Our article on Abode Acrobat accessibility has recently been updated to include accessibility improvements made in Acrobat XI, the newest version of Acrobat Professional. While I often experience my fair share of frustration with Acrobat, it is the only program that I am aware of that makes accessibility improvements with each new version. Acrobat XI is no exception—it includes several new and improved features that make it much easier to create accessible PDF files.
Alternative text for images
Adding alternative text to images has always been a frustrating process in Acrobat. It usually entails viewing the document with the TouchUp Reading Order tool and searching for images that display the text “Figure – No alternate text exists.” You then have to right click on the image, select “Edit Alternate Text…”, and then type the alternative text in the provided box. This is very inefficient and time consuming, especially if a page has numerous images, or small images with overlapping alternative text. Acrobat XI now includes a “Set Alternate Text” option that allows you to add alternative text to all the images in your document at one time. It even includes the ability to identify an image as a “Decorative figure”, the PDF equivalent of alt=””.
TouchUp Reading Order Tool
There are two solid improvements to the “TouchUp Reading Order” tool. First, the number of available headings has been upgraded from 3 to 6. This is nice. While documents with sixth-level headings are not very common, I have often wished for an easier way to tag an item as an h4. An even more significant improvement is found in a single radio button that I passed over the first few times using the Acrobat XI. A new option to show “Structure types” allows you to view the tag structure of the page inline at a glance.
Several Solid Improvements
There are other accessibility features as well, including significant improvements to the accessibility “action wizard” and accessibility checker. The updated wizard quides you through several commonly-overlooked steps, including adding the document title and language, alternative text for images, etc. The accessibility checker does a better job of identifying issues that need to be checked manually and now provides helpful explanations for each rule. The export to DOC or PPT format is promising as well.
All in all, I am very pleased with the accessibility improvements in Acrobat XI. If you spend even a few hours a month modifying or creating tagged PDF files, this is a worthwhile upgrade.