Accessible PDF content on the Scottish Parliament Beta website

Understanding accessibility and why it is important?

At the Scottish Parliament, all content on our Beta website must meet accessibility standards. Making an accessible website ensures it can be used by as many people as possible

This includes people with:

  • A visual impairment
  • Loss of hearing or deafness
  • Learning disabilities or cognitive impairments
  • Motor difficulties

In the UK, 1 in 5 people have a registered disability – that’s almost 14 million people. Many more may have a temporary disability at any point in time, for example a broken arm which limits the ability to use a mouse.

An accessible website not only provides content and design that is clear and simple for most people to use without any adjustments but it also means that, if needed, it can be adjusted to support those who use assistive technology. For example, someone with a visual impairment might use screen reader software that reads content out loud to a user as they navigate a webpage.

Accessibility regulations for public sector websites

Information on the Scottish Parliament website is for everyone. An accessible website not only ensures availability but is often quicker and easier to use.

When a site is inaccessible, common problems can include:

  • Poor colour contrast that makes text difficult to read
  • Pages that can only be navigated using a mouse and not the keyboard alone
  • PDF content that cannot be accessed using assistive technology.

The accessibility regulations for new public sector websites came into force on 23 September 2018. These build on the existing obligations under the Equality Act 2010. A website meets the legal requirements only if:

  • It complies with the WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards.
  • An accessibility statement is published explaining where a website is meeting or failing the criteria . For those areas failing, clear guidance is included outlining when and how they will be fixed.

Creating accessible PDF content

An area of the site we are working hard to improve is creating accessible PDF content. Where possible, we have pulled content out of PDFs and onto the page. Where this hasn’t been possible, we have used the following guidance to ensure our PDFs can be accessed by everyone.

  1. Keep language simple
    • Write in language that is simple to understand. Keep sentences and paragraphs short.
    • Plain English makes a document accessible to everyone and allows people to understand information quickly.
    • When using technical terms, abbreviations or acronyms, explain what they mean the first time you use them. E.g., FMQs (First Ministers Questions).
  2. Keep styling consistent
    • Use Arial as font for all text. Arial is Scottish Parliament’s chosen font because it’s one of the easiest to read.
    • Use a minimum font size of 12 for all information within your document. This will help people who have visual impairments.
    • Don’t underline content unless it is a link.
    • Make sure text is left aligned.
  3. Write helpful links
    • Links need to clearly describe their destination and be understandable on their own without visual cues. For example, ‘click here’ provides no context for those who cannot see the screen.
  4. Colour
    • Do not use colour alone to convey meaning. Instructions such as ‘click the green button’ rely on a user’s ability to see the page.
    • Any colours used must meet minimum colour contrast requirements. Check using this colour contrast analyser
  5. Images
    • Add alternative text to images that convey information. Keep this clear and concise. Do not use ‘image of’ or ‘graphic of’ as assistive technology lets users know this is an image.
    • For any images that are purely decorative and do not convey information to the user, the alternative text should be set to “null”. This lets assistive technology know they can bypass this for the user.
    • When using complex images, infographics or charts, include the same information in the text of the document. The image or chart is therefore an extra for people who are able to see it and everyone has access to the same information.
  6. Headings
    • Using headings, will give the document a structure and a logical reading order.
    • Don’t use bold or a bigger font size to make something a header. Although these look like headings visually, they do not register as a header to assistive technology.

The guidance above is a small extract from the full guidance we follow on creating accessible PDF content. We have added a link to the full guidance below. For more information on creating accessible PDF documents, please contact the Web Project

Full guidance for Scottish Parliament staff is available from the web and online project staff and can be accessed via this link.