Making Documents Accessible: PDFs, Word Docs, Excel sheets, Power Point Presentations...

Documents uploaded to link to and/or offer for download from your web pages need to be accessible. What is accessibility? It's the practice of ensuring that all users have equal access to information and functionality, regardless of disability.

The method we use at MSU is converting these documents into an HTML webpage in the CMS, and then offering the PDF as a download alongside the web version of the content.

This will involve some copying and pasting into a web page. We highly recommend using the "Paste as Plain Text" option in the editor and using the editor's tools - headings, inserting images, lists, bold/italic, etc. - and recreating the content.

An example of the "Paste with Plain Text" button which appears in the webpage editor.

There are many content styling tools which we call "snippets" that you can use to make this content special, look good, mobile-friendly and accessible. Check out our Snippets Showcase to see what tools are already available to you. (For you Excel sheet-ers, there are some great table snippets which are completely accessible and mobile-friendly.)

We do not currently support the creation of accessible PDFs. However, there is an excellent online course which teaches how it can be done. It's called Creating Accessible PDFs and all MSU faculty, staff and students have access via LinkedIn Learning.

You can link to your documents using our Accessible Document Classes, provided you have

  • made the document to meet or exceed WCAG 2.0 AA document standards on its own,
  • included the contents of the document in the webpage where this document is linked, which meets accessibility standards, and is our preferred method, or
  • the document was last updated before the legacy date of June 1, 2014 and does not need to be made compliant. (Unless the content is requested to be compliant or is updated after the June 1, 2014 date.)

Check out a walkthrough example of how to do this if you would like a more detailed explanation.

If you are concerned at the amount of PDFs you may currently have linked on your website or about methods to incorporate into your workflow in the future, please submit a websupport ticket and we'll be happy to talk with you about it.

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