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Re: Are Forms in MS Word Accessible?

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From: Elizabeth Thomas
Date: Dec 1, 2021 12:27PM


I agree about the problems with forms in Word.
I have done a fair amount of work on fillable PDF forms and have a process that works fairly well if you must author in Word. I author the form in Word but don’t actually add any form fields. I also don’t add any visual indicators of the form fields in Word (e.g., underlines or boxes) because I then would have to artifact them in the PDF. However, the tradeoff is that with no visual indicators of form fields, Acrobat can’t really identify the fields (if you have form field auto detection on). Instead of underlines and boxes, I leave enough white space where the form fields will go. Some people prefer to add the visual indicators in Word and artifact them in the PDF. I have found it takes me longer to do it that way, but it might work better for you depending on the type of form you created.

I export the Word doc to PDF as a tagged document. Before I add the form fields, I use the reading order tool to tag chunks of text for any line with multiple form fields per line. for example, if name and email are on the same line, in the PDF I tag them as two separate paragraphs (you could also tag them as spans contained in the same paragraph tag, which might be more semantically appropriate ). I retag this text, because I want the reading order to be “name,” “form field for name,” “email,” “form field for email.”

Then I add all of the form fields in the PDF (with appropriate tooltips), and adjust the appearance of the fields, as appropriate, to be boxes, underlines, etc. Finally, I tag all of the form fields and put them in the correct place in the tag tree.

That’s probably more detail than you want or need, but those are the basic steps if the source file is Word. It’s a long, tedious process and future updates often require doing most of the work in the PDF. Consequently, when it makes sense to do so, I have the content authors create a web form instead. However, my agency has a lot of forms we provide for other entities to use, and the easiest way to do that is to create a fillable PDF form.

And this ends the longest email about PDF forms. Hope at least some of that was helpful. ;)

-Elizabeth Thomas
State of New Jersey, ADS, CPACC

Sent from my iPhone

> On Dec 1, 2021, at 6:41 AM, Steve Green < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:
>
> Hi Jim,
>
> I have done a load of research into this and the answer is categoric - Word forms are hopelessly inaccessible to a variety of user groups even if you do absolutely everything possible. As you have found, converting to PDF just makes things worse and you have to add all the form controls again in Acrobat.
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> The best solution is to author the form in InDesign and export as PDF. If you do everything right, my understanding is that you shouldn't need to fix anything in Acrobat.
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> BTW, Ted Page of Accessible Digital Documents knows more about the topic than anyone I know. It's all he's done for the last 15 years, so you can trust what he says. We used to subcontract our document remediation to him, but he's always booked solid with training courses so we now do it all in-house again.
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> I'd be happy to collaborate if there are any parts of this you don't fancy doing yourself.
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> Steve Green
> Managing Director
> Test Partners Ltd
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>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: WebAIM-Forum < <EMAIL REMOVED> > On Behalf Of Jim Byrne Accessible Web Design
> Sent: 01 December 2021 11:17
> To: WebAIM Discussion List < <EMAIL REMOVED> >
> Subject: [WebAIM] Are Forms in MS Word Accessible?
>
> Hi,
>
> I’ve been trying to figure out if it is possible to create accessible forms in Word - but there seems to be a lot of competing views on the issue.
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> I’ve watched videos that imply that as long as you use good accessibility practice they will be accessible. And I’ve seen articles that say they might be technically accessible but in practice they are not - because of the way the security protection works:
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> "You can't make Microsoft Word forms accessible (enough) …"
> https://accessible-digital-documents.com/blog/you-cant-make-microsoft-word-forms-accessible-enough/
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> Are these security issues still relevant to the current version of Word?
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> Assuming they can’t be made accessible, what’s the recommended practice for converting them to PDF? Again I’ve seen competing advice. The standard advice for creating accessible PDFs is to export them as tagged documents - but I’ve also seen advice (on the Adobe website) saying that, unless the forms are simple, the tagging should be done in the PDF editor itself and that documents should be exported untagged?
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> As a test I created a form in a Word document and exported it to PDF, but when the I opened it the form fields had gone, apart from the checkboxes. Creating forms in word doesn’t seem to be a work well. ????
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> So is the best advice to create everything in Word apart from the forms - and create the form fields in the PDF editor? (I am aware that accessible forms can also be created on a web page.)
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> Sorry for the long email. I’ve been getting frustrated trying to get a clear picture on this.
>
> Jim
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> About Jim Byrne
> With over two decades of experience Jim Byrne is one of the UK’s most experienced practitioners in the area of accessible web design. Jim provided feedback during the development of WCAG 2 as part of the Guild of Accessible Website Designers. He is the author of a number of technical books, training courses and accessibility guides. Jim was a winner of the equal access category of the Global Bangemann Challenge.
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> Jim Byrne: Specialist in Accessible Website Design.
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> Web: http://www.jimbyrne.co.uk
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> Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/jimbyrnewebdev
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> Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thirdsectorwebsitedevelopment
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