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How to create accessible PDF documents

1. Preparing your document for conversion to PDF

The PDF linked at the bottom of this page provides guidance on how to prepare your Word document for conversion to an accessible web version of a PDF.

The golden rules are:

  • Copy the contents of your document into a new document to remove any tracked changes
  • Format the document using Word's built-in styles (normal, heading 1, heading 2 etc);
  • Use the Arial font size 11 or 12
  • Make sure the document follows house style and that it has the correct branding
  • Make sure report documents have paragraph numbering
  • Remove any personal details from the Document Properties Summary
  • Check that headers and footers do not include any file locations or personal data
  • Save the document as tagged (see PDF web standards).

Your document should always be converted to PDF before being added to the website. Contact Web and Digital Services if you would prefer to use a different file type than PDF.


2. Metadata - how to add summary information to your document

Metadata includes information about your attachment and its contents such as the title, description/subject, author and keywords. It is used by search engines when indexing attachments and can affect search ranking. Some of the data, title and description, is displayed in search results. It is also used by screen readers for the visually impaired to describe the document to help them decide if they want to open the attachment. Adding the correct Metadata for your document helps your audience locate your document and understand its contents.

Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Acrobat all provide simple ways of adding metadata to documents. If you are using a different program to create your attachment you should contact Web and Digital Services for advice about including metadata.

How to add metadata to Microsoft Office 2013 documents before you create a PDF

  • Open your document for editing
  • Click on File, the Info screen is displayed by default. Select the Properties drop down menu on the right and choose 'Show document panel'. The document panel will open in Word above your document.
  • Enter the following details in the following fields and click the OK button when done:
    Author: remove any name in the box and replace with Surrey County Council (unless the document has been authored by another organisation and you have permission to publish it on the council website).
    Title: the title of the document.
    Subject: include a concise one line description of your document but do not repeat the document title.
    Keywords: include any keywords that people might use to search for your document.

You can then select 'Save as' and choose PDF. Before clicking Publish, under Options, the Document properties box should be ticked to ensure the metadata is saved with your PDF. You then click on Publish to create the PDF.

How to add metadata to PDF documents using Adobe Acrobat

Open your document for editing.

  • Click on File > Properties. The Document properties box will appear on screen. Click on the description tab if necessary.
  • Enter the following details and click the OK button when done.
    Title: the title of the document
    Author: Replace any name in the box with Surrey County Council (unless the document has been authored by another organisation and you have permission to publish it on the council website)
    Subject: include a concise one line description of your document
    Keywords: include any keywords that people might use to search for your document

Example

Title: Surrey walking guide
Subject: Details of walks and walking activities in Surrey. Published June 2010.
Author: Surrey County Council
Keywords: walks, walking, hiking, rambling


3. Tables in PDFs must be accessible

Keep tables simple. Use column headings and make sure that the contents of the table make sense when they are read from left to right for screen readers.


4. Why we have this web standard

Publishing an accessible document ensures that it can be read by everyone, it can be found easily by search engines and it can achieve a higher ranking in search results.

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