Guide to universal design of PDFs

Most documents that have been published as a PDF have been created in a different format first. To make a universally designed PDF therefore means that it is important to put in the groundwork when you make the document.

From Word or PPT to PDF

When you convert from Word/PowerPoint (PPT) to PDF, you need to do the right groundwork in order to make a PDF with a better universal design. See the guide on how to make universally designed Word or PowerPoint documents.

When you convert from Word/PPT to PDF, you need to make sure that you use the right settings. How you do this varies depending on which version of the software you are using. For example, a 2010 Word version will be different to a 2022 Word version.  The right way to convert generally means clicking “Save As” or “Save a Copy” and changing the file format to PDF. You must also tick the box in the section about accessibility, and you must not lock the document. 

If you are using Mac

The method for converting a PPT to PDF is different on a Mac. Converting directly from the PPT program will not transfer the codes needed for accessibility. You will need to save the PPT to OneDrive and download it from there. 

  1. To do this, click on "Save As" and then "Online Locations," which is located next to the file format.
  2. Next, locate the PPT in the OneDrive app or OneDrive in Finder. Right-click on the PPT file and select "Copy Link."
  3. Copy the link and paste it into your web browser. From there, choose "File," "Save As," and "Download as PDF."

From paper to PDF

  • When you scan a paper copy, the document that you create is essentially one big picture. It is not possible for people using screen readers, or people who need to enlarge the content, to read text in the form of a picture. To ensure that everyone can understand the content, the text must be converted from a picture to ordinary text.

  • Scanning from paper can often make the content less sharp. This can make it difficult for everyone to read.

  • Standard scanning also generally makes it impossible to search the content or copy parts of it, because it is in the form of a picture.

  • To ensure that as many people as possible can make use of the document, a file must be converted from a scanned paper copy to text. You do this using a function that all the photocopiers at HVL have: Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which recognises letters.

  • You can transfer the information from paper to PDF by placing the paper in the printer/photocopier. When you tell the printer/photocopier to send the file to your email, change the format to “PDF (searchable)” and start scanning. Check that it is possible to highlight text in the PDF file that you receive.

  • A document’s image quality and font type affect the quality of text recognition. It is therefore a good idea to read through the text to check that it is correct.