How to Turn Your PDF into an ADA Compliant Flipbook

Here at FlippingBook, we often talk about how important it is to provide a good reading experience with digital documents. And while it is undoubtedly necessary to make it easy, comfortable, and fun, it is equally important to make the documents accessible to every one of your readers, including people with disabilities. 

So how do you do that? 

In this article, we’ll discuss the accessibility criteria for digital content, and explain how you can make your PDFs converted to flipbooks accessible and ADA compliant.


What Makes PDF and Flipbooks Accessible?

In the USA, there are three main documents you can refer to when it comes to accessibility requirements.

Section 508 requires federal agencies to make sure that the information and communications technology (ICT) they provide is accessible to everybody. The ICT includes software, websites, PDF documents, and online training among many other things.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that all places of public accommodation, including websites and content presented there, should be accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA applies to government-run institutions as well as private businesses.

Finally, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) offer specific requirements web content should meet to be considered accessible. The list of criteria is extensive, but the idea behind it is quite straightforward: to always provide an alternative way of accessing the content.

This means that:

  • video and audio content includes captions;
  • meaningful images and non-text elements are paired with descriptive alt-texts;
  • texts can be read with the help of assistive technology such as screen readers;
  • texts are resizable, and the color contrast ratio is sharp enough to be easily distinguished;
  • content navigation should be clear and helpful: documents should have a table of contents or bookmarks that allow users to effortlessly move between the different sections of the document. 

Though easy to grasp, the concept is quite difficult to implement, and it becomes progressively harder with the complexity of the content you are working on. 

For instance, a short text-only PDF can be made ADA-compliant just by ensuring the text is selectable, adding a table of contents and a meaningful title, and checking tags in Adobe Acrobat. 

On the other hand, making a media-rich document such as a flipbook accessible can be a real challenge, as it contains so many different types of content, special elements, scripts, and so on. 

The bad news is that the flipbook format has several technical limitations that prevent it from being ADA compliant out of the box. 

The good news is that you can still make your flipbook compliant with WCAG and ADA. But it requires a team effort of the flipbook provider and you as the user of the flipbook software to achieve the best results. In other words, we need to work together to make flipbooks as accessible as possible.


What FlippingBook Does to Make Flipbooks WCAG and ADA Compliant

Before we dive into the specifics of how FlippingBook complies with the ADA and WCAG, we need to talk a bit more about accessible PDFs.

PDFs are at the core of FlippingBook documents, so making them accessible is essential if you want to succeed. Unfortunately, we have no control over the content our users create, so this is something you will need to do on your own before you can start working on your flipbook.

To help you navigate through the process of creating an accessible PDF document or fixing your existing PDF, we’ve prepared an extensive step-by-step guide. Feel free to refer to it for more detail. 

In a nutshell, here’s what you need to do to improve the PDF accessibility:

  • Make sure the text content is selectable.
  • Create a clear content structure.
  • Add a meaningful title and specify the language.
  • Add bookmarks.
  • Add alternate text to images.
  • Caption the videos and other non-text content.
  • Tag all elements correctly.
  • Use high-contrast colors.
  • Make links and forms descriptive.
  • Make sure tables have a correct structure.

Once you have created an accessible PDF, you are halfway there.

Now let’s talk about what FlippingBook does to improve the accessibility of your flipbooks:

An accessible PDF is available for download

For people relying on the help of assistive technology to access your content, the best way is to make sure they can download a fully accessible PDF. 

Both FlippingBook Online and FlippingBook Publisher offer an Accessibility feature that lets you add a separate accessible PDF to your flipbook. When you enable the feature, a special icon to download the accessible PDF will appear in the top right corner of your flipbook. The placement makes it easy for screen readers to find this option, and viewers will be able to get the PDF in an instant.

The publication interface is adapted for assistive technologies

It means that the interface has a clear structure and all the elements, such as buttons and menu items, have text captions. So if a user with a visual impairment uses a screen reader to access the publication, they will have no problems understanding the document’s layout. 

Also, the language of the publication interface is preset and recognized by screen readers, which helps them render it more correctly.

The publication offers alternative ways of navigation

Navigation can pose a challenge for people with different kinds of disabilities, visual impairment being just a special case. That’s why it is important to provide as many means of navigation as possible. 

All the buttons and elements in the publication can be controlled with a keyboard as well as a mouse. For example, you can flip the pages by dragging them with a mouse, by clicking on the arrow button, or by pressing an arrow key on the keyboard. 

A user can navigate around the flipbook with the help of a table of contents, thumbnails, and a search option. They will be able to find the information they need quickly and efficiently, even in a very large document.

The text in FlippingBook publications can be zoomed in on

This is another important WCAG requirement that FlippingBook meets. Unless the text in your PDF is an image (which is a huge no-go all the same), users will have no problems zooming in and out of it on any device they use.

The interface can be customized to meet the accessibility criteria

By default, the design of your publication meets the WCAG requirements for the color contrast ratio 3:1. As for the content of the publication, please make sure the text has a contrast ratio of 4,5:1 when preparing the PDF.

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What Else Can You Do to Improve the Accessibility of Your Flipbook?

The beauty of interactive documents such as flipbooks is that they make the content lively and rich. But in terms of accessibility, interactive elements may hinder access to the content for people with special needs, if you don’t think about it in advance. 

Here’s a couple of things you may consider if you want to use rich media in your flipbooks:

  1. If you use GIFs or pop-up images in the publication, please remember that we cannot transfer them to the PDF you provide for download. We recommend substituting a dynamic element with a static image and a descriptive alt-text in the PDF.
  2. Videos, too, won’t be available in the PDF, if you add them to the publication. Instead, you can insert a link to the video in the PDF document to make it accessible to your users. Please remember that all the videos should be captioned to comply with the ADA and WCAG standards.
  3. Background sound (available in FlippingBook Publisher) is okay if used for giving a nice additional touch to the overall reading experience. But if it provides any exclusive information that is not paralleled by text, people with hearing impairment won’t be able to access it, and it may be considered discrimination.


The Takeaway

We are constantly working on improving the experience with FlippingBook documents for every reader, with or without a disability. However, there are still several technical limitations that prevent the use of flipbooks without the support of an accessible PDF. 

So to make sure users with disabilities can benefit from your publications, remember to pair them with accessible PDFs. This way you’ll know your content is fully ADA compliant, and everybody has the best experience with it.


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