Adobe Acrobat Pro
Creating an Accessible PDF
Note:These steps pertain to features found in Adobe Acrobat DC, not Adobe Reader.
Run the Make Accessible Action Wizard
The Make Accessible Action Wizard in Adobe Acrobat DC will guide you through the steps of making your PDF accessible. Each step will prompt you to add accessibility information that may have been missing from your PDF. At the end of the process, Acrobat DC will run a full accessibility check of your document and will recommend further steps you can take to remediate your PDF.
Add Text to Your Document
Not all PDFs actually contain text in them. If your PDF is a text-based or a searchable PDF, you will be able to select text in the document. If you cannot select text in your document, you have an image-based PDF and must use OCR tools to recognize the text in your PDF.
Use a Document title
The document title is important so that users of assistive technology can hear the name of the document when opening the file and when switching between multiple tabs within a PDF program.
Set the Document Language
The document language determines which speech synthesizer is used by assistive technology programs.
Add Alternate Text for Images
Any images or figures that convey important information in your document must have alternate text. Alternate text is a short description of the image that will be read out loud to assistive technology users. Keep your alternate text to 1-2 sentences long.
Add a Tag Structure
Accessible PDFs must have tags. Paragraphs must have paragraph tags, lists must have list tags, images must have image tags, tables must have table tags etc. These tags can be accessed by assistive technologies and make it possible for AT users to jump quickly to a desired section or item in the document.
When using headings tags, your tags should follow an orderly heading sequence, such as Heading 1-Heading 2-Heading 3, not Heading 1-Heading 3-Heading 2.
Recognize Form Fields, Add Tooltips to Form Fields, and Add Tags to Form Fields
If your PDF will be used as a form, make sure all of the form fields are recognized and are given an appropriate tooltip. A tooltip provides a description of the form field and is read out loud by AT users. Form fields also should have a form tag and appear in the correct order within the tags panel.
Use Table Headers
To ensure that tabular data are read logically by assistive technologies, use table header tags for column headers, row headers, or both.
Check the Reading Order
You will need to manually check that the content in your PDF follows a logical reading order. To check the reading order, open the tags panel and arrow down. Move items up or down in the tags panel to correct problems with the reading order.
Check for Appropriate Color Contrast
You will need to manually check that your PDF document has sufficient color contrast. We recommend using the free Color Contrast Analyser tool, which is available for MacOS and PC. If there are contrast issues in your PDF, you will need to return to the authoring program and adjust the colors there.
NOTE:Any color contrast issues that are found will likely need be addressed in the source document (e.g., Microsoft Word). If you find color contrast issues in a PDF, and re-export the PDF, you will need to re-do all the tagging and reading order work from the above tips.
- U of Washington: Checking PDF Accessibility
- U of Washington: Creating Accessible PDF forms using Adobe Acrobat Pro
- U of Washington: Creating Accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word
- Microsoft: Convert MS Office documents into accessible PDFs
- Improving PDF Accessibility (PPT)
- University of Iowa: Make an existing PDF file accessible