Inaccessible Budget 2016 PDF

HM Treasury has today published a 148-page PDF entitled Budget 2016. It is available at the following link:

As can be seen, the last part of this file name includes the words “Web Accessible.pdf”. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to expect that this should be an accessible PDF. Sadly, it is not. In fact, it’s nothing of the sort.

Colour issues

Just a glance at the cover should sound alarm bells: black text on a reddish-brown background is going to be a real struggle for many colour blind people. The contrast ratio too will cause problems for people with low vision.


Cover of Budget 2016 PDF

Cover of Budget 2016 PDF

Structural issues

Screen reader users are also going to struggle with this document: there is only one heading tag in the whole document; it contains numerous complex charts and graphs, all of which simply have the word “Chart” as their alternative text; the footnotes aren’t accessible, the table of contents is incorrectly tagged and contains no links; links and email addresses throughout are inaccessible (not tagged correctly); footers and some page numbers are tagged when they shouldn’t be. And so it goes on.

On a positive note, the data tables throughout are not too bad, but they’re not great either. They all need work to bring them up to scratch.

All in all, this is a highly inaccessible PDF.

Why it matters

Publishing something like this is potentially highly damaging. The danger is that people will conclude that, if this is an accessible PDF, then PDF is an inherently inaccessible format (and hence to be avoided). But nothing could be further from the truth. A PDF, properly authored, can be as accessible as any other format, or in many cases, considerably more so.

With just a day’s training you can learn to make documents like this fully accessible. There is no excuse – not even for the government. (Hence the somewhat uncompromising tone of this post.)

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