accessible PDFS in wordpress

Hi,
Are there any plugins that can help with PDF Accessibility? Dioes WPMU Dev have any resources on creating accessible PDFS for wordpress sites?

  • Adam Czajczyk

    Hello cornelius_butler

    I hope you're well today!

    As I'm no expert in accessibility area, I did some reading first and I came across this document from Adobe:

    https://www.adobe.com/accessibility/pdf/pdf-accessibility-overview.html

    There's a nice list of the basic "accessibility aspects" for PDF files and based on that I can say that a big part of that wouldn't be a "tech solution" but rather the way the document itself is created.

    For example: the article states that the content of the PDF must not be a scanned document - that's a reference to a common practice of scanning a printout or a handwritten text and saving it as a PDF. That won't happen when you generate a PDF from WordPress so that's "checked".

    Then there are issues like making PDF searchable and hyperlinked. That, if the "source content" (e.g. post on the site) is hyperlinked would usually work out of the box. As for included images, it's suggested they should include alternative descriptions and while that's fully understandable, it might depend on things like: whether alternative text were actually added to images in Media LIbrary, if the theme active on site is in fact using them, if the theme and/or article author is using captions for images too. That might also be related to whether created PDF is a "direct printout" of a page as presented to the visitor or if the PDF is created based on some additional "pdf template".

    Most, if not all, of the plugins that create PDFs from WP posts/pages, they are using the same PHP library called TCPDF so apart from proper configuration there's not much to change here as this is probably the most popular and the best solution currently available.

    However, the other thing is how the PDFs are being displayed on the site. If you're embedding PDF documents then a lot depends on how that's handled. Even if the document is fully accessible, the way it's being displayed might break some of these features. There are some plugins to display PDF's but they might not provide all the necessary features (e.g. might not offer searching or might not respect hyperlinks or copying/pasting text etc). I admit I'm not much familiar with all of those solutions so they would have to be tested first.

    It seems though that the most accessible way would be to actually make PDF's downloadable rather than embedded as this way each user could either open it with an Acrobad Reader (which should support most of the accessibility features as defined in aforementioned article) or with some other pdf reading software of own choice.

    Having that said, I admit I might have missed something so if you have any additional suggestions of what more should I check/address regarding PDF accessibility or you have any follow-up questions, let me know please and I'll be happy to research this a bit more.

    Kind regards,
    Adam

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