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Multi-media content PDF and Word documents

We do not publish PDF-only or Word-only content on the ONS website. PDFs and Word documents are difficult to use with assistive technology and are unlikely to meet the accessibility standards required by law.

Research by the Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) (opens in a new tab)  and Government Digital Service (GDS) guidance (opens in a new tab)  shows that users find PDFs more difficult to use than web pages. PDF files are less accessible than HTML pages, so should not be used without an HTML alternative.

If a PDF or Word file is necessary and it is not possible to provide an HTML alternative of the content, such as when publishing guidance for older surveys, make sure the documents are altered to meet accessibility standards. Failing to make PDFs accessible could break the Equality Act 2010.


Any essential information should always be available elsewhere as HTML

Creating accessible PDFs and Word documents

Find out how to create accessible PDFs and run accessibility checks on your document in our accessible PDF design guide

Use clear and descriptive file names

Clear and useful titles and file names help users understand what a PDF or Word document contains without having to open and read the entire document. Without a descriptive title or clear file name, users may need to spend time searching the document to decide whether the content is relevant.

PDF and Word documents should have titles and file names that describe the topic or purpose of the page. They should be:

  • written in plain English and using house style
  • using terms and phrases that reflect the language of our users
  • as short as possible and no more than 31 characters
  • frontloaded (with the most important information first)
  • written in sentence case

They should not contain autogenerated sequences of letters or characters that provide little or no meaning.