Making a PDF Accessible: Episode 4 |Glendale College

Welcome to episode four on making college PDFs accessible. Today, we focus on Glendale Community College’s Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) newsletter for summer 2023.

Video Guide

In case you missed them, here are Episode 1Episode 2 and Episode 3 in our Making Accessible PDFs: Community College Series.

Key Takeaways From This Episode

This document was originally made in Canva. Canva forms are just not accessible. Multiple rounds of testing were required. The combination of issues made for a time-consuming and laborious process with no quick solutions.

Initial Run of the Accessibility Checker

From the start we uncovered a number of basic issues needing correction:

  • Reading Order. ‘Figure’, ‘H1’, ‘LI’ tags were not in the right order, making the document hard to read. Organizing these creates a nice flow.
  • Unnecessary Tags. There were extra ‘div’ tags that didn’t serve a purpose. Cleaning these is essential in making accessible PDFs. Less is more!
  • Tagging Tips: Change ‘figure’ tags to ‘p’ tags when they hold text, and condense ‘p’ tags that separate text unnecessarily. Artifact unused ‘p’ tags to clean things up.
  • Table of Contents. The existing table was not serving as a functional Table of Contents. Manually adjust tags to link to the correct pages for better navigation.
Creating tags for a table of contents in a PDF
  • Images Without Alt Text. Adding alt text to photos is crucial for PDF accessibility for users with visual impairments.
  • List Items Misbehaving: When text meant for paragraphs gets included as list items, manually separate each of them.

Check the Metadata

From the main Menu, select Document Properties. From here we can review and edit the PDF properties.

Editing document properties in a PDF

Through this, we found out the PDF was made in Canva. Canva is famous for poorly tagging. Check out our blog post on how to make a Canva document accessible.

Canva Issues

There were a number of inconsistent error messages. We fixed some, they kept appearing, we fixed more, and received more error messages. Major confusion!

  • Link and Notation Nesting: We found incorrect nesting of structure elements, specifically between links and notations.
  • Inappropriate Use of Span Tags: Multiple errors indicated the inappropriate use of span tags. The span tags were not mapped properly, causing role mapping issues. We had to manually go through the link tree and delete them.
  • Keyboard Navigation: We experienced bugs in the keyboard navigation while editing so many ‘span’ tags. This made it frustrating to move quickly through the structure tree.
  • Element Placement: We changed the block element to inline for images that also serve as links, further cleaning up errors.
Changing a block element to inline element in a PDF

Concluding Advice for Creators of Accessible PDFs

Please avoid creating PDF documents in Canva. Canva documents are not accessible. Also, limit the complexity and size of your PDF. This was an 8 page PDF. The heavy visual load made it hard to find and correct errors efficiently.

I can be your accessibility expert. For more detailed insights, tutorials, and in-depth discussions on accessibility and related topics, don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel: The Accessibility Guy on YouTube. Subscribe for regular updates!

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