Accessibility statement

Creating and editing PDFs

When creating some digital documents, you may need to convert these to PDF. In doing this process, you should also check that you are creating an accessible document that can be recognised by screen readers and other assistive technologies. Documents that have been created as ‘image-only’ PDFs, (such as documents that have been scanned in) may not be accessible. There are a few options for accessible PDF creation and conversion available at the University:

  • Google Drive available on Mac and PC. Files opened in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides can be downloaded in an accessible PDF format by going to File > Download > PDF Document (.pdf).

  • Microsoft 365 is free for students and staff, and can be used on Mac and PC. If you create a file in Word, Excel or PowerPoint, it can be saved in a PDF format by going to File > Save as > Browse (on Windows) > Save as type > PDF
  • ABBYY Finereader can be used to convert, combine and edit PDF documents. PDFs can also be converted back into Excel or Word format. ABBYY has ‘OCR recognition’ which can be used to scan the text in image-only PDFs and make them accessible. 

  • Corel PDF Fusion available on University-managed Windows machines and the Virtual Desktop Service. For editing and converting files, with an 'assembly view' feature for combining multiple documents.

Alternatives to PDF

PDF may not always be the most appropriate format for sharing a document. Once created, PDFs aren't designed to be easily amended or converted back to another format. If the document may need changing in the future, consider some other ways of sharing a document in a 'view-only' format.

One option is to create a file in Google drive (Docs, Sheet or Slides) or upload an existing file. You can then use Google Drive's Share menu to give View or Commentor access to a file. In the same way as a PDF, users will then only be able to view or comment on a file. Unlike a PDF, sharing with specific people will ensure only those users can securely view the file. It can also be easily edited by those with 'Editor' access at any time. You can also further restrict a user from being able to copy, download or print a file. Files can now also be shared with external users who do not have a Google account linked to their email address, using Google's visitor sharing. See our Google Drive skills guide for further information and guidance.