WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: Regarding accessible PDF authoring


From: Chagnon | PubCom
Date: Sep 27, 2012 9:20PM

Hope I'm interpreting your question correctly. You want to know if a user
can make an inaccessible PDF accessible from within Acrobat Pro (current
version is X/10).
The answer is "it depends." [Long explanation follows.]

Yes, there is a utility in Acrobat Pro that can add accessibility tags to a
PDF. In my classes I call it the "pseudo magic wand" and it's located in the
Accessibility Tool Panel. By default this particular panel is hidden so it
first must be "un-hidden" to be able to see the "Add Tags to Document" tool.

At first glance it looks like this tool magically solves the problem by
adding tags to the document, but once you review those tags you realize that
they're often in accurate. That's why my first answer is "it depends."
Depends upon how the original source document was constructed in MS Word,
Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe InDesign, or any other program.

Here are some key things I've found when remediating PDFs for accessibility:
1) It will make tags, but Acrobat won't be able figure out some of the items
in the document. It might get most of the headings correct, or not. Depends
upon how the source document was made, such as in MS Word, as to whether
Acrobat will be able to identify headings.
2) Same with lists.
3) Figures will be identified, but you'll have null tags " " that won't have
Alt-text on them. I don't think any software program can figure out what
whether the graphic is a logo or a photo or a detailed bar chart with
statistical data.
4) Forget about forms. If the PDF already has form fields in the file, it
will identify them but you won't have labels and who knows what the tab
order will be. If it's a "printed form" that is like a paper version without
the electronic fields, it will be like any other text-based PDF.
5) Designers and document creators often uses graphical text rather than
regular text. This text is usually unreadable unless it has Alt-text or
Actual text on it.
6) Reading order is often all over the place, not in the correct order.
Again this is based on how the document was originally constructed in Word
or other source programs.
7) Sidebar boxed text may or may not be found and if it is, it probably
won't be in the correct area of the reading order.
8) Tables are usually identified, but you won't have any <TH> tags
identifying the column headers.

You asked, "can this be done using JAWS?"
No, not in my opinion, unless it's an extremely simple document correctly
constructed in Word.
Most of the problems listed above are hidden from blind users so they won't
know that these sections of the PDF are either untagged (and therefore
inaccessible) or incorrectly tagged.

- Bevi Chagnon

- PubCom.com - Trainers, Consultants, Designers, and Developers.
- Print, Web, Acrobat, XML, eBooks, and U.S. Federal Section 508
- It's our 31st year!

-----Original Message-----
[mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of Bryan Garaventa

It's been a long time since I last looked into this, but does anyone know if
the latest version of Acrobat Pro and JAWS13+ support accessible PDF
I'm not referring to accessible PDF documents that include tagging for
accessibility, but rather, the ability for non-sighted authors to use the
Acrobat editor to make PDFs accessible when they may not be.
For example, I know you can take an MS Word doc and convert this into a
tagged PDF, but if the tagging isn't accurate, and it's necessary to modify
the tagging to change or add headings, or to add form fields into a PDF
where none were tagged before, can this be done using JAWS?