The sad reality is that most PDFs found online are not very accessible to screen reader users. For many PDFs, screen reader users can only access the words in the document and not the structure (like headings or lists). In an online survey of over 1000 screen reader users, over 75 percent of people said PDF documents are likely to pose significant accessibility issues. By contrast, just over 30 percent said the same thing about Microsoft Word documents. Considering the large number of PDFs on websites, this is very troubling.
The good news is that the process for creating accessible PDFs can be very straightforward. For example, it often only takes a couple minutes to turn a well-structured and accessible source file (like a Word document) into an equally accessible PDF.
NFLS member library staff: if you need further assistance making your documents or media more accessible, please contact Lori Baumgart.