Advanced PDF remediation for increased accessibility
There are many ways to approach PDF remediation for accessibility. The steps you take may vary depending on your audience needs, and you will find an ideal workflow with experience. The steps outlined below will help you proceed through a workflow that was created with an intent of providing fairly comprehensive remediation to greatly improve PDF accessibility.
Table of contents
- Step 1: Check if the PDF is tagged
- Step 2: Run the "Make Accessible Tool" or autotag the document
- Step 3: Structure (Tag) content and check Reflow Order
- Step 4: Making special text (e.g., tables, lists, formulas and links) accessible
- Step 4a: Making tables accessible
- Step 4a.1: Ensure proper table data cell structure and correct reading order
- Step 4a.2: Tagging the table and nesting the table structure
- Step 4a.3: Tagging table headings
- Step 4b: Making lists accessible
- Step 4c: Making formulas and equations accessible
- Step 4d: Making hyperlinks accessible
- Step 5: Confirm proper reading and tab order
- Step 6: Create bookmarks
- Step 7: Accessibility check and review
- Step 8: Remediate items that fail accessibility checks
Step 1: Check if the PDF is already tagged
PDFs use an internal tagging structure to indicate the structure and order to screen readers and other assistive technologies. Check if the PDF is already tagged from document properties. From the top Acrobat menu, click "File" and then click "Properties." The Document Properties dialog box appears with the Description tab active by default. In the bottom left corner in the Advanced box, the text "Yes" or "No" next to "Tagged PDF" indicates whether or not the document is already tagged.
If your PDF is already tagged
If the PDF originated from a digital document with the accessibility options activated when it was saved, it may already be tagged. These tags are often more accurate than if Adobe Acrobat automatically tags the document using the "Make Accessible Tool" described below. If your document is already tagged, skip to Step Three.
If your PDF is not tagged
Adobe Acrobat can make a first pass at tagging the document. You may need to manually update some of the tagging structure and order, but using the automated feature will provide a head start. In this case proceed with Step Two.
Step 2: Run the "Make Accessible Tool" or autotag the document
There are three options to tag (or re-tag) a document: manually adding tags, using the Make Accessible Tool or autotagging the document.
- Manually adding tags. Manually adding tags is the most accurate, but slowest, process.
- Using the Make Accessible Tool. The Make Accessible Tool streamlines other accessibility work, so it's the recommended solution
- Autotagging the document. Autotagging, followed by some fixes after running an accessibility check works too.
The following processes will allow you to re-tag a document that has already been tagged, but depending on the quality of the source, the tagging may be less accurate than pre-existing tags. When tags exist, it's usually quickest to skip to Step Three to review the quality.
Step 2a. Run the "Make Accessible" action from the "Action Wizard"
The Action Wizard tool has a "Make Accessible" action that automates much of the process for making an accessible PDF. More than just tagging, this action automates a variety of tasks (e.g., sets language and displays title, prompts the user for alt-text) that will help a document pass many of the accessibility checker tests.
Although it works well, the result of the process usually needs remediation work. For example, it may not tag and structure everything properly it can be difficult to know which image the wizard is indicating for alt text; when this is the case, you can skip parts and manually adjust items later. These warnings shouldn't discourage you from using the tool. It can save time. It is wise to be aware the process isn't finished when you've used this tool.
After you add the Action Wizard to your tool set, you can toggle between "Accessibility" and the "Action Wizard" by using the arrow next to the active tool listed above the active tool panel. [See Figure 1 for a visual example]
Running the Make Accessible tool
With the Action Wizard active, click on the "Make Accessible" link in the right sidebar. [See Figure 2 for a visual example]
A series of steps will appear in the tool's side bar along with a "Start" button/link. [See Figure 3 for a visual example]
Click "Start" and a series of prompts will aid you through the following:
- Complete the Description box. In the "Description" box that appears, click "Leave-As Is" to deslect it (located next to "Title") and type the actual name of the document (you'll notice that is typically defaults to the file name, which will need to change). Other fields are optional. Click the "OK" link.
- Set the primary document language. In the "Recognize Text - General Settings," select the primary document language (other settings can be left at defaults). Click the "OK" link.
- Wait for OCR completion. A notification that Acrobat is "Converting scanned page to Searchable Image Exact" displays. Acrobat is running OCR, tagging, etc. Wait briefly for completion.
- Complete the form dialog box. A dialog box will appear asking Is this document intended to be used as a fillable form. If so, click "Yes" to detect form fields. If not, click "No, Skip this Step" as long as the document is not a form. If the document is a form, it can be made accessible, but that is not covered here. In many cases, it's better to use a tool that is specifically designed to create accessible form.
- Designate primary language for assistive technologies. Next, the "Set Rading Language" box appears. Designate the primary language for assistive technologies to use.
- Complete alternate text updates. A dialog box will appear, stating "Acrobat will detect all figures in the document and display any figures with missing alternate text." Next, the "Set Alternative Text" dialog box will appear.
- If you can identify the image. If you can tell which image the tool is referring to, type the necessary alt-text or select the box to indicate that it's a decorative figure.
- If you can't identify the image. If you can't tell what Acrobat is referring to (it is often difficult), skip it and move to the next image. You can easily add alt-text later.
- Run the Accessibility Checker. Adobe Acrobat will prompt you to run the Accessibility Checker. Select any settings desired if you want to only check certain items, otherwise leave it at the default settings for a full check. Click "Start Checking." The report appears in the navigation panes when complete. It will always show that a manual check is required for reading order and color contrast.
- Complete manual review and touch-up document structure. Next, continue to Step Three to touch up the structure; you can (and should) run a new accessibility check.
A note on Optimized Scanned Document Tool. One of the available actions from the Action Wizard is the Optimized Scanned Document tool, which you may use to initially identify text in a scanned document if you have difficulty making editable text as specified in Create Editable Text (if Needed) in Step 1.
Step 2b. Autotag the document
If you don't want to use the Make Accessible tool, the "Autotag Document" tool in the Accessibility tools menu is another option. It will tag the document, but won't perform other steps done by the Make Accessible tool. The Autotag tool will automatically tag content based on how Acrobat interprets the structure. For short documents, manually tagging may suffice, but for longer documents, autotagging can save considerable time over manually tagging each item. Autotagging will usually misinterpret some of the items, and you can fix them with manual tagging methods.
Launching the Autotag document tool
The Autotag Document tool is launched from the "Accessibility" tool menu set in the right side bar. Click the "Accessibility" icon/link and then click the "Autotag Document" icon or link. [See Figure 4 for visual example]
When Autotagging is complete, an accessibility recognition report opens and a report icon appears in the navigation pane in the left sidebar. This report contains information about areas where the tool has reduced confidence in its actions, which is intended to alert you to the fact that a manual check is necessary.
In general, once you've autotagged the document, your next step should be to proceed with the manual tagging process to correct any mistakes.
Step 3. Structure (Tag) content and check Reflow Order
Structural tags designate the type of content in the PDF. Screen readers use the tags to as context to identify the type of information. The "Order Panel" shows the reflow order for the document content, and it allows you to access the "Touch Up Reading Order" (TURO) tool to see the page content structure and manually indicate or change content structure (tag) types.
It's recommended to mark up all headings, at a minimum. Headings allow screen reader users to navigate between sections, much like sighted users do when skimming through the various topics in a document. Whether a PDF's tags were generated from a digital document when it was saved as a PDF or via the autotagging feature, you should review and touch up the tagging (at least for headings at a minimum) to make it more accurate.
You may use a manual process to either do all tagging (e.g., for short documents instead of using the "Autotag Document" or "Make Accessible" features) or you can touch up the pre-existing tagging to make it more accurate. Automated tagging usually tags items that are background images, which don't need to be read with screen readers, and you can restructure the content to designate backgrounds and purely decorative images as artifacts (these become invisible to screen readers).
The term "Order" can be a source of confusion when using the Adobe Acrobat tool because there are two types of order: Reflow Order and Reading Order.
Reflow Order. The Reflow Order is controlled by the Order Panel. This version of order dictates how Adobe Acrobat re-flows the content so that it can be easier to read on mobile devices, and people with certain visual impairments may choose to reflow the document to make it easier for them to read.
Reading Order. The Reading Order is controlled by the Tags panel. This is the order in which assistive technologies (i.e., screen readers) read the content. The Tags panel also controls the tab order, which is the order of presentation as a user tabs through the document when the document is set to use the document structure.
To make your PDF as accessible to as many users as possible, you will need to review and correct any issues for both the Reflow Order and Reading Order. Doing just one is not sufficient.
Step 3a.1. Touch-Up Reading Order (TURO) tool and settings
The TURO tool helps designate, change and display content structural types and page content order. The tool is launched when the Order panel is active (icon is in navigation pane on left sidebar). There are two ways to open it:
Option 1. Click "Reading Order" from the "Accessibility" options on the right side menu.
Option 2. Click the "Options" button/link at the top of the "Order Panel" and click "Select Reading Order Panel."
Below are some important features of the TURO tool that you will use for PDF accessibility remediation [see Figure 7 for a visual example]:
- Structural Types. These buttons will set tags for various types of content. If an item is incorrectly tagged, you can revise the structure type using these items.
- Table Editor. Used for tagging table headings, etc.
- Page content order and Structure types radio buttons. These options show the reflow order or the type of content tags. You will switch between these two views often.
- Checkbox for display-like elements in a single block. Checked by default, it is recommended to deselect/uncheck it. This allows you to see how things are tagged at a granular level.
- Clear Page Structure. Clears the entire structure for the page if autotagging is too messy and you would prefer to manually tag the page items.
- Show Order Panel. Toggles on the Order panel.
Step 3a. Structuring (tagging) content using the Order Panel
Tagging content and revising erroneously tagged content involve the same processes; the guidelines below apply to either task. Start by clicking on Order in the navigation pane to open the Order panel. Launch the TURO tool, then follow the steps below.
- Select Structure Types. Select the "Structure types" radio button on the TURO tool so that it will display content types (these relate to structural tags) instead of numbers that indicate the reflow order.
- Select your content. To select a piece of content, click and drag so that you encompass all of the content you would like to select.
- If you need to select more content, hold down the SHIFT key while you click and drag to select additional items.
- If you need to de-select content that doesn't belong with the selected item, hold down the CONTROL key while you click and drag to de-select that particular content.
- Once you have selected something, the buttons at the top of the TURO become active. Select the appropriate button to indicate whether the selected material is general paragraph text, a certain level of heading (e.g. heading level 3 "H3" is shown in the image), a figure, a figure with caption, a table, a formula or background material, etc.
Background material includes items such as decorative art and non-unique headers and footers other than those on the initial or last page (the image beside this paragraph is an example). These are tagged and treated as an artifact, which will be invisible to a screen reader.
Work your way through the document to correctly tag each element or correct errors in previously tagged content.
Remember, it's a good idea to review the entire document to correct structural (tagging) issues. This will prevent having to go back and do touch up work when you review and/or adjust the reading order.
Tips for tagging content
- Deselect "Display like elements in a single block" in the TURO tool. This allows you to see how things are tagged at a granular level.
- If the page structure is a mess, use the "Clear Page Structure" button/link in the TURO tool and you can manually tag it from scratch. Save before you do so (sometimes there may be items that become difficult to tag). You can revert to the last saved state by clicking "File," and then clicking "Revert."
- In the main menu bar, select "View," then "Page Display," and select "Single Page View" to simplify the workflow.
- You can tag entire paragraphs as text. The examples shown in the figures above are more complicated because they have "span" elements for hyphens at the line breaks.
- When tagging images and artwork as figures, you can add alternative text at this time. Right-click the figure and select "Edit Alternate Text" and then add the text equivalent in the "Alternate Text" dialog box that appears. This process is often easier than trying to guess which image is indicated when prompted during the Make Accessible process.
Step 3b. Checking and reviewing Reflow Order via the Order Panel
The reflow order is indicated in the "Order Panel" to the left of the document. Although reflow and reading order are related, the tags panel controls the actual reading order. The reflow order is usually similar to the reading order and changes in the order panel will update some of the reading order, but it will not be perfectly accurate.
What to do if your document contains tables, lists links or formulas
The procedure for addressing reflow is described here. However, documents that have tables, lists, formulas, equations and hyperlinks require using both the "Order" and "Tags" panels. If your document has any of these items, you can either skip to Step 6 for instructions on how to mark them up appropriately before reviewing reflow order or you can just review the reflow order again after you have addressed those items (the impact to the reading order is usually minimal and easily adjusted).
How to check Reflow Order
Begin by clicking on "Order" in the navigation pane to open the "Order Panel." With the TURO tool active, follow the steps below.
- Select the "Page content order" radio button on the TURO tool. The document will display numbers corresponding to the reflow order for each piece of tagged content.
- Review the document. Review the document to make sure the reflow order is in a logical left to right, top to bottom order (for English).
If you notice errors, you can simply click and drag items in the order panel in the left sidebar to reorder them.
Tip for using Reflow Order
It's useful to have "Display like elements in a single block" de-selected (no checkmark) in the TURO tool to see the content order in a granular fashion.
Step 4. Making special text (e.g., tables, lists, formulas, links, accessible)
Documents with tables, lists, formulas & equations and hyperlinks require using both the "Order" and "Tags"panels. Although working with the Tags panel hasn't been addressed in the preceding steps, use of the Tags panel for dealing with these content types is covered here because it is usually best to structure all the content before finalizing the reflow order (Order panel) and reviewing/adjusting the the reading order (Tags) panel.
Step 4a. Making tables accessible
Tables must be tagged appropriately for screen readers to announce the data in a way that is predictable and easy to navigate and understand. Table tagging needs to be done before running an accessibility check, because tables that have not been tagged may not show up as having errors, when in fact they are inaccessible. To remediate the PDF to avoid accessibility issues you'll need to do each of the following three tasks:
- Ensure proper initial table data cell structure and reading order
- Tag the table and nest in the appropriate structure
- Tag table headings
Step 4a.1. Proper initial table data cell structure and correct reading order
Before tagging the table, you should ensure the table is is structured properly and the reading order is logical. Autotagging identifies table data cells pretty well, but it doesn't always get the order correct.
To check the structure and order do the following:
- Open the "Order Panel"
- Select "Reading Order" from the "Accessibility" link/menu item in the right sidebar or click the "Options" button/link in the Order Panel and click "Show reading order panel" to launch the "Touch Up Reading Order" (TURO) tool.
- In the TURO tool, click the radio button for "Structure types" to show the structural tags (this feature may be unavailable in older versions of Adobe Acrobat) and click "Page content order" to show the reflow presentation order. Inspect to ensure the following:
- Each cell is structured either as a single "TD" (table data cell) or "TH" (table heading)
- Any captions pertaining to the table are independent of other document paragraph text ("P") tags
- The order is logical
- If the structure is off, you may need to select the erroneous items and tag them appropriately using the TURO tool. For example if a caption is mixed with other text or if the table is not tagged as a table.
- If the table is not tagged ("P" instead of "TD" is shown for the table data cells), see below for how to properly tag the table.
- If more than one item in a cell is tagged as table data <TD>, you can select the text for that entire cell and, using TURO, and click "Cell" to make it a single <TD> item.
- If the order is incorrect, select numbered items in the Order panel and drag them so that an appropriate reading order will occur. For example if order numbers within a cell overlap or items such as a caption or text that wraps around a table appear out of order.
Step 4a.2. Tagging the table and nesting the table structure
To properly tag the table with column and/or row headers, perform the following steps:
Open the TURO tool. From the "Order Panel," open the TURO tool and make sure the "Structure types" radio button is selected.
Tag your table. If the entire table is tagged as paragraph text ("P"), select the entire table to highlight it, then click "Table" in the TURO tool. The table will be tagged as a table and data cells will appear with "TD." [See Figure 11 for a visual example]
Do any initial structural clean-up necessary. For example if more than one piece of text in a table cell is marked with "TD", select all the text for that cell and click "Cell" in the TURO tool to mark it with a single "TD" tag.
Switch to the Tags panel. Select some table text from the document and use the "Options" button/link to choose "Find Tag from Selection."
Inspect the tag structure. In most cases, there will only be independent table data <TD> tags (as shown in the image to the right).
Define table rows and headers. Now it's time to define the table rows and headers. To start, count the number of rows in the table.
- Right-click on the tag directly above the first table data tag (this is typically a <P> tag, but not always) and select "New Tag."
- A New Tag box appears. Use the dropdown arrow next to Type to click "Table Row," then click "OK."
- A <TR> tag appears. Repeat the process to make table rows for as many rows as are present in the table. You can create them from by right-clicking the new <TR> tag and we'll nest items later.
- Next, drag the table data <TD> items to their corresponding table row <TR> in a nested fashion. As long as "Highlight Content" under the "Options" button/link is checked, you can click on each TD element and it will highlight in the document. This will aid you in determining which table data cells <TD> belong to their respective rows.
- You can press the SHIFT key and click to select more than one table data cell, then drag them to the table row tag and move them to the right to nest them under the <TR> tag.
Define the table in the tag structure. Right-click on the tag directly above the first table row tag (this is typically a <P> tag, but not always) and click "New Tag."
- A New Tag box appears. Use the dropdown arrow next to Type to select "Table," then click "OK."
- A table <Table> tag will appear and the table row <TR> tags will collapse to simplify the view.
- Select and drag all the table row <TR> tags up and to the right to nest them under the table <Table> tag. [See Figure 12 for a visual example]
Step 4a.3. Tagging table headings
The final step for making accessible tables is to define the table headers. This process is most easily done with the table editor tool.
Step 1. Open the Order panel and launch the TURO tool.
Step 2. Click the "Structure type label" (<TD>) in any cell in your table, then click the "Table Editor" button/link in the TURO tool.
Step 3. The TURO tool disappears and the table cells highlight. Right-click any table cell and select "Table Editor Options."
Step 4. The Table Editor Options box appears. In the Color Options section, choose unique colors that you see well to indicate the Border, Header cell, Data cell and Selection colors. This allows you to visually distinguish different parts of the table. [See Figure 14 for a visual example of steps 3 - 6]
Step 5. Next, in the Label Options section, check the box next to "Show cell type" (TH or TD).
Step 6. Click "OK"
Step 7. Hold down the SHIFT key and click cells to select and highlight the entire range of column or row header cells.
Step 8. Right-click any highlighted portion and choose "Table Cell Properties."
Step 9. The Table Cell Properties box will appear. Designate the header cells as such by clicking the radio button next to "Header Cell."
Step 10. The "Scope" dropdown box becomes active. Use the dropdown arrow to select the header as a row header, column header, both or none (in most cases the top line is the column header cells).
Step 11. Click "OK" when done.
The header row will highlight with the color you designated above, and the structure type labels change to TH to indicate the cells in this row they have changed to <TH> tags in the tags panel. If there is only one header row, you're done. If there are more headers, repeat the steps to designate the specific type of any other table headers.
Tips for tagging table headings
- Do not manually change tag headings. You may be tempted to just manually change the <TD> tags to <TH> directly from the tags panel. Do not do this because it doesn't properly define the scope that way and may affect screen reader function.
- Layout tables do not get headings. Layout tables (purely for visual effects, not to display data) should not have headings, and they will always fail an accessibility check. If layout tables are used, expect to accept the fail state in an accessibility check.
Step 4b. Making lists accessible
Lists need to be tagged properly to allow screen reader users to go directly to lists and to navigate through them properly. The "Autotag Document" (via the "Accessibility" toolset) and "Make Accessible" (via the Action Wizard toolset) features usually do a good job of properly tagging lists. But, depending on certain settings when PDFs are created from other types of documents, lists may be tagged as just paragraph text and not actual lists. The two most common types of lists you'll encounter with PDFs are unordered lists, also known as bulleted lists, and ordered lists, also known as numbered lists.
The procedure for properly tagging each type involves two procedures:
- Separating bullets/numbers from text (if tagged as a single item)
- Structuring List Items Properly (Tags panel)
Separating bullets/numbers from text (if tagged as a single item)
There is no function to tag content as list items using the "Touch Up Reading Order" (TURO) panel from the "Order Panel." Marking these elements as list items needs to be done from the "Tags" panel.
However, the bullet or number should be tagged as a label <Lbl> and the list item text should be tagged as a label body <LBody>. Making these adjustments is easier when starting with the TURO tool from the Order panel.
The quickest workflow is to first tag each bullet/number as a separate text item (<P> tag), then you can create the appropriate list structure in the Tags panel.
- From the Order panel with the TURO tool active and the radio button set on "Structure types," highlight each bullet/number and identify it as text by clicking the "Text" button/link.
- Once lists have the bullets/numbers tagged as separate items, switch to the "Tags" panel.
[See Figure 16 below for a visual example of Step #1]
Structuring List Items Properly (Tags panel)
The tags panel is where you can add the correct tag structure to list items so that they'll be identified as lists.
Step 1. Open the Tags panel and click the "Options" button/link to make sure "Highlight Content" is checked. This makes it easier to find specific tags.
Step 2. Highlight a bulleted/numbered item in the document that you would like to find in the Tags panel (click and drag).
Step 3. From the Options button, choose Find Tag from Selection.
Step 4. Revise text (<P>) tags to Label (<Lbl>) and List Item Body (<LBody>) tags.
Step 5. Right click the first bullet tag (<P>), and select Properties. The Object Properties box appears. Select the Tag tab. In the Type field, select Label from dropdown menu. This changes the <P> tag to <Lbl>. [See screenshot 18 for a visual example]
Step 6. Click the next <P> tag. The list item text should highlight.
Step 7. In the Type field, select List Item Body from the dropdown menu. This changes the <P> tag to <LBody>. [See Figure 19 for a visual example]
Continue this process for all bullets and list item text OR manually change <P> to <Lbl> and <LBody> for bullets/numbers and list item text, respectively, for the rest of the list.
Grouping list item tags
Step 1. Group each <Lbl> and <LBody> under a list item tag. Right click the text (<P>) tag above the first list item, select New Tag. [See Figure 20 for a visual example]
Step 2. The New Tag box appears. In the Type field, choose List Item from the dropdown menu and click OK. A <LI> tag will appear. [See Figure 21 for a visual example]
Step 3. Add new List Item (<LI>) tags above each <Lbl> <LBody> group. To do so, right click the <LBody> tags and select New Tag, to create the List Item <LI> tag underneath each preceding group (as in 5-2 above).
Step 4. Hold down the SHIFT key and click to select each set of <Lbl> and <LBody> tags and drag them to the right to nest them under the new <LI> tags.
Step 5. Finally, nest all the list items under a list tag. Repeat the step and then in the Type field, select List from the dropdown menu. An <L> tag will appear and the structure under the <LI> tags will collapse to simplify the view.
Step 6. Hold down the SHIFT key and click each List Item <LI> tag, then move them to the right and under the List <L> tag to nest them.
Step 4c. Make formulas and equations accessible
Screen readers may not read formulas and equations in the correct order. Sometimes formula text will be tagged and treated as an image and not as text. You can manually indicate the correct way they should be announced as alternative text if they are tagged as a formula or an image.
Use the following process:
Launch TURO tool to check structure types. From the "Order Panel," launch the TURO tool and select the radio button to show "Structure types."
Review the formula is marked as text. Check whether the formula is marked as typical paragraph text (it will show as "P") or as a formula (it will show as "Formula").
Mark as formula. If it is paragraph text, click and drag to highlight all components of the formula text and mark it as a formula by clicking "Formula" in the TURO tool. [See Figure 21 for a visual example]
- With at least part of the formula highlighted, switch to the Tags panel and use the Options button/link to select "Find Tag from Selection."
- The content should be nested under a <Formula> tag. Right click either the <Formula> tag or its underlying content and select Properties.
- The "Object Properties" box will appear. Activate the "Tag" tab, then enter a text equivalent description in the "Alternative Text" textbox. Click "Close" when done. [See Figure 22 for a visual example]
Step 4d. Tag and identify hyperlinks
Hyperlinks that come from a document saved as a PDF, and those that are manually added via the native Acrobat Edit PDF tools, will generally work when clicked. However, they often aren't tagged properly in the tag structure, causing an accessibility problem. Acrobat will automatically create links from text that is a URL, however, it often doesn't generate a proper tag structure for them, and it often won't recognize descriptive links.
The quickest, easiest process for tagging hyperlinks is to set the links manually. For descriptive links, alt text can be added, which allows a screen reader to read it as a descriptive link instead of an URL.
How to tag links
Use the following actions to tag links:
- Click on the arrow icon in the Adobe Acrobat document menu to activate the "Selection tool."
- Select text, email address, etc. that will be the source of link in the actual document (none of the Navigation Pane tools needs to be active for this).
- Right-click on the selected object and select "Create Link."
- The Create Link box will appear.
- In the "Link Appearance" section, in the "Link Type" box, use the dropdown arrow to select "Invisible Rectangle" (most common choice) or "Visible Rectangle" (if a visible box is desired). You can leave other items in the Link Appearance section as set by default.
- In the "Link Action" section, use the radio buttons to select how the link should open. Open a web page is the most common action for hyperlinks and email addresses
- Click "Next"
- An Edit URL box appears. Enter the URL in the text box. For an email address, "mailto:" should precede the email address.
- Click "OK."
An optional final step. To confirm, you can switch to the "Tags" pane, find the selected text, then click the plus (+) icon next to the link to ensure that it is composed of the URL under a link object reference <Link - OBJR> tag, and that these are nested under the link <Link> tag.
How to add alt-text to a hyperlink
To add alt-text to a hyperlink so that a screen reader will read the link as a descriptive link, do the following:
- Launch the Tags panel.
- Right-click on the link <Link> tag, select "Properties."
- The "Object Properties" box will open. Click the "Tag" tab to activate it.
- In the "Alternate Text" box, type the descriptive name for the link.
- Click "Close."
Step 5. Confirm proper Reading and Tab Order
The Tags panel shows the PDF content structure and the order in which a screen reader will announce the content or a user may tab through the content. To ensure your document will function correctly, you should quickly review or navigate through the content using the Tags panel to ensure a logical order.
Steps to confirm reading and tab order
Step 1. Click on the "Tags" icon in the Navigation Pane to open the Tags panel.
Step 2. Click on the "Options" button/link and make sure "Highlight Content" is selected (is checked). This allows you to navigate through the document using the tags and it also allows you to find content using the "Find Content from Selection" option. [See Figure 23 for visual example]
Step 3. Click the plus (+) sign next to Tags in the Tags panel to expand the content to the tags level.
Step 4. Click on tagged items in the Tags panel. The corresponding content will highlight and you can use your up and down arrow keys to navigate through each page of the document.
Step 5. If anything is out of order, you can click to select the item (or hold down shift and select several adjacent items) and drag the item up or down to create a logical reading order.
When your document has a logical order when navigating by the tags, your review/order remediation task is complete.
Additional checking options
If you want to check a specific place in the document, click and drag to highlight the content of concern, then click on the "Options" button/link and select "Find Tag" from "Selection to find" that particular tag. [See Figure 24 for a visual example]
If you encounter a tagging error (e.g., if a heading is tagged as a paragraph), you can correct it via the "Order Panel" or "Tags Panel" using the TURO tool (select Reading Order from the accessibility tool set to launch it).
Making simple, quick fixes
Alternatively, to make a simple, quick fix, right-click a tag and select "Properties." An "Object Properties" box appears and you can change the type of tag by selecting if from the dropdown menu next to Type, then select "Close" to save changes and exit the box. [See Figure 25 for a visual example]
- If you're familiar with HTML, you can manually edit the tag labels (e.g. change <P> to <H2>).
- You can hold down the CONTROL key and click plus signs "+" to expand all underlying tag structure for any item of the entire document.
Step 6. Create bookmarks
Bookmarks help fully sighted users and those using assistive technologies to navigate quickly to specific portions of a document. If you are using a document that was saved as a PDF from an Office product, a setting to use headings or existing bookmarks may have been set, which makes them automatically available in your PDF. Most often, however, pre-existing bookmarks are absent.
Depending on your system and the version/update of Adobe Acrobat, an accessibility check may show a failure status if no bookmarks exist, or it may show that it has passed even when there are no bookmarks (this happens when Adobe Acrobat considers it a short document). Documents longer than a few pages should include bookmarks to assist users. Bookmarks can be added either with assistance from Adobe Acrobat or manually.
Step 6a. Assisted bookmarking
Acrobat provides assistance that can speed up the bookmarking effort for tagged documents.
To use the assisted bookmarking function, perform the following [See Figure 26 for visual example]:
- Click the "Bookmark" icon in the navigation pane
- Click the "Options" icon to expand the options
- Select "New Bookmarks from Structure"
- Select the options that you would like to use as bookmarks from the "Structure Elements" box, then click OK.
A best practice is to use headings (H1, H2, etc.) as bookmarks. Holding down the SHIFT key allows you to highlight multiple adjacent items, and pressing the Control key as you click allows you to select any number of options, even when they are not adjacent to each other. The number of heading levels you choose will depend on your opinion regarding the most effective navigation and the layout and complexity of your document.
Adobe Acrobat will automatically create bookmarks based on your selection. The bookmarks will appear nested under an "Untitled" bookmark and you can adjust the nesting by dragging items to a higher order bookmark, etc.
Add title to bookmark
Click the text to highlight "Untitled," then click again to type a title, such as the name of the document.
Step 6b. Manual bookmarking
Adobe Acrobat has a feature that allows a bookmark to jump to the specific section in view when you create each bookmark. This feature can be handy for special content that you would like to bookmark, but in most cases you will bookmark based on headings that divide main content sections. The manual process described here is better suited for instances where you want a bookmark for a specific item; the automated process described in the adjacent tab will provide the best streamlined process for a typical workflow.
To create bookmarks manually do the following:
- Click the "Bookmark" icon in the right side bar "Navigation" pane, then scroll to the area of your document where you would like to create the first bookmark.
- Click the "New Bookmark" icon in the "Bookmarks" panel.
- Type the name of the bookmark to replace "Untitled."
[See Figure 28 for a visual example]
Add bookmarks as you deem necessary to assist navigating within the document. You can nest bookmarks by dragging them to higher order bookmarks or moving them out by dragging them to the left.
Step 7: Perform an accessibility check
The built-in Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Checker will test your PDF document and provide an accessibility report. The accessibility checker automatically tests for most, but not all items required to meet WCAG 2.0 level A and AA, so some manual checks will be required.
Step 7a. Run an accessibility check
To run an accessibility check, perform the following:
- Run a full check. Click on "Full Check" from the "Accessibility" tool options (right side-bar menu).
- Choose your accessibility checker options. The "Accessibility Checker Options" window will open. Determine if you would like to create an accessibility report by selecting or de-selecting the checkbox next to" Create Accessibility Report" and using the "Choose" button/link to navigate to the desired folder if you prefer to save it to somewhere other than the listed default location.
- Specify your page range. Specify the page range if not checking the entire document, otherwise leave the radio button next to "All pages in document" (default) selected.
- Specify what you want to check. In the "Checking Options" box, select the items what you desire to check. In most cases, you'll leave everything at the default settings, e.g., keep "Document" listed in the "Category" dropdown and leave all other checkboxes selected (default).
- Start the accessibilty check. Click "Start Checking" link to run the test. The results will appear automatically with a new Accessibility Checker icon in the navigation panes section. If you have chosen to create an accessibility report, a paper clip icon for "Attachments" will also appear, allowing you to quickly open and view the report in a browser.
Step 7b. Review Accessibility Checker results
Click the plus sign "+" toggle next to any item to drill down for detail. Some items allow you to right-click on the failed item and click "Fix" to immediately fix the issue. For others, you will need to drill down to the individual item, find it in the document, then make desired changes.
If you haven't used the "Make Accessible" action, right clicking on an item and selecting "Fix" is the quickest way to quickly add the title, language and set the tab order. It is also easier to see specific images that need alt-text (and add it) by right clicking the alt text error and selecting Fix.
Proceed to Step 5 for information on how to remediate items that have failed the accessibility check (and keep in mind that greater detail is presented in the Procedures For Increased Accessibility instructions.
Step 7c. Complete manual accessibility checks
The Accessibility Full Check does not check everything related to potential accessibility concerns. Certain items such as a logical reading order and color contrast need to be checked manually.
Logical reading order
If you are following the processes in this guide in a stepwise fashion, you will have already performed this check. If you are reading this and haven't yet checked the reading order in the Tags panel, follow the procedure in Step 5 - Confirm Proper Reading (and Tab) Order.
Color Contrast will always be flagged as an issue, which states "Needs manual check." If the document contains colored text or text on background art or images, run a manual contrast check to ensure it will work for people with low vision or color blindness, etc.
How to test a color
- Close the Accessibility tool and launch the "Edit Text" tool. Select colored text and then find the color values by clicking the font color box. A menu opens that shows the color. Use the values for Red, Green, and Blue. In some contrast checkers, you can use these values, and for others, you can use a free color converter tool to find the six digit hex code for the RGB color values. A web search will provide options for converting RGB to hex.
- Use the WebAim Color Contrast Checker (opens in new tab) to test for WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance.
Some large text will pass for over 18pt font whereas it may not pass for "normal" text. A good rule to follow is to choose colors that pass WCAG 2.0 Level AA for both large and normal sized font. This may be useful so that users with low vision will be able to distinguish the text from the background even when the document is resized from desktop settings to work on a mobile device.
Step 8. Remediate items that fail accessibility checks
Some items allow you to right click on the failed item and select "Fix" to immediately fix the issue. For others, you will need to drill down to the individual item, find it in the document, then make desired changes. Adobe Acrobat will also display links with instructions on how to fix items if you right click an error and select "Explain."
When you use the "Fix" method for failed items, the accessibility checker will automatically change these to a Passed state. However, the checker results don't change for items that you've fixed manually, and it's always good practice to run a full accessibility check at the end of the process, just to be sure no additional accessibility errors have been introduced during remediation.
Setting alt-text for a figure that fails an accessibility check
Alt-text can be added quickly if a figure'/image's alternate text fails the accessibility checker validation tests. Use the following steps:
- Expand the details beneath the image that failed
- Select a figure number
- Right-click the item and click "Fix"
- In the "Set Alternate Text" dialog box and you may do one of the following:
- Type the alt-text.
- Signify the image is a decorative figure by clicking in the "Decorative figure" checkbox. If you select that option, screen readers will not announce the image.
- Navigate to other images by using the left and right navigation arrows
- Click "Save & Close" link when complete
Setting the Title and Language from Accessibility Checker results
The easiest method for remediating the document with the required metadata is to do the following:
- Right-click on the text for the failed "Primary Language" or "Title"
- Click "Fix"
- For the Primary Language, a "Set Reading Language" dialog box will appear. Use the dropdown arrow next to Primary Language to specify the primary language.
For the Title, depending on your system and the version/update of Adobe Acrobat, selecting"Fix" will either automatically use the file name as the document title or it may open a "Description" dialog box that allows you to type the title. Whether Adobe Acrobat adds the Title or you enter it and click the "OK" link to save it, Adobe Acrobat will also change the setting to display the title, which will allow the title to pass the next accessibility check.
What to do if a PDF fails Tab Order
After running an accessibility check, if the document shows that the "Tab Order" has failed, the presentation order for someone tabbing through the document has not been set (or automatically set).
To use the automated method for fixing Tab Order, perform the following steps:
- Right-click on the "Tab order - Failed notification" and click "Fix"
- Click "OK" button/link in the confirmation box that appears stating the "Tab order set to match structure order in all pages successfully."