Can PDF files be made accessible to people with visual impairment or who need assistive technology to use the internet?
A college of mine recently asked this question, above, and thought I would post my thoughts.
To use PDF or Microsoft Word files with assistive technology effectively content creators must create files that have this in mind. This essentially means that the design needs to consider the user and that the document should contain good structured and tagging. To do this each element that makes up a document needs a definition – so define text what is a top-level heading (the title of a book) separately from a sub heading and from body text using styles and tag images to give an alternative text description that indicates an image in a non visual environment.
Design and publishing tools such as Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Word do deliver help in creating well structure documents, using style sheets and tagging tools, some of which is automatic. However to achieve a high quality solution this task needs considering fully as part of the process of creating the document file.