PDF Content Accessibility Requirements

It’s the law!

Section 508 of federal law requires accessibility compliance for documents posted online. Developing a more inclusive document strategy is not only a major component of CCBC’s digital strategy, but a legal requirement to which we are held accountable.

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a user friendly file format to consistently present and share documents across operating systems and application environments. PDFs can contain text, links, buttons, form fields, audio, video and diagrams. They can also be signed electronically and are easily viewed using free, reliable software. PDFs must be in a format that individuals with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with in the same manner as individuals without disabilities.


  1. Apply text alternative to images with the Alt entry in PDF documents.
  2. Create bookmarks in PDF documents.
  3. Ensure correct tab and reading order in PDF documents.
  4. Hide decorative images with Artifact tag in PDF documents.
  5. Indicate required form controls in PDF forms.
  6. Use table elements for table markup in PDF documents.
  7. Perform OCR on a scanned PDF document to provide actual text.
  8. Provide definitions for abbreviations via an E entry for a structure element.
  9. Provide headings by marking content with heading tags in PDF documents.
  10. Provide labels for interactive form controls in PDF documents.
  11. Provide links and link text using the Link annotation and the /Link structure element in PDF documents.
  12. Provide name, role, value information for form fields in PDF documents.
  13. Provide replacement text using the /Alt entry for links in PDF documents.
  14. Provide running headers and footers in PDF documents.
  15. Provide submit buttons with the submit-form action in PDF forms.
  16. Set the default language using the /Lang entry in the document catalog of a PDF document.
  17. Specify consistent page numbering for PDF documents.
  18. Specify the document title using the Title entry in the document information dictionary of a PDF document.
  19. Specify the language for a passage or phrase with the Lang entry in PDF documents.
  20. Use Adobe Acrobat Pro’s Table Editor to repair miss tagged tables.
  21. Use List tags for lists in PDF documents.
  22. Indicate when user input falls outside the required format or values in PDF forms.
  23. Provide interactive form controls in PDF documents.

Source: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1

Best Practices

  1. Write — Write clear and concise content. Write meaningful text alternatives for images. Label all images and table column headers. Use headings to convey meaning and structure. Tips for writing for web accessibility »

  2. Design — Design the PDF with accessibility in mind. Provide sufficient contrast between foreground and background. Clearly identify interactive elements. Don’t use color along to convey information. Use headings and spacing to group related content. Design for different viewpoints (sizes). Tips for designing for web accessibility »

  3. Develop — For interactive documents, ensure that all interactive elements are keyboard accessible. Help users avoid and correct mistakes. Include alternative text for images and multimedia. Associate a label with every form control. Write code that adapts to the user’s technology. Tips for developing for web accessibility »

  4. Test — Use the Microsoft Word accessibility checker. Carefully review the inspection results and repair any issues. Test the PDF with assistive technology. Download NVDA screen reader software »

  5. Share — Save as an unlocked PDF. Upload the PDF to the CCBC website. Sitecore video tutorials: upload a new PDF » and replace an existing PDF »


PDF Compliance Phases
  • PDF accessibility training
    • Summer 2018: Web Management Team
    • Fall 2018: College Communications, Institutional Advancement, and Administrative Services
    • Spring 2019: Enrollment and Student Services, Instruction, President and Trustees
  • Beginning July 1, 2019 all new PDFs uploaded to the Sitecore Media Library must adhere to level A standards of WCAG 2.1.
  • Previously uploaded PDFs will be addressed in phases.
Page Groupings Fall 2018 Winter 2019 Spring 2019 Summer 2019 Fall 2019 Winter 2020 Spring 2020 Summer 2020
Sitecore Resources X
Enrollment and Student Services X X X
Instruction X X X
Administrative Services X X
President and Trustees X X
Institutional Advancement X X
SmartReach X X
events X X
news X X
Common Course Outlines X X X X X
Articulation Agreements X X
(orphan) X X X X
orphan = unassigned PDFs; PDFs without a web content contributor or owner

Learn accessibility best practices and compliance standards

Have you created an accessible document in Word, Excel or InDesign? 

Congratulations - but you are not done yet! Always open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat and perform the Make Accessible feature. This is the final check needed to ensure that your document is in compliance. In most cases, this is where you will add/confirm the title of the document.

To run the Make Accessible feature in Adobe Acrobat:

  1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat
  2. Select Tools in the upper right hand corner
  3. Expand the Action Wizard and select Make Accessible 
  4. Select Start and follow the prompts