or edited in a way that ensures all the content can be experienced by someone with impaired vision. All information presented visually should be included in the audio track.

Audio description is a separate narrative audio track that describes important content that is only presented visually (a scene with nonverbal character interactions or on-screen text like a web address). You should use your best judgment when deciding if a separate audio descried video is needed. If there is pertinent information or cues that are only presented visually, odds are audio descriptions are necessary. When in doubt, contact us!

Sometimes video creators need to post two videos accommodating different disabilities. One video is published with captions (open or closed) and anther video is published with audio descriptions, if necessary.


For users who can’t hear, any audio content needs to have a text version. Audio-only material like podcasts or recorded lectures must be accompanied by a text transcript. Video content, like YouTube videos or recorded presentations, must have both transcripts and be captioned.

What is a caption? Captions are text versions of the audio content synchronized with the video. Captions are most frequently used by those in the deaf or hard of hearing communities, but can also help non-native English speakers understand video content. Captions can be closed (able to be turned on and off) or open (permanently showing on the screen).

Multimedia Players

It’s not just the content that’s important, it’s how the users are viewing or hearing it. Some users can’t operate a mouse, so multimedia should be delivered in a player that can be operated with the keyboard alone. Individuals often use Tab, Spacebar, arrows, and other keyboard shortcuts to use the media player.

For in-depth information on video accessibility, see’s article Create Section 508-Compliant Videos on Your Government Websites Visit disclaimer page .

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Color Contrast

Contrast is the difference between the foreground color and background color. It is imperative that the contrast ratio be a minimum of 4.5:1.Always maximize the contrast ratio at every opportunity!

HHS Reference Guide on how to check color contrast without an installed tool (PDF) Visit disclaimer page