Creating and Uploading PDF files

Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) is widely used on the web to distribute documents for which layout and appearance must be retained. Reprinting is the most common reason people want this capability. PDF is primarily used on the ISAW website for administrative and financial forms. Some faculty and scholars also routinely use PDF to distribute their CVs, since these documents often need to be printed. This page provides guidance on the creation and uploading of PDFs on the ISAW website.

Accessibility Requirements

PDFs uploaded to the ISAW website must meet the following requirements. Failure to follow this guidance is a violation of ISAW and NYU policy and may be a violation of New York State and U.S. Federal laws.

What is "Accessibility?"

The Wikipedia article on "Web Accessibility" does an excellent job defining the term:

Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites on the World Wide Web by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, generally all users have equal access to information and functionality.

NYU Policy

According to the NYU Website Accessibility Policy, dated Feb 15, 2018:

NYU has adopted the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA as its standard for digital accessibility. 

How to create PDFs

First, ask yourself: "Do I really need to use PDF?" If a page (or group of pages) on the ISAW website would work just as well for the task you envision, please use that option rather than PDF. Benefits of using a web page include:

  • Automatic reformatting for all sizes of screen, including tablets and phones
  • Inclusion of document content in site-wide search
  • Built-in accessibility that meets or exceeds the standards of WCAG 2.0 level AA

If you have questions about where or how to create pages on the website, or are unsure whether pages or PDFs are the best choice, please contact a member of the digital programs team.

If you must use PDF, then you need to build in accessibility as you create the document itself. The W3C's PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.0 provides examples which the WCAG Working Group viewed as sufficient to meet WCAG 2.0 success criteria. According to this document, "preferred" practice is to generate (save) PDF directly from common software applications.

Therefore, ISAW's digital programs team recommends that, whenever possible, you create your document using the latest version of Microsoft Word and then save to PDF. If you need to use another software application, please consult with us in advance.

How you apply the editing and formatting capabilities of Microsoft Word has a direct effect on the accessibility of the resulting PDF document. NYU has created an excellent step-by-step guide to using Microsoft Word to create accessible documents. If your document has charts, captioned images, footnotes, page numbers, or math and equations, you will also want to consult NYU's Advanced Word Accessibility Guide. Be sure to make use of the built-in Word Accessibility Checker (available for Mac and Windows), being sure to address every "Error" and "Warning" it reports. This is a particularly good tool to start with if your Word document already exists and you are updating or revising it. If you are unable to resolve all of the "Errors" and "Warnings" detected by the Word Accessibility Checker, please consult a member of the digital programs team.

Additional training is available via NYU's subscription to LinkedIn Learning (formerly Visit NYU Global Home, click on the "Work" tab, and browse for "LinkedIn Learning". After clicking through to LinkedIn Learning and completing any initial setup tasks, search for "PDF accessibility" to access the relevant courses.

Once you have created your Microsoft Word document, follow NYU's instructions on "Making a PDF from Microsoft Word," which can be found in the Adobe PDF Accessibility Guide.

Before you upload the resulting PDF to the website, please follow the instructions in the next section to verify that the PDF meets accessibility criteria.

How to verify and remediate PDF accessibility

Regardless of the source of the PDF file or the tools used to create it, you must check it for accessibility using Adobe Acrobat Pro before uploading. The "Make Accessible" action in Acrobat Pro will walk you through the process of checking the PDF and fixing any problems that are found. Adobe provides clear instructions for using the "Make Accessible" action. If you are unable to resolve any of the errors found by Adobe Acrobat Pro, please consult a member of the digital programs team.

How to upload a PDF file to the website

Please read and comply with the section on Accessibility Requirements (above) before uploading a PDF to the ISAW website.

When your PDF is ready and verified accessible, use a web browser to login to the ISAW website. Then:

  • Navigate to the folder or "folderish" content item (like your "profile") where you would like to save the PDF.
  • On the green tertiary menu bar, click the "add new" submenu and then select "File".
  • Fill out the "Add File" form.
    • "Title" is required.
    • "Summary" is highly encouraged: a short amount of plain text explaining the content and purpose of the file you are about to upload.
    • Leave the "Lead Image," "Lead Image Alt Text", and "Lead Image Caption" fields empty.
    • Use the "browse" button under the "File" subheading near the bottom of the form to find the PDF file on your computer and queue it for uploading.
    • Click the "save" button at the bottom of the form to start the upload.
  • You can now link to the PDF file from any other page on the website, or from an external site.