Create Accessible PDFs
The workflow process for remediating PDF documents for accessibility can be cumbersome and there are several techniques and steps that can be used to achieve compliance. The amount of accessibility remediation can depend upon on the source document and how it was created.
Characteristics of Accessible PDF files
- The PDF will have searchable text
- Alternate text descriptions (Alt Text) is added to all images and media
- Fonts are used that allow characters to be extracted to text
- Reading order and document structure tags have been added and checked
- PDFs will have Interactive form fields that allow the users the enter values into the form fields
- Document language is specified in the PDF.
- The security settings do not interfere with assistive software
Converting a Microsoft Document to a PDF
Accessible documents can be created in Microsoft Office programs and converted to PDFs easily and it is important to create your source documents with accessible formatting in mind.
If a Microsoft file is not the final format that you want to present to readers, you’ll need to convert it into another format. PDF’s are the best format to retain the print styles and formatting of Microsoft documents. Saving your document to a PDF format may or may not cause some loss of formatting depending on the document contents and the settings selected when saving it.
- Select File > Export > Create an Adobe PDF/XPS
- Select the Create Adobe PDF, select Yes to save the file and continue.
- Select the Options menu to ensure the Document Structure tags for accessibility is checked
- Select Document from the Publish what menu
- In the Include non-printing information, de-select the Document properties
- Ensure the Document structure tags for accessibility is checked and select Okay
- Select a file folder, add a title to the document and Publish.
Scanned PDFs and Accessibility Compliance
When a PDF is originated from a scan, the scan presents the PDF as an image rather than a document, and this will require more time and steps to convert the image to an accessible document. If a PDF originates from a scan, you will need to perform an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert the image of text to actual characters that can be formatted and recognized as text by a screen reader.
Tip: If you use scanned pdfs, check with your Subject Librarian first to find a digital resource to link to your course instead of a scanned PDF.
Ally for Elearning PDF Remediation
Scanning pages from old text books results in inaccessible documents. Scanned texts are highly inaccessible, and create lots of challenges for all students to read and study effectively. When you come across a scanned PDF, do your best to replace it with a proper digital text document.
Tip: Ensure the scanned text is clean, scanned straight (not having any text on an angle), and does not have notes and highlighting throughout the text or margins.
- Scanned PDFs get a low accessibility score indicator
- Select the Accessibility score indicator to learn more about the document accessibility issues and how to fix them.
- Use the Ally links below to guide your PDF accessibility remediation.
After the PDF OCR download, re-upload the OCR version of the PDF. This is not a final solution, but will enhance the accessibility/readability.
Original document remediation
If the original document was created in MS Word, use the original to add accessible formatting and upload when finished. To remediate, reference the Create Accessible Microsoft Word documents Help Hub article.
Adobe PDF remediation- Requires Adobe DC
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:
- Examine the PDF document (Using Ally in Elearning will also identify the errors that need to be fixed)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Set the document’s language.
- 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.
- 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?
- Add Alternative Text. Add informative and concise alternative text and descriptions for all non-text elements.
- 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.