Digital content

Making digital content accessible

When authoring documents is important to follow a few basic steps to assure your document is readable and usable by everyone, including people with disabilities. On this page we share a few resources for creating accessible content.


  • Ana Thompson, Learning & Access Designer and certified Adobe PDF accessiblity trainer
  • Ashley Magdall, Digital Content Specialist

Electronic document basics

The most common electronic document file types are PDF files (.pdf) and Microsoft Word files (.docx). PDFs are the least accessible type of dcoument and require additional work to be made accessible.

The following content will guide through some basics in document accessibility:

Consider before you upload 

Before uploading any electronic document, consider:

  • Does it really need to be a PDF? PDFs are the least accessible type of document.
  • Can the content be copied and pasted onto a regular webpage (like in Kentico)? A Canvas page?
  • Can the content be uploaded as an Office document?

Best practices

It is best practice to have information on a webpage rather than within a Word document or PDF when possible. We are so used to creating PDFs that we usually do not deeply think about access and effectiveness when creating content.

Webpages use Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML, the most accessible format for information on the web. After HTML or webpages, in terms of accessibility, MS Office documents are next, then PDF. The least accessible type of document is a PDF form.

If content needs to be shared as a PDF, some basic steps are required so it is accessible. One way involves saving the document properly, followed by checking accessibility in Acrobat Pro.

If the source editable file is not available, then it requires remediation (or making the PDF accessible in a PDF editing program) to ensure the information can be accessed by all users. This remediation can be done in-house using Adobe Acrobat Pro 2015, 2017 or CC or sending the file to a PDF Remediation 3rd Party vendor.

Document & Canvas support

MS Office documents, PDFs, Canvas content

Training for how to create accessible MS Office documents, create Canvas pages or internally remediate PDFs is offered on a request basis to individuals or departments.

For PDF remediation (process to make a PDF accessible), Adobe Acrobat DC needs to be purchased by the department and installed by UW Bothell IT. For more information, please contact Ana Thompson in the Office of Digital Learning & Innovation (DLI).

PDF 3rd party remediation

Need an accessible PDF but lack the time or training? We have two UW-approved vendors available in Ariba, Vastec and OAT. When considering this option, take into account the cost of employees training and remediation work for a more realistic cost comparison.


Vastec Inc., charges units about $9.23 per page (three page document = $27.69) to make documents accessible. This cost is for basic remediation and can increase based on the complexity of a document but the majority will fall into this price range.

Open Access Technologies (OAT)

Open Access Technolgies is another recommended 3rd party remediation company. In addition to PDFs, they also remediate Office documents. The OAT UW negotiated price is $6.40 per page.

Approved Vendors in Ariba

These vendors can be found in Ariba or you can contact them directly. For Vastec, email for a direct contact with Vastec that the marketing team uses. For OAT, you can contact the vendor directly for a quote: 

Glenn Gross, Director Account Management

Web content support (Kentico)

In terms of accessible web content requirements, University of Washington follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), version 2.0.

Contact the Advancement & External Relation's Web Team at to get help on creating and editing accessible web pages within the website.