Friday, July 08, 2011

Adobe PDF Accessibility

AccessibleWeb@U Meeting, June 30, 2011
  • Terrill Thompson,, Technology Accessibility Specialist
    • Slides are at, along with slides of other presentations by Terrill
  • Lawsuits relating to accessibility
    • The goal of lawsuits is to clarify what is required by law
    • NFB actively advocating and services
      • Actually aiming a vendors, which are not covered by law, while public institutions are
      • California State University actively screening products to be sure they are accessible before allowing them to be purchased
        • CSU Accessible Electronic and Information Technology Procurement -
        • Accessible Technology Initiative, June 10, 2011 -
  • What makes an electronic document accessible?
    • Text alternatives to non-text content
    • Information, structure (good semantic markup), and relationships
      • Headings
      • Lists
      • Good structure gets passed on to assistive technology, which uses it to effectively present the information
    • HTML, Word, and PDF all support these features
    • Example: Accessible University Web site
      • Because page is structured, voice browser (JAWS) can describe structure
        • CTRL- H lists headings
          • With JAWS you can jump by heading levels, thus using headings as a map of the page's content
        • JAWS identifies lists before speaking the list contents (if it is marked up as a lists)
    • Example: Word document - same page
      • To make a Word document accessible
        • Use the predefined styles for headings
        • To put alt text on an image - have alt text as one of the options
          • Recent versions of Word offer two fields, use the Description field (not the Title field)
          • Keep the alt text short and sweet
        • When making lists, use the list button
      • When you create a PDF, the structure can be passed to the PDF file by creating a "tagged PDF" file
        • Office 2010 will create a tagged PDF (When saving, click on options, and check the tagged markup box)
          • Mac Word does not generate tagged PDF. Have to go in afterwards with Adobe Acrobat Pro
          • In older versions of Office, can obtain add-ons that help to create tagged PDF
        • To create a tagged PDF, use "Save As PDF"
          • Using "Print" to a PDF will not created a tagged PDF
    • Three different types of PDFs
      • Image
      • Image with embedded fonts
        • Content could be all scrambled, has no tagging
      • Tagged (optimized for accessibility)
        • Tagged PDF has been around for a while, developed in response to federal requirement that files be accessible
    • To Create an Accessible PDF
      • Use an authoring tool that supports...
        • Creating documents with headings and subheadings
        • Adding alt text to images
        • Exporting to tagged PDF
      • Use these accessibility features anytime you create a document
      • Can tools be configured to be required to do the right thing?
        • Some HTML tools require alt text, headings, etc., but most other tools only offer the ability; you have to know about it and use it
    • Is sitechecker available to other campuses?
      • Can scan 50,000 pages
      • Contact Gina Hills about using the service
    • What tools support tagged PDF
      • Microsoft Word and Powerpoint 2010 (windows only)
        • Save As PDF
      • Microsoft Word and PowerPoint prior to 2010
        • Use Adobe Acrobat Pro
    • PDF Accessibility Check
      • Check whether document contents are an image
        • Is the document skewed?
        • Is the font clear or fuzzy
        • Try to select text on the page
        • If the content is skewed, the text fuzzy, or you cannot select text, the content is an image and will not be accessible
      • Check whether document is tagged
        • Using Acrobat Reader (a free tool)
          • Go to File > Properties (CTRL-D) and look for Tagged PDF
            • Even if says Yes, content may not be structured well enough
        • File > Properties (Ctrl-D) in any version of Acrobat; will say Tagged PDF: yes or no
      • Run an accessibility check
        • Using Adobe X Reader: Edit > Accessibility
        • Using Adobe X Pro: View > Tools > Accessiblity
    • PDF Accessibility Repair
      • Using Acrobat Pro
        • Recognize text (if needed)
          • Can you select words within the page
        • Tag document (if needed)
          • In Acrobat Pro: View > Tools > Accessibility
        • Touch up reading order
          • In Acrobat Pro, can change reading order of elements
        • Touch up structure (if needed)
          • Can scroll through document, select item, change tag for the items
          • Can add alt text to any element
        • Sometimes easier to delete all tagging and go through and retag it
        • Acrobat Pro has "Recognize Text" tool that scans images with text and generates text
      • Where to find Acrobat Pro's accessibility features
        • Recognize Text
          • View > Tools > Recognize Text
        • Read Out Loud (built-in screen reader; not very useful for blind users but may help to spot problems)
          • View > Read Outloud
        • Accessibility Tools
          • View > Tools > Accessibility
            • Prior to Adobe X: Advanced > Accessibility
  • Discussion
    • PDF is way overused
      • Many times people create PDF by default
      • PDF is useful if you need the document to look the same for all users
      • Otherwise likely to be better off creating document in HTML


holly said...

I don't know if you are interested in this, but on a Mac I have been re-opening my Word document (formatted semantically with headings, lists, etc.) in LibreOffice and then exporting it to PDF (there is a check-box to create a tagged PDF) and the tags seem to be set correctly. It is a lot faster than adding the tags in Acrobat, and it is a free application, which means that it's a tool more of our faculty can have.

Rick Ells said...

I have been experimenting with LibreOffice and noticed that it exports PDF, with an option to generate tagged PDF. Nice to know that it seems to work. Now we need someone to take a hard look at it with Adobe Pro to be sure it works well.

Rick Ells said...

This comment came in by email from Ryan Benson, who works at Centers for Disease Control:

I just had a minute to look through these, and have some insight.
- The Word -> PDF add-in for Word that is installed, actually doesn't make accessible PDF's like the notes make it sound. It gets it there about 50-75%, using a 100% compliant Word doc. There is a few checks in Acrobat, the Adobe PDF check is the least picky.
- If you are doing the Word -> PDF conversion often, you should really get NetCentric's PAW. This runs your word doc through a [508] checklist before converting. It asks "I see you have a multiple page document with no headings, did you mean to?" alongside others
- The PPT -> PDF saving also creates a nightmare, at the CDC, our policy is if the PPT is going on a public facing site, you must provide the PPT first in an alternative format HTML (preferred) or PDF, then PPT. Virtual508 is a PPT -> PDF converter that makes accessible HTML versions of the slide show. Since HTML is natively more accessible than a PDF - that is why we prefer HTML.

Vicky Milza said...


Nice blog! PDF developed by Adobe, is a file format that allows for the sharing of static documents and images independent of application software, hardware, and operating system. The PDF file format preserves the original style, formatting, and layout of a document. The best method to create an accessible PDF is to start with an accessible file. Please provide more information about it. Thank you...

Adobe Ebook