Creator: American Library Association
Date Updated: January 9, 2023
The American Library Association encourages members and library staff to create materials that are accessible for both library patrons and co-workers. The accessibility resources they provide cover creating accessible documents (in Word and PDFs), how to add alternative text (alt text) in different technology and tool platforms, creating accessible websites, and testing the resources to make sure they are accessible.
The information in this resource is summarized from the ALA Members & Staff Tools: Accessibility web pages.
The ALA guidelines on accessibility for library members and staff:
Creating Accessible Documents: All materials (reports, handouts, memos, etc.) need to be accessible. Whether this is a word document or PDF, there are several best practices to follow when creating accessible documents.
- Word documents need to be properly styled (headings, font, etc.), have informative hyperlinks that tell readers where it will take them, include alt text in images, and have accessible tables.
- To create accessible PDFs, you must begin with an accessible Word document (see above).
- Once you have an accessible Word document, save it as a PDF, and ensure that the option “PDF/A compliant” is checked.
- You can make inaccessible PDFs accessible by editing them in Adobe Acrobat. You will need to add tags to the document (title, headings, lists, etc.), ensure that the reading order of the document is correct, and add alt text to images.
- If the PDF is just images of text (rather than the actual text), you will need to convert the document from images to text using Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
- Consider using different formats for your materials. The ALA provides a great decision chart to help you determine if your resources need to be an accessible PDF, Word document, or web page.
Adding Alternative Text to Images: This section is part of an ALA project to improve its content and ensure that the images are described and accessible to everyone. They provide resources for creating meaningful alt text, like considering the context in which they are used. There are instructions on how to add alt text to images on different platforms, including Drupal, MediaWiki, and WordPress.
Testing for Accessibility: To ensure that the materials, content, and websites are accessible, they must be tested. ALA notes that you can test the accessibility of materials using the Microsoft Accessibility Checker (in Word) or use a screen reader to navigate through it.
Note: Accessible Libraries recommends employing persons with lived experiences of disabilities to test your materials.
Accessibility in Web Style Guides: ALA recommends that websites follow the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Examples include not having content that flashes more than three times, the markup indicating different languages, ensuring that it is navigatable using only a keyboard, and more.
American Library Association (June 12, 2012). Accessibility. (Accessed January 9, 2023) http://www.ala.org/support/style/accessibility Document ID: ffdf0f31-3212-67d4-b507-5cec4f390d7c
American Library Association (January 24, 2014). Accessibility Defined. (Accessed January 9, 2023) http://www.ala.org/support/accessibility-defined Document ID: 5fbe862a-4863-ac94-d15d-db55e1052688
American Library Association (January 24, 2014). Create An Accessible Document. (Accessed January 9, 2023) http://www.ala.org/support/create-accessible-document Document ID: 25c83776-a163-4894-391e-fb3646aaf859
American Library Association (January 24, 2014). Convert a Non-accessible PDF. (Accessed January 9, 2023) http://www.ala.org/support/convert-non-accessible-pdf Document ID: 65a4c133-6797-2f54-4d83-bf404a60d148
American Library Association (January 24, 2014). Convert Word to PDF. (Accessed January 9, 2023) http://www.ala.org/support/convert-word-pdf Document ID: c2a367e4-c700-0a64-5511-bb991a44a2ed
American Library Association (February 10, 2016). Projects: ALT Text. (Accessed January 9, 2023) http://www.ala.org/support/projects-alt-text Document ID: dbc28d7c-4409-01a4-611a-85a09b9603e0
American Library Association (January 24, 2014). Test for Accessibility. (Accessed January 9, 2023) http://www.ala.org/support/test-accessibility Document ID: a2891a57-9291-4c24-492d-dd2e45de5cb6
American Library Association (January 24, 2014). Ways to Make an Accessible PDF. (Accessed January 9, 2023) http://www.ala.org/support/ways-make-accessible-pdf Document ID: 58c8c2e4-94ea-54d4-3d32-bc65a45a22ad