Analyze PDF files and add enhancements to make documents accessible to all users

This document describes the process for making PDF documents accessible. Whenever possible, accessibility should be incorporated directly into the document using the application that created it. When accessibility is incorporated directly into the source document, less repair work will be required in Adobe Acrobat. This is very important when the PDF must be regenerated based on changes in the source file. If changes are only made in the PDF and not in the source file, accessibility work will need to be done each time the document is updated.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC contains a Make Accessible Wizard that guides the user through the basic steps found in this document. This tutorial can be used with or without the wizard.

The process of making existing PDF files accessible consists of a few basic steps:

  1. Examine the PDF document
  2. Add document properties and interactive features to the PDF such as links and bookmarks and set the document open settings and security so that it does not interfere with assistive technology
  3. Identify scanned text and repair. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) using the OCR Text Recognition command in Adobe Acrobat DC allows text to be searchable and read by assistive technologies.
  4. Add form fields and buttons with labels and accessible names if the PDF is intended to be an interactive document. Set the tab order for the form fields, provide instructions, ensure proper keyboard focus, and ensure any error handling is accessible.
  5. Set the document’s language.
  6. Add tags to the PDF file if it has not been tagged. Tagging should be performed at this step in the workflow to ensure that any elements that were added during steps 1 through 4 are included in the document’s structure.
  7. Determine if the PDF file has been properly tagged. Verify tagged elements are properly sequenced and applied. For example, is a first-level heading tagged as an H1 and not an H3?
  8. Add Alternative Text. Add informative and concise alternative text and descriptions for all non-text elements.
  9. Check the document with the Acrobat Accessibility Checker. Refer to the results of the Accessibility Checker and Report and use the recommendations to make any necessary changes. Repeat this process until the checker indicates no problems are found in the document.

Note: These steps are presented in an order that suits most needs most of the time. It may be necessary to perform them in a different order for a particular workflow. You may need to repeat some steps to achieve the desired result. In all cases, examine the document first, determine its intended purpose, and use that analysis to guide the workflow.