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Creating Accessible PDF Files


Creating Accessible PDF Files


There are 3 types of PDF Files
  1. Legacy: unformatted documents used for printing purposes
  2. Scanned: image of documents
  3. Tagged: structured documents that are created by properly formatting Word documents

PDFs become accessible when you convert them into tagged PDF Files.

To Do This:

  • Convert scanned images to text using OCR software
  • Specify reading order across columns
  • Add descriptive text to images


Convert scanned images to text

Using OCR software built into Adobe Pro

  1. Click File
  2. Click Action Wizard
  3. Click Create Accessible PDFs
Image of the file menu with action wizard selected. Then create accessible PDFs selected.

Specify the reading order across columns:

In a tagged PDF document:

  1. Open the Pages panel by either
    1. Clicking the Pages icon in the upper left of the Adobe Acrobat Pro navigation pane
    2. Or selecting View > Show/Hide >Navigation Panes > Page Thumbnails
  2. Select one or more page thumbnails.
  3. Right-click on the selected thumbnails to access the context menu for the selected thumbnail(s) and select
  4. Click Page Properties
Image of page properties option from right clicking on page thumbnails.

5. Select the Tab Order tab in the Page Properties dialog.

Select the option you want to use:

Use Row Order - Tabs from the upper left field, moving first left to right and then down, one table row at a time

Use Column Order - Tabs from the upper left field, moving first from top to bottom and then across from left to right, one table column at a time.

Use Document Structure - For tagged documents, moves in the tag order specified by the authoring application.

Note: This is usually the correct reading order and will be selected by default for tagged documents.

Unspecified - If the document was created using an earlier version of Acrobat Pro, the tab order is Unspecified by default. With this setting, form fields are tabbed through first, followed by links and then comments ordered by row. This may not be correct reading order.

6. Click Ok.


Image of the page properties options in a PDF. Options include use row order, use column order, use document structure, and unspecified.

Add descriptive text to images:

Alternative text does not change the visual appearance of the document. As a general rule, adding alternate text to the original document in its native format (for example: MS Word) is considered best practice.

Note: If the image does not add meaning to the document (logo, banner, border, etc.), it should be marked as background using the Accessibility options in the PDF file.

Image of the accessibility options in Adobe. This includes a quick and full check of the document, an accessibility report, adding tags to the document, run form field recognition, touchup, and setup.
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