Electronic Documents

Electronic documents, via a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation or other document creation application, are treated like a full electronic and information resource (EIR) product. They should conform with all WCAG 2.0 requirements relevant to them.

Document accessibility covers more than individuals with disabilities using assistive technology (AT). It allows individuals using a variety of internet browsers, and software to access the same content.

Electronic documents come in all shapes and sizes, so each will have its own steps for conforming with WCAG 2.0 requirements. See the guides and how-to's specific to your software, or contact the vendor of your product for instructions on how to meet the guidelines.

Web Content or Document?

Should you use a PDF or a webpage? An Excel file? Or PowerPoint file? PDFs (and other file formats) are not as accessible as HTML pages because they are harder to markup in an accessible manner. A good use-case for a file would for templates, forms, complex tables, vitas, resumes, and other printable materials that would need to maintain style properties.

Anything else should be provide in HTML format to avoid compatibility issues, downloading issues, and other accessibility issues.

Common Compliance Issues with Documents

File Sizes

Per TAC §206.70, having trouble loading a page or document is now a criteria for accessible content, and it makes sense. If you are out in a rural area but need access to content, you (or your device) will more than likely give up if the content does not load, rendering you unable to "access" the content.


Adaptability to Multiple Devices

Per TAC §206.70, being unable to review documents in a manner that makes sense on any device screen size can be the difference between accessing the content or not. Consider the inability to follow along on a table's rows and columns on a PDF document or having to scroll back and forth, up and down to get the full meaning of a message before forgetting how the content lines up to scroll again. This is why PDF's are less preferable to HTML pages for reading materials.


Reading Order

We don't typically talk about reading order or preferred language of documents because most of that is pre-defined on our website templates. That's not the case with documents, especially when they are more than textual content or contain complex content like tables.

Reading order allows screen readers to determine which content to read out loud next, as opposed to reading it top-down, left-to-right. Some software allows you to change the numbering on your content to redefine that reading order.

Example issues:

  • if your content is displayed in a circular order on the page, or some other non-traditional order
  • a badge is placed over or near some some content, interrupting the reading of the content for the content on the badge

Language

We don't typically talk about reading order or preferred language of documents because most of that is pre-defined on our website templates. That's not the case with documents, especially when they are more than textual content or contain complex content like tables.

Language is as simple as defining the document's main language, and identifying any foreign languages (e.g. Latin, French) used in words and phrases.

Language allows individuals more familiar with a foreign language to adapt your content to something they understand. It also allows them to read it correctly from their screen readers, since the pronunciation can change on a similarly spelled word (in addition to the definition of the word).


Alternative Text

Most of the time, we are designing documents for print purposes, so providing alternative text for imagery is not a common step in our process. It is in fact an important one when adding documents to websites or converting them to PDF. It is preferred that the alternative text be added in the native software before converting to PDF, etc.

But what needs alternative text on a document?

  • Graphs/Charts: identify the points on a graph and/or summarize the results
  • Photography: convey the message a visual user received (who, what, when, where, why, how, and/or emotion desired from viewing)
  • Graphics: convey the message a visual user received (who, what, when, where, why, how, and/or emotion desired from viewing) if the graphic conveys valuable information to the reader

Color and Design

Most of the time, we are designing documents for print purposes, so providing appropriate color contrast within the design is not a common step in our process. Once converted into a web document, though, these issues must be considered:

  • Color choice for text against background color and/or photography
  • Readability and color choice of graphs/charts against background color and/or photography

References

Guides and How-To's

Guidelines