Documents & PDFs

Documents are some of the most commonly created and used materials in higher education. There are papers, handouts, flyers, and a range of other types of documents. While sometimes printed, documents are often available digitally as well (having multiple formats is an accessibility best practice). Providing accessible digital copies of documents is not only necessary, but it also ensures everyone can access the materials from the point of publication.  

Opportunities and Challenges 

Students collaborate at a desk

Accessibility opportunities: 

  • Word provides many of the necessary accessibility tools you will need including an accessibility checker.  
  • Creating accessible documents in Word allows for an easier conversion to PDF.  
  • Creators can build in many different structural elements to make them easy to navigate in multiple ways. 
  • There is already lots of guidance on how to create accessible documents.  
  • Many documents can be purchased in accessible formats.  

Accessibility challenges:

  • PDFs can be challenging to make accessible.  
  • Content is static and multimedia is not easily represented.  
  • If only printed and distributed digitally, you might need to think about creating a print-only version. For example, descriptive links would not be effective in a print only version.  
  • Fully accessible tables and charts can be challenging to create.  

Learn More about Accessible Documents

Microsoft Word 

The most commonly used document creation software at UNH is Microsoft Word. As a Microsoft campus, Word is a tool that all community members can utilize. Importantly, Microsoft has included a wide range of different accessibility features within the software.  


PDFs are another common way that documents are created and distributed. While Word documents can be simple to create to be fully accessible, PDFs are more challenging to create in an accessible format. That is because there are multiple layers that you need to consider. In particular, you are not just considering the content, but also the tags as well. PDFs can be a great way to distribute content, but accessibility needs to be carefully considered.  

Other Formats  

Document Suggestions

  • Implement the accessibility essentials
    • Accessible headings - Always ensure headings are accessible by using “styles”, and if remediating PDFs using “tags” (structure markers in PDFs) as well.  
    • Alternative text – Always ensure that images either have appropriate alt-text or are marked as decorative.  
    • Color contrast – Consider how color usage throughout the document not only for design purposes, but also in terms of how color is used to convey meaning.  
    • Descriptive links – Ensure all links are descriptive and, if possible, indicate an action.   
    • Accessible tables and charts – Simplify tables and charts, and when using, ensure tables and charts are accessible in terms of format and color.  
    • Clear language 
  • Ensure lists are added using a list style and not added manually.  
  • Fonts  
    • Avoid stylized fonts, and use easy to read fonts like sans serif fonts  
    • Ensure font size is at least 12, but larger for printed documents as appropriate 
    • Avoid using all capital letters, underling, or italics expect for emphasis and instead use bold for emphasis 
  • General formatting considerations  
    • Have multiple formats of materials available (for example, have documents in accessible PDF and Word formats)  
    • Align all text to the left  
    • Use 1-inch margins   
    • When using columns clearly distinguish between sections  
  • Utilize templates that are already accessible  
  • Always check documents for accessibility prior to distribution  
    • Use document accessibility checkers  
    • Conduct a manual review. If possible, manually check using Assistive Technology (AT) 

  • Carefully consider where the document will be distributed or posted
  • Ensure materials can be accessed before the event or programming
  • Consider how to represent links appropriately  
  • Carefully consider color contrast 
  • Consider font size in relation to overall print size and display location  
  • Include digital copies of printed materials  
  • Tab and label materials   
  • Use cream colored paper when possible   
  • If colored paper is required, consider color contrast   
  • Avoid using glossy finishes 
  • If printing on both sides, ensure there is no bleed through