This is an overview of creating accessible PDF documents using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. Accessible PDF documents allow information to be readily available for assistive technology. Screen readers can easily navigate the content when accessibility is considered during the design process. This will not only benefit people with disabilities, it will improve overall usability for all users. This information will cover using the built in Action Wizard and Accessibility Checker in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. This tutorial will also highlight basic PDF modifications for accessibility issues including accessibility set up, logical reading order, title, bookmarks, color contrast, images, forms (basic), tables (basic), lists, and headings. Use the PDF Checklist in conjunction with this tutorial for a quick high-level view of each checkpoint to complete.
Please note: Before proceeding with the following overview, please be sure to begin this tutorial with an accessible Word document. The Creating an Accessible Word Document overview will include general document accessibility and how to convert to a PDF.
In this Tutorial
- Converting to a PDF
- Action Wizard Set Up
- Run Action Wizard
- Accessibility Issues
- Best Practices
- Video Tutorial
Creating an Accessible PDF
The Creating an Accessible Word Document covers how to create and convert a document to a PDF.
With the newly converted PDF file open, first-time Acrobat Pro DC users will need to add some tools to the Action List located in the right-hand pane. To add additional tools, click Tools on the toolbar.
Click Add for Action Wizard. The icon can also be added with a drag and drop into the Action List. Another useful tool that can be added is the Accessibility tool.
Navigate back to the Document and the selected tools will be added to the Action List.
The Make Accessible feature of the Action Wizard is designed to crawl through a PDF to detect headings, images, tags, reading order, etc. The easy to follow prompts will guide a user through the process of making the PDF accessible. This tool is ideal for basic PDF users.
Click Action Wizard and select the Make Accessible from the Actions List (right-hand pane) and then click Start.
After clicking Start, the Action Wizard will walk through each of the following criteria to build an accessible PDF.
The document description gives the document a proper title to be recognized by assistive technology. Uncheck the Leave As Is box and provide a title to the document. The remaining fields can remain blank and checked.
Recognize Text using OCR
The recognize text option will scan the document using the selected language. Select the desired Language and click OK.
The Wizard will automatically detect form fields on the PDF. If the document has spaces for form fields, click Yes, Detect Form Fields. If not, click No, Skip this Step.
Set Reading Language
Click the desired Reading Language and click OK.
The Action Wizard can be set up to always detect for any image present in the document. Click OK to scan the PDF for missing alternate texts.
If alternative text is missing, a window will appear to set the alternative text for each image. Type the description of each image in the box and toggle between images using the right and left arrow buttons. Click Save & Close when all images have proper descriptions. The image section on Creating Accessible Word Documents provides additional information about writing meaningful alternative text.
Run Accessibility Full Check
The Accessibility Full Checker will run a full scan for accessibility. Click Start Checking to complete the scan. The results will display on the screen.
After running the final step in the Action Wizard with the Accessibility Checker, the results are prompted on screen for review. The Accessibility Checker will detect and prompt any remaining issues. These issues are identified using specific icons to represent each type of issue: Passed (green check mark), Needs Manual Check (question mark), and Failed (X).
Important: any issue with a Needs Manual Check or Failed will need to be fixed before the document can be considered accessible.
Click the X in the right-hand pane to close the Action Wizard.
Using the Accessibility Checker Results, begin correcting any issues. Work top to bottom or in sections of the document. If the issue requires a Needs Manual Check, complete the manual check (use guide below for instructions). Once checked, right-click the line and select Pass. This action will turn the question mark into a green check.
Click Reading Order from the options provided. This tool will be used to correct the majority of the remaining accessibility issues. To make adjustments to the reading order, click Structure Types under Show Page Content Groups.
This will adjust the tags associated with each item on the page to display structure types i.e. headings, paragraphs, tables, etc. Starting from the top of the document, re-structure any missing or mislabeled header, paragraphs, table, etc.
The title of the document (shown below) is mislabeled as a Paragraph rather than Heading 1.
To fix the issue, using the cursor select the entire grayed out box around the title. Click the proper heading from the Touch Up Reading Order options- in this case Heading 1. Continue adjusting and/or adding proper headings.
Example of Headings
The heading is separate from the paragraph text.
Tables will need specific headings within the table. Click the Table on the document and click Table Editor on the Touch Up Reading Order window.
The table will turn a red color and the cursor will change slightly. Using the cursor, click inside one of the headings and drag the cursor to the opposite side- only selecting the top cells. Note: if the cursor clicks outside the table, the red box will disappear. Once only the top row is selected it will change colors.
Right click the table to open a small drop-down and click Table Cell Properties. Change the Type to Header Cell, the Scope to Column, and click OK.
When alternative text is placed on an image in Word, the alt text will automatically transfer during the conversion to PDF. If an alternative text is needed after the fact, use the Accessibility Tool and select Set Alternate Text. A window will prompt for any alternative text needed.
- Alternative text is extremely critical for images used for instructional purposes. For assessment statements such as, “Use the graph to answer questions 1-3” an alternative text is required for the graph.
- Complex (Math and Scientific) graphs and charts may require a caption (for larger amounts of information) to write a detailed descriptions
- Decorative images, such as line dividers, do not require a written description or alt text
- Be clear and specific
- Use phrasing to include inferred information
- If the image is for instructional purposes, be sure to include necessary information to answer questions
When the Action Wizard is launched, the tool will prompt a window asking if form fields are present. If “yes” is selected, the tool will automatically create basic form fields.
To make form fields accessible, each field will need a text description. Click Prepare Form, right-click the form field and select Properties. Enter a description in the Tooltip field.
However, the tool will automatically detect any and all form field areas. Form fields are indicated with a light purple color. Review the document to be sure all form fields are desired.
Remove Undesired Form Fields
For example, tables can be detected as having multiple form fields. To remove any undesired form fields open the Prepare Form tool from the right-hand pane. The table will change in appearance.
Select the form fields to be removed and click Delete.
Typically, color contract requires a manual check. A manual check is taking human consideration rather than the accessibility scanning tool. Be sure all font color has enough contrast. Once a full manual scan of the document has been complete, right-click the Color Contrast on the Accessibility Checker Results and select Pass.
Examples of Good Color Contrast
To identify links in Acrobat Pro DC, click the Edit PDF on the right-hand pane. Click the Link dropdown and select Add/Edit Web or Document Link.
All functioning links will have a thin black rectangle around them. Note: creating functioning links in a Word document will carry over to the converted PDF.
Add or edit Links
Using the Edit PDF on the right-hand pane, select Link and click Add/Edit Web or Document Link. Draw a rectangle around the desired wording/image using the cross hair cursor. The Create Link window will appear to adjust appearance and action. The most commonly used options are invisible rectangle and inset (will act like a button press). If linking to a website, be sure to select Open a Web Page for the action type. Click Next, then enter the URL and click OK.
The completed link will have a blue rectangle surrounding the words. An underline will display beneath the functioning link.
Footnotes or references that are extraneous can be removed from the reading order. Highlight the footnote or reference and click Background on the Touch Up Reading Order.
- Starting with an accessible Word document will limit the number of additional edits in Acrobat Pro DC
- The Read Out Load tool mimics similar speech as screen readers and allows the author to make any necessary adjustments before publishing the PDF.Launch the Read Out Load tool- click View, Read Out Load, then Activate Read Out Load (Shift+Ctrl+Y). To begin reading the PDF, click View, Read Out Load, then Read this Page Only (Shift+Ctrl+V).
- Using the Action Wizard and Accessibility Checker will improve accessibility of the document
- Use the built-in Read Out Loud tool to fully understand the reading order of the document
Video Credit: Algonquin College- Creating an Accessible PDF in Acrobat (3:50 minutes with closed captioning)
- PDF Checklist
- Adobe: Create and Verify PDF Accessibility
- NCDAE: Creating Accessible PDF Documents
- Coblis Color Blindness Simulator