Acrobat 7-9 and Accessibility
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Although you can create accessible PDF files in several programs, there is one program that allows you to evaluate, repair, and enhance the accessibility of existing PDF files--Acrobat Professional.
This article covers PDF accessibility in older versions of Acrobat Professional, specifically Acrobat 7-9. This page will not be updated as future versions of Acrobat are released. For information about the current version of Acrobat, see the page on Acrobat X. For more information about general PDF accessibility and about converting Microsoft Word Documents and other document formats to PDF, see the main page on PDF and accessibility.
TouchUp Reading Order
This feature is only available in Acrobat 7 and later.
The TouchUp Reading Order feature is a new and promising addition to Acrobat 7 and later. This is the first real feature to offer a fast way to tag a PDF. Although it can speed up the tagging process, it does not take the place of the other tools mentioned previously.
To use the TouchUp Reading Order tool, select. When this feature is selected, the view on the screen will change. All of the content will be enclosed in numbered boxes. Each of these boxes represents a tag and the number corresponds with the tag number in the panel. The window will also open.
If you have TouchUp Reading Order open and don't see any boxes, your PDF document is probably untagged.
You will notice a group of buttons with the names of several common tags. You can use these buttons to assign tags to a selected block of text or an object.
TouchUp Reading Order is not perfect. Selecting text is difficult and many tags are not supported. It is also somewhat difficult to assign alternate text to images. Still, it is easier to mark up a PDF file using this feature than any other way.
There are two ways to select an area of text, image, table or other element using TouchUp Reading Order.
- Drag a box around an element using the crosshairs that have replaced the default pointer. It is sometimes difficult to select exactly the right area, but it is a little easier if you try drawing a box that is slightly larger than the element. Once you have selected a new element, you can assign some of the most common tags to that element by clicking on one of the several buttons.
- You can also select everything within a box by clicking on the number at the top left corner.
Now that you have selected the text, you can assign a tag by clicking on the corresponding button. Once you select a button, Acrobat will place the selected content in the appropriate tag. If you have thepanel open, you can view these changes instantly.
While in, you can also assign alternate text to images by on the image and choosing .
|Button||Adobe Tag||Additional information|
||If you select the image and the nearby caption image will be tagged as a figure and the text will be tagged as its caption.|
||Acrobat attempts to assign rows, columns, and headings. Sometimes it does this correctly, but this should still be checked with the table inspector.|
||Can be used to merge cells if they are incorrectly split|
|Background||none||Also called an artifact, this will hide an item completely from a screen reader.|
This feature is only available in Acrobat 7 Professional and later.
Although the reading order of a PDF can be changed to match the visual reading order by dragging tags around within thepanel, there is an easier way in Acrobat 7 and newer. To open the panel, select or View > Navigation Panels >Order or select Show Order Panel in the TouchUp Reading Order tool.
At first glance, it resembles thepanel, but there are a few differences.
- The document is divided into pages.
- Each element is numbered, and the numbers start over on each page.
- There is no hierarchy of elements; everything is on the same level.
These differences help make thepanel a much easier way to reorder tags. To change the reading order of an element, just click and drag the tag to the location that reflects the correct reading order. This new order will be reflected in the Tags panel and when the document is viewed in mode.
The easiest way to add alternative text is with the TouchUp Reading Order tool. When an image is tagged as an image (or figure), the alternative text will appear next to the image. If it has no alternative text, the caption will read "Figure - No alternate text exists."
To add alternative text, right click on the image and select Edit Alternate Text. Enter the appropriate alternative text in the dialog box.
This feature is only available in Acrobat 8 or later.
The Table Inspector allows you to easily identify and assign scope to table headers.
With the TouchUp Reading Order tool open, select a table and then select Table Inspector. You can now select table cells that should be headers. Right click on a selected cell or cells and choose Table Cell Properties. A dialog box will appear.
If the selected cell(s) needs to be tagged as a header, select the Header Cell option and assign a scope of either Row or Column. After selecting OK, you will notice that the table header cells will be highlighted in red and the data cells will be highlighted in gray.
Artifacts are elements that are ignored by a screen reader, much like an image with empty alternative text in HTML is ignored. Important text should never be labeled as an artifact. As with alternative text, the easiest way to change an element to or from an artifact is with TouchUp Reading Order tool. Select the element and press the Background button to make it an artifact.
To search for artifacts, go to thepanel and select . A window will appear with several search options. Artifact is the default search, so click . If there are any artifacts, the search will identify them and allow you to change them to other elements.
To change a tag to an artifact in the tags panel,on the item and select .
Other Tools and Features
Convert Scanned Text
Before you can create a tagged PDF, you must first ensure that the PDF contains real text. If it does not, you must either reconvert it to Acrobat (if you have the original file) or convert it to text. To convert the document, choose Document > OCR Text Recognition > Recognize Text Using OCR. The quality of the text depends on the quality of the source document. The conversion is usually fairly good, but you should probably clean up the document by selecting Document > OCR Text Recognition > Find All OCR Suspects.
Acrobat Professional includes two different Accessibility Checks. The first, the Quick Check, is not as helpful as it might sound. The Quick Check basically tells you whether the file has tags or not. It doesn't identify even the most basic errors, such as missing alternate text. To run a Quick Check select.
The Advanced Check () is a more detailed version of the Quick Check. Although it is more complete than the Quick Check, it is far from complete. Still, it does identify features such as missing alternate text and offers hints on how to repair some errors.
As with HTML, a screen reader will read a PDF document by the order of its tags, but the order of the tags in a PDF may not be the same as the visual reading order. This is especially likely if the PDF contains multiple columns or other blocks of text or complex nested lists. The Reflow Tool will allow you to see the visual order of the document’s content as determined by the order of the tags.
Select Ctrl + 4. If the document does not appear in the correct order while in Reflow view, the order of the tags will need to be changed.or
Read Out Loud
Read Out Loud is a voice synthesizer that is available in Adobe Reader and Acrobat. It allows you to have the content of a PDF document read to you, approximating what a screen reader user might encounter. For more information see the Read Out Loud section in the WebAIM article on Adobe Reader.
Related WebAIM Resources
- Accessibility Features in Acrobat Reader 7
- Review of CommonLook™ Section 508 Plug-In for Adobe Acrobat
- Creating Accessible Documents with Adobe Acrobat 7.0- PDF - external link. From the Adobe site