Information Services Division


PDF documents

PDFs can be created by scanning a physical copy such as a piece of paper. They can also be created by converting files from other sources such as Word or PowerPoint.

Scanned PDFs

A scanned PDF will usually be an image and will therefore not be readable to screen readers. You can however use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to convert a scanned image to readable text.

Converting to PDFs

It is best, wherever possible, to share the original Word or PowerPoint file or to share content on a web page, rather than to use a PDF.  If you do need to create a PDF you can follow some simple steps to make sure it is as accessible as possible.

Most recent versions of Office will allow you to easily convert Word or PowerPoint files by saving them as PDFs. When creating PDFs in this way:

  • ensure that you have formatted your file correctly using heading styles, alt text and descriptive hyperlinks;
  • select the option to tag these elements for accessibility;
  • don’t use the Print to PDF option, use Save As or Export to create your PDF;
  • use UCL's Sensus Access service which automatically adds accessibility to PDFs.

Check accessibility

To check if your PDF is accessible you can go to the European Internet Inclusion Initiative page and upload your document.

Find out more

  • Microsoft has a page on how to Create accessible PDFs in Office. (Note for Mac users: To save PowerPoint presentations as accessible PDFs, we recommend you use Office 365 in your browser, as Office for Mac does not allow for PowerPoint files to be saved as accessible PDFs).
  • Birkbeck for All's Accessible PDFs tutorial is a useful resource.