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 accessibility 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 document 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).

UW-IT for Remediation Service

Accessible Technology Services (ATS) will remediate a limited number of PDF documents through a service supported by UW-IT. Individuals, departments, and other units at the UW are encouraged to apply to remediate highly visible, high-impact, multiple use, and/or strategic PDF documents. Examples include:

  • PDF documents available to the public on a high-use website
  • PDF documents that will be used multiple times in a course
  • PDF documents developed by several faculty members to be used in several different classes

If you are interested in submitting one or more documents for consideration, please complete the UW PDF Document Remediation Service Application.

Eligibility: Any UW faculty, staff, or student is eligible to apply for accessibility remediation of one or more PDFs as long as the PDFs are owned/authored by the UW. Highest priority are PDFs that have a high impact (as defined above).

Note: If PDF documents are required for students who have a documented print disability (e.g., students with specific learning disabilities or visual disabilities), please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS). DRS provides free remediation services for individual student accommodations.

ATS is available to provide technical support or training to UW faculty and staff who wish to create accessible electronic documents and otherwise make IT accessible. Contact Gaby de Jongh at for assistance.

PDF 3rd party remediation

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

Open Access Technologies (OAT)

Open Access Technologies (OAT) is a highly recommended 3rd party remediation company. In addition to PDFs, they also remediate Office documents. The OAT UW negotiated price is $6.40 per page. Contact the vendor directly for a quote: 

Glenn Gross, Director Account Management
(904) 742-6019

Web content support (Kentico)

In terms of accessible web content requirements, University of Washington follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), version 2.1.

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