IMPORTANT: All PDFs/documents hosted in the KU CMS must meet accessibility standards. See "Accessibility" and more below.

Although it is possible to host PDFs and other documents (e.g., Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) on your KU CMS site, it is not ideal. For accessibility and usability, content from PDFs and other documents should be moved to webpages whenever possible.

All PDFs and other documents hosted on KU CMS site MUST be accessible. PDFs and other documents with complex and/or lengthy structures are often difficult to remediate. Migrating content from PDFs and other documents to webpages may be easier and less time consuming than remediating the original document.

Accessible Documents

All PDFs/documents hosted on KU CMS sites must be accessible. Some PDFs have only a small set of issues that can be quickly fixed. However, some will require more time and effort to remediate. You are responsible for checking and remediating them all if they are to remain on your KU CMS site. We encourage you to consider converting PDFs to webpages whenever possible.

  • All PDFs/documents hosted in the KU CMS must meet accessibility standards.
  • To be considered accessible for KU CMS sites, PDFs must have no issues via Adobe Acrobat’s Accessibility Checker tools.
    • This includes issues that are automatically identified by Adobe (e.g., alternative text, tagging, tables, etc.) and two issues that must be checked manually:
      1. Logical reading order
      2. Color contrast

You are responsible for checking and ensuring the accessibility of all PDFs/documents you host on your KU CMS site.

Accessible Links to Documents

  • Document link titles must include the file type in the link title (e.g., .pdf, .docx., .xlsx, etc.). Example of a correct document link title: "Student Handbook 2020 (.pdf)"
  • All link titles must be descriptive, meaning they make sense out of context. Phrases such as "Click here," "More," "Click for details," and so on are ambiguous when read out of context.
  • URLs cannot be used as link titles
  • Users must be able to navigate to and select each link using the keyboard alone.
  • Most screen readers say "link" before each link so links do not need to include "link" in the link text, because all users already know that the link is a link.
  • Do not say "link" or "link to" in alt text.
  • Place the distinguishing information of links at the beginning of a link.

Strategies to Manage Inaccessible PDFs/Documents

1. Remove Unnecessary PDFs/Documents

First and foremost, review all the PDFs/documents on your site and remove any that are not absolutely necessary. This will save you time and help declutter your site. Be sure to avoid hosting content you do not control. Also, avoid hosting archival/historical documents. In most cases, with the exception of news articles, we recommend you do not host documents that are more than ~2 years old.

2. Convert Them to Web Content

If the information on the hosted PDF/document is valuable to your users, it probably belongs on your website as webpage content where it can be found organically and by search. If important information is contained only in a PDF/document, it will not be found by most users. Unless additional steps are taken, the information in PDFs/documents may not be discoverable if your users search for it on your site.

Going from PDF/document to web content will massively improve the user experience, since viewing PDFs on smartphones often requires numerous touchscreen actions to view content. Retain the PDF/document for print purposes only and skip the difficult process of remediation required to host it online.

Unfortunately, converting PDF/documents to web content is often a manual process, which can be time consuming. However, once the initial work is done, you will benefit from not needing to remediate the document when changes are made going forward.

3. Offer Them as Print Resources by Request

For PDFs/documents that are not essential or provide redundant information, you can continue to offer them as print resources by replacing the link with a statement that the printable version of the resource is available by email request.

Examples of By-Request Single-Document Statements:

  1. A printable [INSERT document title] is available by request. Please email Big Jay at
  1. Request a printable version of [INSERT document title] by email

If you choose this email link treatment, set the email address and configure a subject line like “Request for printable program overview,” so the person managing the requests is setup to succeed and respond efficiently.

Example of By-Request Repository Statement:

The following print resources are available by request. Please send requests to Big Jay at

  • Example Document (.pdf)
  • Example Document (.docx)
  • Example Document (.pdf)
  • Example Document (.pdf)

4. Remediate Only Those That Are Necessary

After you have identified the PDFs/documents that need to remain on your site, you will need to do the work of remediation. You have two options:

  1. Remediate them yourself. See “How to Remediate Inaccessible PDFs/Documents” below.
  2. Pay a professional service to remediate them for you.

5. Save Non-Essential PDFs/Documents for After Your Site Launch

Do not let inaccessible PDFs/documents prevent you from getting your KU CMS Sunflower site live. Instead, prior to your site review and launch request, only remediate and host the PDFs/documents that are essential. Then save the remediation of those that can wait for a separate project after your site goes live.

PDF Publishing/Flipbook Services

Most PDF publishing and flipbook services (e.g., ISSUU) are not accessible for screen readers. To host a document on the KU CMS it must be accessible. The use of inaccessible publishing/flipbook services is not allowed on the KU CMS. You must be able to demonstrate your third-party service meets accessibility requirements before posting a link on your site.

Recommended Strategies for Common Use Cases

PDF Forms

We strongly recommend converting PDF forms to accessible and user-friendly webforms whenever possible. PDF-based forms are often difficult to remediate due to the complexity and formatting of traditional forms. As a result, the burden of maintaining accessible PDF forms overtime can be significant.

See Webforms to learn about the supported webform options at KU.

Resource Repositories

Some websites offer extensive lists of PDFs/documents as resources.


  • Rather than remediating a large number of PDFs/documents, provide a list of the printable PDF/documents available and a statement that the resources are available by email request.

Example of Repository By-Request Statement:

The following print resources are available by request. Please send requests to Big Jay at

  • Example Document (pdf)
  • Example Document (pdf)
  • Example Document (pdf)


Unit and department newsletters are common across the KU CMS. These kinds of documents are often created using publishing programs like InDesign. Unless they are created with accessibility in mind from the start, they can be some of the most difficult types of PDFs to remediate due to inherent complexity.


  1. New Newsletters

Going forward, we strongly encourage all KU entities to create newsletters as accessible webpages instead of PDFs.

Benefits of Accessible Webpages vs. PDF Newsletters

In addition to being accessible, there are numerous benefits to producing web-only versions of newsletters:

  • Webpages offer a far superior user experience on mobile devices.
  • PDFs are not ideal for smartphones and will appear antiquated to many audiences.
  • Webpages are great for sharing on social media – where most users will view the content from a mobile device.
  • Webpages can be updated quickly and easily in one step when errors are discovered after distribution. Conversely, PDFs require numerous steps to update if an error is discovered after distribution.
  • PDF newsletters often require graphic design work from specialized staff that many units/departments lack. Accessible webpages can be created by a much broader group of KU employees.
  • In current times, the ability to print a newsletter is no longer a significant concern for most users. If needed, users wishing to print the newsletters can easily print the webpage.

Use Your Sites' News Feature to Create the Content for Online Newsletters
Newsletters often contain information that units/departments have shared as news articles on a KU CMS site. We encourage you to use the news feature of your website to create the content pages for future newsletters. You can then mimic the style of modern marketing email newsletters (e.g., Mail Chimp, Constant Contact) that have a brief story preview with a descriptive link to the full-story. That method has the added benefit of making the individual stories in your newsletters sharable independently.

  1. Past Newsletters
  • Like other repositories, we recommend only providing links to the most recent PDF newsletter(s) after you have remediated them for accessibility errors.
  • You can then provide a provide a list of the additional past newsletter PDFs available and a statement that the resources are available by email request.
  • In general, PDF newsletters that are more than two years old do not need to be on the website any longer.

Deep-Dive/Handbooks/Policy Documents

These comprehensive documents are necessarily lengthy and structurally complex – making them challenging to remediate. Many academic units provide school-wide and departmental student handbooks that are updated multiple times a year.


  • Task someone with making the original source document accessible.
  • If you do not correct the issues on the source document, you will have to re-remediate the PDF every time a change is made.

Promotional Program Flyers

Unless they were built with accessibility in mind, promotional documents created using advanced publishing applications like Adobe InDesign, are often challenging to remediate. These documents are often redundant with information already on a web page and are present only as a printable resource.


  • Instead of remediating the PDF/document, add any missing information from the PDF/document to the web page
  • Then remove the PDF link and provide a statement that a printable version of the resource is available by email request.

Redundant Information

In many cases, the information on hosted PDFs/documents is redundant with information already on pages of your site and can therefore be removed.


  • Remove as many PDFs/documents from your site(s) as possible
  • If you want to continue to offer the redundant PDF/document as a printable resource, replace the link with a statement that the resource is available by email request.

Examples of By-Request Single-Document Statements:

  1. A printable program overview is available by request. Please email Big Jay at
  1. Request a Printable Program Overview by Email

If you choose this email link treatment, set the email address and configure a subject line like “Request for printable program overview,” so the person managing the requests is setup to succeed and respond efficiently.

Think About Future Updates Before You Remediate

Before you spend time remediating a PDF, consider what remediation work will be required for the life of the document.

Consider that if the document in question is updated frequently – and you only make changes using Adobe’s Accessibility Checker tools – you will have to make all the same remediation changes again every time the source document is updated.

So, in that case it would be far better to turn the information into accessible web content – or at minimum go back into the source document to correct all accessibility issues there first.

Remediation is hard enough once. Make sure you don’t set yourself up to have to remediate accessibility problems over and over on the same document.

How to Remediate Inaccessible PDFs/Documents

1. Turn on Adobe Accessibility Tools

All KU faculty and staff have access to Adobe Acrobat. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat on your KU workstation, contact your IT Support Staff for assistance.

Adobe Accessibility Checker

Adobe Acrobat provides accessibility tools. However, these tools are not configured by default. Follow these steps to turn on the accessibility tools in Adobe Acrobat:

  1. Open a PDF in Adobe Acrobat
  2. From the right-side menu, select More Tools
  3. From the Tools page, scroll to the Protect & Standardize section, locate Accessibility and select Add
  4. Beneath Protect & Standardize, you should see the Customize section. Find Action Wizard and select Add
  5. Return to your PDF, you will now see Accessibility and Action Wizard as a Tools option

2. Check a PDF for Accessibility

  1. Enable the Accessibility tools (See instructions above)
  2. From the right-side menu, select Action Wizard
  3. On the next page, in the right-side menu, select Make Accessible
  4. This will run you through a number of steps, but does not guarantee the accessibility of the document. You will need to proceed to check the accessibility
  5. From the right-side menu, select Accessibility
  6. On the next page, in the right-side menu, select Accessibility Check
  7. From the Accessibility Checker Options dialogue, leave the defaults selected and select Start Checking
  8. The Accessibility Checker results will appear in a menu on the left side
  9. Go through each issue to see what you must remediate
    1. Expand each section with an issue
    2. Right click on each issue to see fix options
      1. Select “fix” for those that have the option
      2. For those that do not have “fix,” select “Explain” to learn about the issue and how to correct it.
  10. There are two Document issues that require manual checks and remediation:
    1. Logical Reading Order – Ensure that when read by a screen reader the document will be read in the intended and logical order. See instructions how to check/fix logical reading order in "Logical Reading Order" below.
    2. Color Contrast – Ensure that all text and graphical elements meet color contrast standards. You can check color contrast manually via Web AIM Contrast Checker. Or, you can use in-browser contrast checker extensions to automatically review whole pages.

IMPORTANT: If you have extensive remediation work to do, stop, and make the original source document accessible before attempting to correct issues on the PDF.

3. Make the Original Document Accessible Before Using Adobe Accessibility Tools

If you have access to the original document, the best – and quickest – way to remediate PDFs is to make the source document accessible first. If you don’t have the original document because you do not own/control the source document, it should not be hosted on your website to begin with.

Key Strategies for Making Source Documents Accessible:

  • Ensure logical reading order. Focus on the text and making it logically organized and structured.
  • Remove any extraneous images or graphics that clutter the document and may cause problems.
  • Remove any images of charts/graphs. Add screen readable versions to the source document or describe the information in text. The information contained in images of charts/graphs is often too extensive to convey in alternative text or image descriptions.
  • Remove all instances of text as images (i.e., images that contain significant amounts of text content that should be in the document itself instead of an image)
  • Remove any tables that have been used for content layout.
  • Ensure that all data tables have clear table headers.
  • Ensure all text has appropriate color contrast.
  • Remove unnecessary text styles (e.g., colors, highlighting, etc.).
  • Use built in formatting tools to designate headings (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) and ensure consistency throughout
  • Use built-in spell-checking tools to correct all spelling and punctuation errors

Resources – Accessible Word Processing Documents (e.g., Microsoft Word)

Resources – Accessible Advanced Publishing Documents (e.g., Adobe InDesign)

Logical Reading Order

One of the most common PDF accessibility issues requiring remediation is “Logical Reading Order.” Logical reading order is not checked automatically by the Adobe Accessibility Checker. It is extremely important that you manually review the logical reading order of each PDF to ensure that when read by a screen reader the document will be read in the intended and logical order. 

Documents created in word processing programs like Microsoft Word often have a more apparent reading order. Documents produced in advanced publishing programs like InDesign can have issues with logical reading order.

How to Check/Fix Logical Reading Order:

  • From Adobe Acrobat's Accessibility tools select: Accessibility Checker > Start Checking
  • From right-hand Accessibility Checker menu, select Reading Order
  • Use Adobe's built-in tools to correct logical reading order errors

Color Contrast

All text elements must have sufficient color contrast to ensure accessibility for users who cannot perceive color as intended. Color contrast is not checked automatically by the Adobe Accessibility Checker. It is extremely important that you use a contrast checker tool to review your documents for any contrast issues.

Color Contrast Resources:

Manual Contrast Checkers:

Google Chrome Browser Extensions:

Adobe Contrast Checker Tools in InDesign:

Use Microsoft Word’s Formatting and Spelling Tools

If your document has been created using Microsoft Word, use the formatting tools located on the “Home” tab (e.g., normal, Heading 1, Heading 2…) to establish the structure throughout your document. “Tagging” your headers in Word will make it much more likely that Adobe will more accurately interpret the structure of your document. You may still have to do some work to get the tagging correct in the PDF, but this strategy will save you significant time and effort. If you are using a different word processing program (e.g., Google Docs, etc.) look for formatting tools that allow you to designate headings (e.g., Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3…) throughout your documents.

Also, be sure to use the word processor’s spell-checking tools to correct all spelling and punctuation errors.

Remove Tables for Content Layout from Documents

When Adobe converts your documents to PDF, it creates HTML tags reflecting its best guess at your documents structure if it were a webpage. The results of Adobe’s guesswork vary wildly depending on how well the document was structured.

A common problem stems from the use of tables for content layout instead of traditional spreadsheet-style data tables. Adobe assumes any table is a traditional spreadsheet-style data table. So, if you’ve used tables in a word processing program like Word to organize a section of information, it will likely require a lot of time and effort to remediate Adobe’s guesswork. 

So, if you’re starting from scratch avoid using tables for layout. If you are looking to remediate a document that includes tables for content layout, open your original document and remove table formatting in favor of plain text. 

4. Remediate the PDF

How much remediation is required will largely depend on how well the original document was structured and organized. It will also depend on things like: proper color contrast, avoiding images of charts/graphs, avoiding the use of tables for text layout, etc.

Remediation Steps:

  1. Use Adobe Accessibility Checker to identify accessibility issues
  2. Return to the source document if possible to address issues there first. Then export a new PDF to run through Adobe Accessibility Checker.
  3. Remediate all issues
  4. Manually check and fix if needed:
    1. Logical reading order
    2. Color contrast
  5. Test with a screen reader

PDF Remediation Resources

Video Tutorial

See the PDF Remediation Tutorial video on Accessible KU: Accessible PDF Documents.

LinkedIn Learning Course: Creating Accessible PDFs

Learn how to create accessible PDFs with the LinkedIn Learning course: Creating Accessible PDFs. To access the course you will first need to log into the KU Talent Development System and then log into LinkedIn Learning. Then follow this link: Creating Accessible PDFs The course learning objectives include:

  • PDF remediation workflow
  • Tagging content, including lists and tables
  • Adding metadata, bookmarks, and alt text
  • Generating a PDF with Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign
  • Creating accessible PDFs from PowerPoint and Excel
  • Adding hyperlinks
  • Controlling tag and reading order
  • Adding cross-references and tables of contents

Guidelines and Best Practices

  • Links should open in the same window. The only reason to set links to open in a new window/tab is when they are taking viewers to an external site outside of the domain. This is a standard user experience (UX) best practice for links. See Links for information, including guidelines and best practices.
  • Document link titles should tell the user what they will find if they select the link.
  • Document link titles must include the type of file in parenthesis at the end of the document title (e.g., .pdf, .docs. .xlsx, etc.)
  • Examples of Good Document Link Titles:
  • Examples of Bad Document Link Titles:


Scholarly Works Limited Accessibility Exemption

  • It is important for research purposes that KU shares their valuable research with other researchers and interested parties.
  • KU IT, ADA/IT Workgroup and the ADA Resource Center for Equity and Accessibility (RCEA) have approved a narrow exemption for PDF scholarly articles. If PDFs of scholarly articles maintained on KU websites are determined to be inaccessible, the unit must make the article(s) accessible in a reasonable amount of time after a request is made by an individual with a disability. 
  • Reasonable amount of time to make a document accessible will vary, but units must make every effort to comply with a request quickly. Units shall develop and implement a plan for making documents accessible prior to receiving a request.

Definition of Scholarly Articles:

  • Scholarly articles or documents are written by researchers or experts in a field to share the results of their original research or analysis with other researchers and students.
  • These articles often go through the process of peer review where the article is reviewed by a group of experts in the field.
  • Scholarly articles are generally formatted for the explicit purpose of formal publication to KU ScholarWorks website and/or external scholarly journals.

Required Notification if Inaccessible Scholarly Articles Present:

The accessibility exemption would permit the migration of all current scholarly articles to KU CMS Sunflower. Units with websites that elect to host inaccessible scholarly articles will be required to place the following notice on their site:

An accessible version of the scholarly articles on this site will be made available upon request. Please contact [department contact name], at [contact email] to request the document be made available in an accessible format.

Mandatory External Agency Documents Exemption

  • KU must comply with different external requirements for accreditation.
  • Some of these documents must be placed on KU websites pursuant to regulation of external entity.
  • Some of these PDF documents are inaccessible.
  • The ADA Technology Coordinator and ADA RCEA have approved a narrow exemption for external documents that must be placed on our websites.
  • Prior to an exemption being approved, it must be established that an effort has been made to notify the external entity that their PDF is inaccessible and request an accessible PDF or document for the KU website. Only if the external entity is unable to provide an accessible document, will a request for an exemption be considered.
  • Further, before an exemption is granted, the KU CMS owner must remediate the posted PDF to the extent possible.

Exemption Process for External Documents:

  • The ADA/IT Workgroup and the ADA RCEA will review externally created documents on a case-by-case basis.
  • Prior to requesting an exemption, the unit/department should make their best effort to host the information accessibly, either by turning the information into a web page or remediating the PDF independently.
  • If the PDF must be posted and the unit/department is unable to make the information accessible via webpage or PDF remediation, the CMS site admin or the UI/UX team site reviewer can request an exemption by submitting a request to Kit Cole, ADA Technology Coordinator, at
  • The ADA Technology Coordinator will review the request in conjunction with ADA RCEA.

Maps Exemption

  • At this time, it is very difficult or not possible to create fully accessible PDF maps or web-based maps for screen reader users.
  • As such, PDF maps are partially exempted from the accessibility requirements for PDFs in the KU CMS.
  • However, to be hosted on the KU CMS, all maps in PDF format must meet the following accessibility requirements:
  1. Links to the document have a descriptive link title that includes both the word "map" and the file type (e.g., .pdf, .docx). If the link title is properly descriptive, screen reader users will be able to make an informed decision before selecting the link.
  2. The document is tagged.
  3. All text elements have been made accessible, including headers.
  4. All images have alt text, including map elements.
  5. The entire document meets color contrast requirements, including the map image.
  6. The entire document has a logical reading order.
  7. Every effort has been made to make all other aspect of the document as accessible as possible.
  8. Whenever possible, the salient information being conveyed in the map should be provided accessibly as text – either within the map document or in a separate companion webpage. 
    1. For example, if the intention of the map is wayfinding to the offices of academic advisors within a building, the list of advisor’s names, office numbers and descriptions of physical locations should be provided either within the map document or on a separate webpage. For example:

Advisor Office Information

  1. Big Jay - Room 4001-A, Location: fourth floor, from elevator – exit right, third door on left, from stairs - exit right, sixth door on left
  2. Baby Jay - Room 206, Location: second floor, from elevator – exit left, last door on left, from stairs – exit left, last door on left

Exemption Consideration

  • The exemptions above are the only standing exemptions at this time.
  • If your unit/department would like to request consideration for an exemption, please contact Kit Cole, ADA Technology Coordinator, at

Avoid Hosting Content You Do Not Control

As a general rule, it is important to avoid hosting content (e.g., documents/pdfs, web copy) on your website that you do not own and control (i.e., have the authority to change). Instead, you should point to an external destination where the information is hosted by the content owner.

The Danger of Hosting Someone Else’s Content

  • If the content owner makes changes to the document/web copy, the information on your site will become inaccurate and you will have no way of knowing that the source information changed.
  • Hosting out-of-date information on your site can damage your user’s perception of your site’s credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Documents - If you host someone else’s document, you take on the responsible of ensuring the document you host on your KU CMS site is accessible. Meaning you are likely to have to make changes to documents you do not control during the accessibility remediation process.


  • In most cases, the content owner is already making the information available online. You can simply provide a link to their document/webpage. That way when the content owner makes changes, you connect your users to the current information.
  • If the content is not currently posted online, reach out directly and ask the content owner to post it so you can provide a link.

Quoting vs. Hosting Content

In some cases, it may be helpful to quote a small amount of specific information rather than asking a user to leave and go to a different website. If you must do so, remember the following:

  • Be sure to properly attribute the information to the content owner
  • Give yourself a reminder to check the accuracy of the quoted information frequently enough to avoid issues

Avoid Hosting Archival/Historical Documents

In most cases, we recommend avoiding hosting documents that are more than ~2 years old. Exceptions include special news articles and websites with a primary purpose of providing archival and/or historical information. Documents should be removed or converted to accessible web content whenever possible.

  • For accessibility and usability, content from PDFs and other documents should be moved to webpages whenever possible.
  • With the exception of special news articles, we do not recommend hosting information that is more than ~2 years old on your site.
  • Archival and historical documents do not add value for most users
  • Archival and historical documents can clutter the user experience and prevent users from finding salient information
  • Archival and historical documents can appear to be outdated content and compromise the credibility and trustworthiness of your site for users.
  • Archival and historical documents on KU CMS sites must be accessible. Remediating PDFs and other documents can be difficult and time consuming. The burden of remediating large numbers of archival/historical documents is extensive.
  • If you offer documents as a resource, consider reducing your remediation burden by limited the documents to a select handful of accessible documents and offering users the option of contacting you for additional documents via email.

How To Upload PDFs/Documents

Upload and Link to Documents - Body 1 General Content

From the WYSIWYG Editor in a Body 1 - General Content > General Content section

  1. Highlight the text you want to be the link. Then select the Link button in WYSIWYG Editor tools.
  2. From Edit link flyout menu:
    1. To complete the Link field select the Open IMCE file browser link.
    2. Locate the document file in IMCE File Browser and choose Select to add the file to the Link field
    3. In most cases, leave the ID and Relationship fields empty
    4. Only select the Open in new window checkbox for external URLs. Do not select the Open in new window checkbox for all other links. See Links for guidelines and best practices.
    5. Add a Title if you need to provide additional context for the link when a user hovers over the link.
    6. Save

Upload and Link to Documents - Section Link Fields

From the a Link field within a given Section:

  1. Add your document to the IMCE File Browser. See IMCE File Browser for detailed instructions.
  2. Hover over the file URL in the middle of the page > Right-click the URL > Select Copy link location
  3. Paste the URL in to the URL field
  4. Type your Link text
  5. Save

Add Document Files to IMCE File Browser

See IMCE File Browser for detailed instructions


Accessibility Requirements:

General Resources:

PDF Accessibility:

Word Processing Documents Accessibility:

Videos Demonstrating Screen Readers in Action: