Making Your PDF Document Accessible

What should I do first?

If you don't quite know how to began, let's start here and we'll give you some helpful tips as well.

Setup: First, let's make sure your acrobat is setup correctly. If you don't have the accessibility tool on the right, then follow these steps below.

    • Setup Steps
      1. Click the Tools menu
      2. Click the drop-down arrow beneath Accessibility
      3. Choose Add Shortcut

      Accessibility tool image

Now that that's done, there are 3 Main Steps you should follow at the beginning of making any PDF accessible.

Step 1: Autotag the document. Even when a document is already tagged, it's tagged improperly 9 times out of 10. Follow the steps below to Autotag your document

    • Step 1
      1. Select Accessibility
        The Adobe Acrobat Menu with Accessibility Highlighted
      2. Select Autotag Document
      3. A panel on the left should open up showing you the recent tags placed on the document. No need read through these updates.

*Tip*: You should avoid retagging the document after the first time if you can. Retagging the document more than once would undo most accessibility progress made like fixing alt-text, headings, table headers, etc. There is no undo button in acrobat.

Step 2: Scan the PDF to see what errors are still present after Autotagging it. Follow the steps below to do so.

    • Step 2
      1. Select Accessibility
        The Adobe Acrobat Menu with Accessibility Highlighted
      2. Click Full Check

        Accessibility Menu with Full Check Highlighted

      3. Click Start Checking

      4. A panel should appear on the left informing you of the errors on your document.

        Accessibility Checker with Results

Step 3: Manually check the title ALWAYS. Even though Acrobat sometimes clears the error, it's normally still not sufficient. We'll throw in an example after step 3 if you'd like to see what we mean.

    • Step 3
      1. Right click and choose Fix. If it prompts for a title then input one and you are good to go. BUT, If you are not prompted and the error clears, then continue the steps. 
      2. Although the error is gone after selecting fix, the problem is still very much there.
      3. Go to file on the upper-left and select properties.finding title
      4. Input a title there and click OK to finalize.correct tittle
    • Example

      The reason we ask for a manual check in the file>properties is because sometimes there is a title, but it's a bad one. Here's one example below.incorrect title

      (This title is clearly incorrect on many levels)

      Ok, while this title might be a little exaggerated in what you might see, we often times find titles like "MT" or even "2016-04-25 14:30" which aren't very good titles for a screen reader. There's been a few rare cases of good titles, but more often than not, you will have to input your own title regarding what the PDF is about.

There you have it, the first 3 steps in making your PDF accessible. From here, simply fix the errors present on your PDF after scanning it. An explanation on how to fix these errors can be found below in alphabetical order.

 Accessibility Issues (A-Z) and Instructions on How to Fix Them

      • Action Wizard

        Action Wizard(The action wizard is no longer recommended)

        Use the accessibility action wizard, in Tools, to make a PDF document 508 compliant

        Install the Action Wizard

          1. To install action wizard click on your Tools tab. Tools Menu
          2. Scroll down the tools menu list until you find the Action Wizard icon.  Click the Add button underneath the Action Wizard icon to add it to your tools menu. Action Wizard Tool
          3. The Action Wizard tool should appear on your tools list menu. Click the Action Wizard button to use on the document you want to make accessible. Tools Menu With Action Wizard

        Correcting Issues

        1. After clicking the Action Wizard the Actions List menu will appear. Click the Make Accessible button to start making the PDF accessible.Action List
        2.  After clicking the Make Accessible button a new menu will appear with the name of the file to be made accessible. There's a menu to add other files to make accessible. Once ready click the Start button to begin to make the files accessible.  Make Accessible Start
        3.  After clicking the Start button the Description menu will appear where you can give the document a Title, Subject, Author, and Keywords. After filling out the form fields click the OK button to continue to the next menu to make the PDF accessible. Description Menu
        4. The next menu that will appear is the Recognize Text menu where you can change the Language, Image output, and Downsample options. Once all desired settings are set press the OK button to be directed to the next menu screen.  Recognize Text
        5.  The new menu that appears asks the user if the document will be used as a fillable form. If the document will be used as a fillable form click Yes, Detect Form Fields button. If the document does not contain form fields click the No, Skip this Step button. Form Fields
        6. The next menu that will appear is Set Reading Language which has a drop down menu box to select preferred reading language. After selected click the OK button to continue. Set Reading Language Menu
        7. The last menu that will appear is the Accessibility Checker Options menu. Click the  Start Checking button to begin making the PDF accessible. Accessibility Checker Options
        8. After the PDF is made accessible the Accessibility Checker menu will appear. If the document has any remaining issues they will appear on this menu. Accessibility Checker
      • Bookmarks
        1. Right click and choose fix
        2. Do not select any types to bookmark
        3. Click OK
      • Character Encoding

        Character Encoding  happens because the PDF was created with unrecognizable characters, font, or both. Leaving this in place would mean the screen reader would not be able to read anything with a character encoding problem. In order to fix this error you must..

        1. Select the Edit PDF tool
        2. Retype the words/characters with this error using a different font
        3. Re-scan the document to clear the error
      • Color Contrast - Needs Manual Check
        1. Scroll through the document looking to see if color is used. Make sure light text is not used with a light background and/or dark text is not used on a dark background(a.k.a it's not too hard to read it right?).
        2. If there are no apparent color issues, right click and choose Pass
      • Figures Alternative Text - Failed
        1. Expand the error, right-click figure 1, and click fixFigures Alternate Text Fix
        2. The Set Alternate Text window is now open. Simply input a description of the highlighted image.Figures Alternate Text Failed Window
        3. Be sure not to say "Image of...". Just describe exactly what's there in 25 words or less.
        4. If the figure is just for decoration like a pencil icon or a little hat image, check the Decorative Figure box.
        5. Click the arrow to fix the next figure or select Save & Close to finish.
      • Headings Errors: Appropriate Nesting - Failed
        1. Expand the tree
        2. Right click Element 1
        3. Click Show in Tags PanelAccessibility Checker image
        4. Double  Click the highlighted tagDouble Click Headings Tag
        5. Change it to the correct heading level (e.g., H1, H2, H3).Make sure the headers are in order and it's not going from <H1> to <H3> or starting off at <H2> rather than <H1>.
        6. Save
        7. Rescan the document 
         
      • Image-only PDF
        1. Right click the error
        2. Select Fix 
      • Logical Reading Order - Needs Manual Check
        1.  Click Accessibility.Accessibility Button
        2. After clicking on accessibility click on Reading Order in the new menu. Reading Order Button
        3. After clicking the reading order button the touch up menu will display.  Click Show Order Panel button to display order panel. Show Order Panel
        4. The document will be displayed with the reading order and reading order panel .Reading Order Window
        5. Manually check to make sure the items are listed in the same order you would read the document. If not simply drag them into the correct order.  Order Panel
        6. After making sure the reading order follows a logical reading structure click the accessibility checker button on the left Accessibility Checker Button
        7. Expand the Document issue tree and right click on Logical Reading Order. Click pass on the sub-menu that pops up. Reading Order Pass
      • Other Element Alternate Text Failed

        This error may occur after fixing alternate text and selecting the Decorative Figure box.

        1. Open the Reading Order Panel
        2. Select figure 1 to highlight it on your document.
        3. Right click the highlighted error and Delete Selected Item Structure.
        4. Re-scan the document to get rid of the error.
      • Primary Language Failed
        1. Right click and choose Fix
        2. Make sure the primary language used in the pdf appears in the drop-down and click OK
      • Show Accessibility Tool

        Note: If Accessibility does not appear in your sidebar, you will have to add it for the first time.

        1. Click the Tools menu
        2. Click the drop-down arrow beneath Accessibility
        3. Choose Add Shortcut

        Accessibility tool image

      • Tab Order - Failed
        1.  Right click and choose Fix
      • Table Errors: Headers - Failed

        Two Options to Fix Table Headers (option 2 is recommended.) 

        Option 1

        1. If it is not a table, right click the table and choose Delete Tag. Run Full Check again
        2. If it is a table:
          1. Expand the Header- Failed error in the left navigation bar
          2. Right click Elements 1 and choose the Show in Tags Panel option
          3. Expand the Table tag
          4. Expand the <TR> tag
          5. Change <TD>s in the <TR> to <TH>

        OR

        Option 2

        1. Click on Tables tree to expand it. Highlight the Element you want to fix. It will highlight the table and redirect you to the page with the table error.Table Header Tree 2. Click Reading Order to show the structure blocks on the page.Reading Order Button

        3. Right click on the table that you're trying to fix. A sub-menu will appear. Click Table Editor on the sub-menu. Table Editor sub-menu

        4. After right clicking table editor the table will show the table data cell structures. Right click the data cells that should be table headers(normally the very top square cells). Click Table Cell Properties. Table Cell Properties Sub-menu

        5. A Table Cell Properties menu should appear where you will change the property type to Header Cell and click OK to finish. Do this to all data cells that should be header cells. Table Header Cell Properties Change

        6. re-scan the document. The table header issue should be fixed. Check Again

        Headers Passed

      • Table Regularity - Failed

        Two options are available to fix Table Regularity - Failed

        Option 1 

        1. Ensure your Accessibility Tools are open on the right side of your Adobe Acrobat.
        2. Next, Autotag Document 
        3. Re-scan the document again and the error should be gone.

        Option 2 (if option 1 doesn't work)

        1. Right click Element 1 and select show in tags panel.
        2. Expand each and every row (<TR>) of the highlighted table.Table regularity failed tags(Notice in the image above, the first table row (The <TR>) has 7 table data cells (The <TD>'s), while the second has 8. Your error is happening because one or more of your <TR>'s has a different number of <TD>'s.
        3. Now you have to count how many <TD>'s are in each  <TR> within your pdf. 
        4. Once you've discovered the Row that needs more or less <TD>'s, right-click inside the row and select New Tag...Table Regularity Failed New Tag
        5. Chose Table Data Cell type and select OK without inputting a title.Table Regularity Failed New Tag Ok
        6. A new <TD> tag should appear after the last step. Now recheck the document and your error should be gone.
      • Tagged Annotations/Content - Failed
        1.  Right-click element 1 and Show in Content Panel.Show in Content Panel
        2. Next, right-click the highlighted content and select Find.Find
        3. Then, you have to find the type of untagged content you're looking for. In the case below, it's a link, so we're going to search for unmarked links. Also, select search document rather than search page, unless you'd like to do this one page at a time.Find Element Type
        4. Finally, a new tag box will appear, simply put in the tag matching the content. In our case it's a link so we'll use the Link tag. If it were text instead for example, we would be using the Paragraph tag.Find Element Type
        5. Leave the title section empty and hit OK
        6. Tag any other elements it automatically brings up and Re-scan the document to clear the error.

         

      • Tagged PDF - Failed
        1. Right click and choose fix
        2. Re-scan the document and the error should be gone
      • Title - Failed

        WARNING:(Ensure you follow all the steps of for this error)

        1. Right click and choose Fix. If it prompts for a title then input one and you are good to go. If you are not prompted and the error clears, then continue the steps. 
        2. Although the error is gone after selecting fix, the problem is still very much there.
        3. Go to file on the upper-left and select properties.
        4. Input a title there and click OK to finalize.