Adobe Acrobat – Guidelines for Accessible PDFs

A PDF allows limited editing of the document once it is created and maintains the predefined layout of text and images. Most PDF documents are created via Microsoft Word and then exported to Adobe acrobat.

Creating a PDF from a Word Processed Document

  • Ensure the Word document follows the accessibility guidelines for Word documents.
  • Once the Word guidelines are followed convert using Adobe Professional to ensure accessibility features are maintained.

Creating a PDF by Scanning a Document

  • Using a scanner to create a PDF file creates a single image of each page. Text is not recognised as each page is formatted as an image. This makes accessibility difficult as screen readers cannot read the text.
  • You can use the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) function available in the software bundled with most scanners to enhance accessibility. OCR translates images of text into editable text.
  • Run scanned documents through the OCR process and then check it for headings tags and alternative texts for images as usual.

Creating a PDF from Professional Graphics Packages

For publications designed for promotional purposes or for a wider audience, such as institutional prospectuses, a graphic designer would normally be commissioned. During the design process the original text is imported into Adobe Professional so that the layout of the text and any images can be easily manipulated and other design elements added.

A PDF of the design is produced to allow the commissioner to easily see what the finished product will look like. If the PDF is intended for wider use, for example to be made available to download, ensure:

  • There is a defined structure for the document, and therefore the option to navigate the document using bookmarks.
  • The reading order is tagged correctly, so that functions such as Reflow and Read Out Loud, as well as screen readers, can navigate through the document effectively.
  • Images have appropriate alternative text.
  • Navigation via bookmarks is possible.
  • The reading order is correctly tagged.

If it is not possible to provide this level of accessibility within the PDF then ensure the information is also available in an alternative format (e.g. word).

Building accessibility within PDFs:

  • Tag the PDF layout correctly.
  • Define headings.
  • Give Alt text to images.

Checking accessibility in existing PDFs:

  • Adobe Acrobat applications have an in-built Accessibility Check which allows the user to check the document for accessibility issues.

Video Tutorial on PDF Accessibility

This is a general overview of how to create accessible PDFs and how to check and edit existing PDFs for accessibility (length 5m 13s).