universal-design-center

PDF Form Accessibility

 Introduction

Creating fillable PDF forms has become a popular method of publishing digital forms in a document format. Making an accessible PDF form requires not only an understanding of PDF accessibility but also knowledge of form accessibility.

PDF Accessibility + Form Accessibility = Accessible PDF Form

NOTE: Accessible PDF Form making requires an understanding of PDF Accessibility. Go to UDC’s PDF Accessibility Tutorials to learn more about this first.

 What does an accessible PDF form need to have?

There are 6 key items to be familiar with when creating an accessible PDF form:

  1. Form Name: The form name is the equivalent to a form label. All fields require a unique name. This name is the identification marker that will allow for creating an accessible fillable form.
  2. Tooltips: The tooltip is a description ofthe form field that can be viewed when hovering over the field. It is also essential for accessibility because the tooltip is what a screen reader will read out to a screen reader user.  
  3. Required field indicator: If a form field is required, a required field indicator must be included in the form. Adding required fields to a PDF form requires a few steps to ensure a screen reader can identify a required field.
  4. Tags: All accessible PDF’s require tags so that a screen reader can read the document.
  5. Reading Order: The reading order dictates how a screen reader will read the document to a screen reader user. The reading order and tab order must be consistent with each other.
  6. Tab Order: The tab order dictates how all users can navigate the form using the “tab” key. The tab order must correctly reflect how form fields are viewed across the page to ensure all users can accurately fill out the form.

 How to you create an accessible PDF form

Part 1: Create the Form

To create an accessible PDF Form, always start with preparing your form first!  To prepare the form, you must first understand how to create fillable forms in Adobe Acrobat. Before continuing with this tutorial, review Adobe's guide on creating fillable PDF forms first.


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Part 2: Provide PDF Accessibility Markup

Once the form is prepared, the next step is to add the PDF accessibility markup. This step requires an understanding of PDF accessibility principals and best practices. Before continuing with this part, review UDC’s PDF accessibility tutorial to learn about creating accessible PDF documents.


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Part 3: Conduct an Accessibility Check

Once the order is fixed, the PDF should undergo a series of accessibility checks to ensure the it meets all accessibility requirements and best practices. There are several automated, manual, and visual checks to conduct for a PDF form. 


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Part 4: Ensure the PDF is Fillable using Adobe Reader

The final step for creating an accessible PDF form is to ensure the document can be filled out using BOTH Adobe Acrobat Professional and Adobe reader. To ensure the PDF form can be filled out using Adobe Reader, the Reader Extended Mode must be enabled.


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