Skip to content Skip to site navigation Skip to service navigation

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 @stanford.edu 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