Making Adobe PDF document Accessible

Check accessibility of PDFs (Adobe Acrobat DC)

This guide has been created to support staff in producing fully accessible Adobe Acrobat PDF documents.

By checking the accessibility of a document in the application of origin (in this case Adobe Acrobat DC) means that accessibilities problems are less likely to be identified by Ally once uploaded to Blackboard Ultra. This can reduce the administrative overheads of having to resolve the problems and re-upload to Blackboard.
Introduction to Adobe DC and Accessibility

Adobe Acrobat includes a variety of tools to support the creation of accessible PDF documents and check existing PDF documents.  These accessibility checks are compliant with various recognised standards such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and PDF/UA (Universal Access, or ISO 14289).

PowerPoint Accessibility in Context

To make an accessible Adobe PDF document, you should consider not just the types of information in the file, but also the ways in which students will access and consume the content.

To access the accessibility options in Adobe Acrobat, open the Tools menu, navigate to Protect and Standardise and click the Add button to append the accessibility options to the right-hand side menu.

Image showing how to access the Accessibility features in Adobe PDF

Once you have added the Accessibility tool to the shortcut you can now click on link to open the Accessibility submenu.  There are several options included on this menu that will be explored in the following sections of this guide.

Check accessibility of PDFs (Acrobat Pro)

Adobe Acrobat includes features that allow you to automate ways to check the accessibility of a PDF file.  The Accessibility Check feature in Acrobat checks a PDF for many of the characteristics of accessible PDFs.  You can review the various accessibility problems to look for and how you want the results reported.

The Accessibility toolset is displayed in the secondary toolbar.  In the secondary toolbar, click Accessibility Check.

Image showing how to access the Accessibility Check

The Accessibility Checker Options dialogue box is displayed.

Image showing the Accessibility Checker options

In the Report Options section, select options for how you want to view the results.  You can save the results as an HTML file on your system or attach the results file to the document itself.  Select a page range if you prefer to check individual pages of a document.

Note: When you have a large document, running a full check/accessibility check one page at a time can be more efficient.

Select one or more of the Checking Options and click Start Checking.

The results are displayed in the Accessibility Checker panel on the left, which also has helpful links and hints for repairing issues. If you created a report in the previous step, the results will also be available in the selected folder.

Image showing the results of running the Accessibility Checker and the available options to correct the identified errors

The Accessibility Check feature cannot distinguish between essential and nonessential content types, so some issues it reports don’t affect readability.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to review all issues to determine which ones require correction.

The report includes feedback for each area it checks with each being given one of the following status categories:

  • Passed: The item is accessible.
  • Skipped By User: The rule was not checked because it wasn’t selected in the Accessibility Checker Options dialogue box.
  • Needs Manual Check: The Full Check/Accessibility Check feature couldn’t check the item automatically. Verify the item manually.
  • Failed: The item didn’t pass the accessibility check.

Image showing the results of running the Accessibility Checker and the available options to correct the identified errors

Additional techniques to carryout PDF accessibility checks

Reflow Tool

Use Reflow view to quickly check the reading order. Select View menu > Zoom > Reflow (or press Ctrl + 4)

Image showing a PDF document in standard View Image showing a PDF document in Reflow iew
In standard PDF document view In Reflow PDF document view

Find more information on using the Reflow tool here

Read Out Loud Tool

Use Read Out Loud to experience the document as readers who use the text-to-speech conversion tool experience it.  Select View menu > Read Out Loud > Activate Read Out Loud (or press Shift + Ctrl + Y)

Image showing ho to execute the Read Out Loud feature in Adobe Acrobat

Find more information on using the Readout loud tool here

Reading Order tool

Use the Reading Order tool, Order, Tags, and Content panels to examine the structure, reading order, and contents of a PDF.

Image showing ho to execute the Reading Order Tool in Adobe Acrobat

Find more information on using the Reading Order tool here.

Fix accessibility issues

To fix a failed check after running an accessibility check, right-click (Windows) the item in the Accessibility Checker panel. Choose one of the following options from the context menu:

Image showing to use the Accessibility Checker panel to review and resolve issues

  • Fix: Acrobat either fixes the item automatically or displays a dialogue box prompting you to fix the item manually.
  • Skip Rule: Deselects this option in the dialogue box for future checks of this document and changes the item status to Skipped.
  • Explain: Opens the online Help to offer more details about the accessibility issue (useful if you are unsure of what is causing the accessibility problem.
  • Check Again: Runs the checker again on all items. Choose this option after modifying one or more items.
  • Show Report: Displays a report with links to tips on how to repair failed checks.
Make PDFs accessible

The Make Accessible option includes steps that can be taken to make a PDF accessible. It gives prompts to address accessibility issues including missing document descriptions or titles. It also looks for other common elements that need further action including:

  • Scanned text
  • Form fields
  • Tables

You can run this action on all PDFs except dynamic forms and portfolios.

To run the Make Accessible feature follow these steps:

Choose Tools > Action Wizard.

Image showing how to access the Action Wizard tool in Adobe Acrobat DC

The Action Wizard toolset is displayed in the secondary toolbar (the original toolbar might collapse to reduce the amount of space that is used on-screen).

Image showing how to access the Action List available via the Action Wizard tool in Adobe Acrobat

From the Actions List, click Make Accessible.

Image showing how to access the Action List available via the Action Wizard tool in Adobe Acrobat

The right-hand pane changes to display each task included in the Make Accessible action and the instructions required to perform the action.

Image showing the Make Accessible options menu and the various features that are available

Select the file/s that you want to apply the Make Accessible action to. By default, the action runs on the document that’s currently open, so this is already selected. You can select Add Files to add additional files or a folder to run the action (or if you don’t have a PDF document currently open).

In this example the document selected is blogs.tees User Guide.pdf and the Prepare action selected is Add Document Description so when the Start button is pressed the Make Accessible wizard will load the options window to modify, set or configure these options.

Image showing an example of one of the features available via the Make Accessible options menu.

The Make Accessible feature includes a variety of techniques that can be applied to a PDF document to increase its accessibility compliance.