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PDF Accessibility

  • Avoid using scanned PDF documents. Screen readers can NOT read scans as they are just images and will treat them as a blank document.

  • Additionally, images, graphs, icons, etc. contained within a pdf will not be read by the screen reader, so do not use any images with important text in them. If you must use an image with text, be sure you repeat that text within the document. If you have images within your pdf, you can add alternate text to make them accessible.

           Resources: MicrosoftWeb standards


  • PDF documents should have meaningful titles and Subjects (a short description of the document). To add a title to a document, go to File--> Document Properties --> Description tab. If the document is a recurring item, add a date or some other meaningful information ("Meeting Minutes, November 16, 2017" for ex). This information helps the user determine whether or not they need/want to open the document.

  • Tags indicate the structure of the document. This is important because it tells the screen reader which items will be read and the order in which the items need to be read. Before you begin creating your document, go to Edit-->Preferences-->Accessibility, make sure “Use document structure for tab order…” is checked.

There are two ways in which you can make a web accessible pdf:

The first way is to open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

  • Tools --> Protect and Standardize --> Accessibility --> Add
  • This will add the Accessibility icon to the right hand menu going down the side of your page
  • Select files you want to apply action to (default is open page) --> Full Check

This is also where you can add alternative text to images (or set as decorative), see in what order your pdf will be read, add autotags to your document.

To check accessibility:

  • Tools --> Accessibility --> Full Check
  • In “Report Options” select how you want to view results.
  • Select page range
  • Select one or more Checking Options
  • Start Checking

To fix issues:

                Right click on the item in the Accessibility Checker panel

The second way is to add accessibility as you create your document:

To add alternative text to an image:

  • Right click on the image
  • Select Format Picture > Layout and Properties


  • Fill out the Title and Description

  *If your image is decorative, you can check the “decorative” box when you run the accessibility check on your images.


To add alternative text to a table:

  • Right click on the table
  • Select Table Properties > Alt Text tab


  • Fill in the Title and Description


To make links accessible:

  • Select the text that will become a link and right click on it
  • Select Hyperlink
  • In the address box, enter the URL for the link
  • Select the ScreenTip button and type in a screen tip



For scanned PDFs

To verify your text is not readable text, hover over the PDF. If you see crosshairs (instead of being able to select text), you do not have readable text (the PDF is an image).

To change into readable text:

Under Tools, open Enhance Scans

Click on Recognize Text dropdown --> In this file --> Recognize Text button

Once this is done, you should be able to highlight the text on the PDF, indicating it is text not an image.



To save a web accessible PDF in Word 2016:

  • Click File --> Save As and choose where you want the file to be saved.
  • In the Save As box, choose PDF in the list
  • Click Options and under "Include non-printing information", make sure the Document structure tags for accessibility box is selected
  • Click OK


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