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Accessible PDFs with Adobe Acrobat

This documentation was created using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for Mac desktops.

Start from the source

Fixing a PDF for accessibility issues can be a time-consuming and arduous process. Start by authoring accessibility best practices in the original document format, such as in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, and then export the file as a PDF. It is much easier to include and resolve accessibility issues in the source document than to try and remediate accessibility issues in the PDF document.

Checking a PDF for accessibility

Can you select text?

If you're unable to select text in a PDF, the PDF is an image file with graphic elements representing the letters on the page, not actual text content. An image-based PDF must be converted into searchable text using optical character recognition (OCR) before addressing accessibility in the document.

Convert to text

Use the Stanford Converter into Braille & E-Text (SCRIBE) tool to convert an image-based PDF into other formats, including a tagged PDF.

  1. Visit the Stanford SCRIBE website
  2. Upload your image-based PDF file
  3. Select the Output Format radio button “Accessibility Conversion”
  4. Choose the Target Format “pdf-Tagged PDF”
  5. Enter your email address

Your converted file will be sent to your Stanford University email address.

Is the document tagged?

Accessible PDF documents will contain a tag structure, that is, a tree-like data structure that represents the content and provides key information for assistive technologies, including:

  • The logical reading order
  • Document headings, paragraphs, lists, and other page elements
  • Data tables
  • Images and image descriptions
  • Forms and form fields

In addition to accessibility, the advantage of having a tagged PDF document is that documents can be resized and reflowed for magnified viewing and on mobile devices.

Add PDF Tags to the document

A Recognition Report will immediately appear. To view the Tag structure, select the Tags icon.

Note: If using SCRIBE, then a tag structure may already exist for the PDF document.

  1. Select View > Show/Hide > Navigation Panes > Tags.
  2. On the left-hand side of the window, the Tags menu will appear.
  3. The Tag icon will be located in the Tools Shortcut Menu (located on the far-left side of the window).
  4. In the Tags Panel, right-click No Tags available.
  5. Select Add Tags to Document.
Last modified April 16, 2021