PDF Accessibility Guidelines

PDF Accessibility Guidelines

Published: August 4, 2022

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    Portable Document Format PDF

    PDF is an open document exchange format. It was created in 1993 by Adobe Systems. It represents two-dimensional documents independent of the application operating system, hardware, and software. In this article, you learn a lot about PDF accessibility guidelines.

    Accessible PDF files outline the description of a 2D document that includes images, fonts, text, and 2D vector graphics that compose the document. With Acrobat 3D, 3D drawings can be embedded using PRC and U3D and various other data formats.

    A document saved as a PDF document (Portable Document Format) using Adobe Acrobat or another PDF document creator has some accessibility requirements:

    • Content should not be created in both PDF and HTML. It is preferred that HTML be used for accessibility, particularly for documents less than five pages.
    • PDF linking standards need to be followed.
    • Suppose the PDF contains non-public web content links. In that case, a disclaimer is required at the top of a document that explains that the web content in the document is only viewable to EPA employees who have access to the EPA’s intranet.
    • Do not force PDF file downloads. PDFs need to be opened in the browser. To open the PDF in another window or tab, follow the web standard for linking related content through overlays, pop-ups, new browser tab/windows, and tab/windows in the same browser.
    • Can a PDF Be ADA Compliant?

      When addressing accessible PDF concerns of a website, auxiliary documents linked to the site need to meet ADA standards. PDF content that is ADA compliant has been structured or edited to meet the standards.

    • Do PDFs need to be WCAG compliant?

      The federal government does not formally adopt the WCAG standards, but many states have adopted them. Various federal court rulings cited WCAG as the standard that meets digital accessibility laws.

    • How can I make my PDF fully compatible with accessibility standards?

      • According to the CDC, 81 percent of American adults live with disabilities. Some customers may find it challenging to consume the web content they create. While visually disabled individuals are mainly concerned, mobile hearing and vision impairments may also affect the content if they cannot access the information.
      • The ADA is intended to provide a safer environment for those with disabilities by ensuring that all public accommodations accommodate individuals with specialized disabilities. These places have employment, education, and travel assistive technology and websites for visitors.
      • Acrobat Pro walks the user through the steps needed to make an accessible PDF file. It addresses accessibility issues like a document title or description. The tool searches for other factors requiring action, such as images, tables, form fields, and scanned texts. It can be run on all PDF files except portfolios or dynamic forms (XFA documents).

    Steps to Make PDF Documents Accessible

    • Choose Action Wizard from the Tools option.
    • Click Make Accessible from the Actions List
    • The action runs by default on the currently opened document. Select Add Files and choose a folder or additional files you want to make accessible.
    • Click Start
    • Complete the Make Accessible action by following the prompts.
    • It is best to check accessibility with the screen readers users will use. If you do not have access to them, Adobe Acrobat Pro has an automated means of checking PDF file accessibility. The Full Check/Accessibility support feature checks for many accessibility characteristics of PDF files.
    • Choose Accessibility
    • Click Full Check/Accessibility from the secondary toolbar.
    • In the Report Options, select the option for reviewing the results.
    • Attach the results file to your document or save the results on your system as an HTML file.
    • To check individual pages, select a page range.
    • It is more efficient to run a full check/accessibility check on each page separately if the document is lengthy.
    • From the Checking Options, select one or more.
    • Click Start Checking.
    • The results on the left panel have helpful hints and links for repairing issues. The Full Check/Accessibility feature does not distinguish between nonessential and essential content.
    • Some issues reported do not affect readability. Review all issues to determine those that need to be corrected. The following statuses are displayed.
    • Passed
    • Skipped By User
    • Needs Manual Check
    • Failed

    PDF Techniques/Techniques for WCAG 2.0

    It isn’t always possible in every situation to successfully create PDF fully accessible content that is WCAG 2.0 compliant. Developers should understand the limitations of a particular technology and make the material accessible to those who are disabled. Portable document formats (PDFs) represent documents as an alternative to computer-readable formats.

    What’s the difference between a PDF and an accessible PDF? | PDF Accessibility and Compliance


    Accessible documents are PDF documents that people with disabilities can access. PDF documents will be considered accessible when they meet the accessibility standards. In April 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its landmark ruling. The court denied a request by Domino’s Pizza, a pizza company seeking information about accessibility requirements on its website.

    What are Tags in Adobe PDF?

    Tags provide assistive technology that can help interpret the content in PDFs or the reading order and helps them understand the information in the PDF to their users. The outline is not visible to blind viewers.
    Accessible PDFs should have the correct tags. Adobe also added tags to allow screen readers to view pdfs. Adobe’s integrated automatic tagging system does not make the best sense – but even with editing tags within Adobe Acrobat, the procedure may be challenging. The tree provides documents with corresponding structures.

    The PDF/UA Standard (Universal Accessibility)

    The PDF/UA format is internationally standardized and outlines normative terms to ensure easy use in the PDF format. This is part of ISO 32000-1. It includes requirements for readable PDF documents, adaptable PDF readers, and assistive technologies.
    The PDF/UA standard has been designed to enable anyone to view documents on the web and in PDF format easily. The user must be able to read the documents without the assistance of others professionally and have the same value as those with disabilities.

    WCAG 2.0 compliance

    The W3C designed Web site accessibility guidelines for Web Content to ensure that Web pages are accessible to the general public. WCAG 2.0 can apply to other electronic media by requiring interpretation in deciding whether to apply the WCAG 2.0 Principle.
    There hasn’t always been 1:1 mapping. For PDFs, the international standard ISO 1428-1:2014 specifies requirements. The PDF/UA standard requirements complement the WCAG 2.0 success criteria and therefore meet the requirement.
    Acrobat accessibility tools make creating accessible PDF documents and checking existing PDF documents’ accessibility easy. They help create PDF documents that meet WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards. The workflow lets you:

    • Make PDF documents accessible.
    • Check accessible PDF documents.
    • Report accessibility status
    • You can quickly locate and fix problem areas. The accessibility check tool verifies if a document conforms to standards of accessibility. Accessibility reports summarize the findings and contain links to documentation and tools to assist in fixing problems.

    PDF: A brief overview

    PDF is the most widely-used document file format worldwide. Adobe developed the PDF format during the early 2000s. It has revolutionized industry standards and enabled users to use the simplest software solution.
    It is no surprise PDF has quickly become the most widely used electronic document technology today. Over the past decade, PDFs have included modern functions like encryption and digital signatures, rich media, and annotation.

    Tell me the easiest way to create a PDF File


    Although PDF creation is available in many forms, none can match Adobe Acrobat Pro or Microsoft Word for PDF accessibility. Microsoft Word works best when creating a PDF with a simple structure.
    Adobe Acrobat Pro can create a highly readable PDF document with a wide array of features, and it can convert Microsoft Word files to PDF. This page provides suggestions for Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat Pro versions.

    How can I repair a PDF document?

    PDF files are among the most widely-used and supported formats worldwide. The format is used to share and save data while preventing modification. Many personal and commercial software PDF authoring tools are available for manipulating PDF files.
    Excessive use of the format may lead to corruption. An important corrupt document can disrupt workflow and cause deadline delays or loss of work. ADA Site Compliance can solve those issues for you.
    Possible reasons for corruption or damage are:

    • Improper download
    • Corrupted social media or drives
    • Unexpected system shutdown
    • Virus
    • Incompatible programs
    • Methods of repair include
    • Updating Adobe Reader
    • Trying other PDF readers.
    • Recovering damaged files from the file history
    • Recovering damaged files with the use of online PDF file repair tools
    • Recovering damaged files with the use of professional repair tools and software

    How can I improve my PDF accessibility?

    You can increase PDF accessibility support, particularly for visually impaired users. They often use screen readers to read the text. Adobe Acrobat Pro is among the most popular and best tools on the market. Tips for improving accessibility support are:

    • Using selectable text-to-speech software
    • Adding alternative text to images
    • Checking for proper reading order
    • Adding tags to indicate heading structure
    • Setting up a meaningful title
    • Specifying the document language
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