Creating Accessibility in DCatalog Digital Editions

DCatalog is passionate about changing the way content is published and consumed. The experience of flipping through digital content ought to be immersive, engaging, and meaningful to a diverse audience. When you make your digital content accessible to everyone, you open up the opportunity for a wider reach. That is why making your content accessible is so important. The world becomes more accessible each day and the digital space is a great place to encourage this practice. In this article, you will learn more about creating an accessible digital edition that is compliant with ADA guidelines and how DCatalog can help.

The Importance of Accessibility

  1. Why is accessibility important?
  2. How do I make an accessible PDF?
  3. How can DCatalog help to improve accessibility?
  4. What steps can I take to improve flipbook accessibility?
  5. How do I determine if my flipbooks are compliant with ADA Section 508 /WCAG guidelines?


Why is accessibility important?

What is accessibility? Accessibility is when you make your digital publications accessible for everyone – whether or not they have disabilities. Accessibility ensures that everyone in your audience can read and understand the content. 15% of the world’s population suffers from a disability. Now that more people have internet access, it is crucial to grant them the same comfort and abilities via digital channels as they would find in public places.

For instance, many of your viewers most likely deal with some sort of visual impairment. This can range from low vision to color blindness. A way to combat this is to use magnification tools for acuity and to provide adequate colors and contrasts in your content.

How do I make an accessible PDF?

There are many accessibility tools at your disposal but the best ones to use are Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat Pro. Microsoft Word works best for any PDFs that are structured simply and contain minimal non-text elements. For any PDFs that are meant to be dynamic and engaging with media elements, Adobe Acrobat Pro is the only option to use to create a fully accessible and rich-media PDF.

• Your text content should be selectable.

Screen readers must be able to recognize the text in order for the PDF to be accessible. The main content must be searchable and selectable, with no text in images, to optimize the accessible experience.

• Outline and structure your content clearly.

The content needs to follow a clear structure and should be organized logically and sensibly. What this means is that you need to outline the content by using bullet points for lists, headings, bookmarks, and a table of contents. This will make your PDF content easy to navigate.

• Use Tags.

You can use PDF Tags, a feature in Adobe Acrobat Pro, to mark both text and non-text elements. PDF Tags are crucial for assistive technologies, such as screen readers, to be able to access the content. When you create a PDF with tags, each tag associates what type of content it is and stores information about it. Tags will also form a “tag tree” which organizes the content into a logical reading order.

Use descriptive titles in links and specify the language.

While it may seem like a small step, giving your content a descriptive title and specifying the language is huge for making it more accessible.  Descriptive titles help readers understand what information is in the content they are about to read. Likewise, make links descriptive by using anchor text to let users know where the link is going. Label forms correctly and any form fields should have descriptive tooltips. Specifying languages helps screen readers transmit the text more precisely, so they can convey more accurate pronunciation rules and display correct captions.

Utilize alternate text with images and add captions.

Alt-text is not visible on the page to the reader but is necessary for screen readers to pick it up and convey the image to the user. Adding alt-text will make your PDF content accessible. As for captions, these are visible to the reader. Make sure to provide transcriptions of audio and video clips.

Clearly structure data tables

Because the table layout can be complex, screen readers can have issues with recognizing the information presented. To make it more accessible, create a clear structure for the table such as adding headers to rows and columns, keeping the header labels simple (no layers), and containing each cell’s data to its row. Make sure to tag your table as well. 

Make use of color and contrast.

According to WCAG criteria –  WCAG criteria 2.1 1.4.3. and 2.1 1.4.6 – which regulates content accessibility levels, the minimum contrast ratio is 4.5:1, with 7:1 as the most preferred. The recommended way to ensure that the contrast ratio meets the WCAG success criteria is to run it through a color contrast checker as you design the PDF file.

How can DCatalog help to improve accessibility?

At DCatalog, we have long made it a priority to offer the best possible user experience, and that includes providing the most accessible flipbook options available. Our ADA friendly viewer supports partially assistive technologies, such as navigation through keyboard shortcuts or an expandable table of contents.

Firstly, you can design and upload an accessible version of your PDF, compliant with WCAG/ADA guidelines. From there, you can activate the ADA button in the Design Template Settings, under Features.


Once enabled, a new icon will appear on the top of the navigation bar:


This icon will highlight text and make it easier to search. Users can tab through the navigation icons on the navigation bar and select the ADA button so that selected text can be read aloud to them with a screen reader:

If you enable this tool, it will index the text properly with the ADA-friendly functionality going forward.

Offline accessible versions of your publication can be utilized by screen reader technology, and our digital media integration options allow you to include captioned YouTube videos within your flipbooks without having to do hours of extra legwork. YouTube also has transcriptions of its videos so you can have that available for your users.

You can also customize the DCatalog viewer toolbar, so you have control over which features your audience can interact with, giving you the ability to further enhance the accessibility of your digital documents.

What steps can I take to improve flipbook accessibility?

Here are the steps you can take:

  1. Upload an accessible PDF
  2. Make use of color and contrast principles throughout the digital viewer.
  3. If you use video, make sure the embedded or linked videos are captioned or contain transcripts
  4. When adding audio or video clips, pay attention to how much noise there is on the page and restrict it accordingly.
  5. If you need to replace or reorder the pages, make sure you follow the recommended PDF guidelines each time and structure it according to the specifications.

How do I determine if my DCatalog flipbooks are compliant with ADA Section 508 /WCAG guidelines?

To determine if your flipbooks with DCatalog are compliant, check out our VPAT report here , read through our article about how to make your PDF accessible here, and come back to this article for tips on digital flipbooks and ADA friendly accessibility.

Remember that our DCatalog viewer is not automatically fully compliant with the ADA Section 508/WCAG guidelines but we have taken several steps to increase accessibility and make it more comfortable for users to interact with the viewer. That is why your PDF should be the most accessible version it can be, so that users can download it and have it be read or accessed via screen readers or other assistive technologies.