Documentation and Accessibility

What format needs to be accessible? PDF, HTML, or both??

Brown baby chick in front of feed sack with Cyrillic writing surrounded by brown eggs
Photo by AndriyKo Podilnyk on Unsplash
  • They create documentation through authoring tools which then export .PDF and HTML

Alternate document version

In general, WCAG allows for alternate versions of non-conforming web pages. That means you can have something inaccessible under a very constrained set of conditions. In its traditional non-prescriptive manner, WCAG has two success criteria in this area, including:

Print only .PDF

Print only .PDF is another consideration in this analysis. Some organizations designate documentation in PDF format as “print only”. In other words, print only .PDFs are intended to be “dead tree” versions that are inherently inaccessible. When going this route, a different format would be used for the accessible version (following either the G136/G20 success criteria above). Despite being environmentally unfriendly, there are business drivers for print-only documentation, such as for reasons such as licensing or including special OCR codes or personalized links in the documentation.

Chicken and Egg — which is the source and which is the alternate?

In a perfect world, your users would tell you this through analytics.

  • Do your users always have internet access? If the answer is no, then the .PDF should be accessible as the users will not always have access to the .HTML

The Zen Approach to Accessible Documentation

  • Another important consideration is both PDF and HTML are free. It would not be OK if .docx were accessible and HTML was not — it’s not equal access if you are forcing someone spend money on a MS Word license in order to view the documentation.

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

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