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Make Accessible PDFs with Adobe Acrobat Professional

Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Professional Version 8 or 9. From the Adobe Acrobat Professional toolbar, select:

  • Advanced
  • Accessibility

Note that in Version 8, accessibility is near the bottom of the Advanced menu. In Version 9, accessibility is located at the top of the Advanced menu.

Check for tags 

Tags identify specific elements in the document such as text and images for screen readers to use. It may already have tags. If so, that will save you a step. Find out if the document has already been tagged. From the Adobe Professional toolbar, select Accessibility.

If “Add Tags to Document” is in gray text, that means the document has already been tagged:
Add tags to document with gray text indicating the file has been tagged

If “Add Tags to Document” is in black text, tags have not yet been added.

Add tags to document in black text indicating the file has not been tagged

To add tags, select Add tags to Document. The software will do its best but it's not perfect.

Repair tagging errors

If there are tagging errors, Adobe Professional will provide you with an error report. The report appears at the left of your screen listing the issues found and how to repair them.
Scroll down to the section titled Accessibility. Click on the first comment. In this case, the first comment is Figure missing AltText on page 10.

Accessibility report

When you click on the comment, Adobe Professional will highlight the figure or image that's in question, making it easier for you to locate the problem.
Add alternate text by using the TouchUp Reading Order tool. Select:

  • Advanced
  • Accessibility
  • TouchUp reading order

When the TouchUp Reading Order tool appears, the tagged elements in the document will appear as numbered boxes.

Tagged elements displayed in numbered boxes

To add alternate text:

  • Place your cursor on the figure's number (such as 14 above)
  • Right click to access a menu of options
  • Select edit alternate text
  • Insert the alternate text.
  • Click ok

Adjust the reading order

When a page is read by a screen reader, it will follow the numbered order of the tagged elements in the document from lowest to highest. Usually, Adobe Professional does a fairly good job of assigning reading order.

However, if you need to change the reading order, from the Adobe Professional toolbar, select:

  • Advanced
  • Accessibility
  • TouchUp Reading Order
  • Show Order Panel (an option on the TouchUp Reading Order dialog box)

Show order panel

A list of the tagged elements will display as yellow boxes. If you want to change the reading order, click on the box you want to move and drag it to its new location.

Tagged elements displayed as yellow boxes that can be moved to adjust reading order

Use accessibility quick check

Use Adobe Professional’s Quick Check to make sure you haven't missed any major accessibility issues. From the Adobe Professional toolbar, select:

  • Advanced
  • Accessibility
  • Quick check

The Quick Check results will appear on the screen.

Accessibility quick check results

If it passes the Quick Check you've done an adequate job of making it accessible. You can choose the full check option if you wish to check it more thoroughly.

Check the document properties

It's important to check the document properties in your PDF. From the Adobe Professional toolbar, select:

  • File
  • Properties
  • Make sure you are on the description tab

Check the following six properties:
Document properties display

File (file name): The file name will appear at the end of the url when it’s posted to a website. The file name should not contain spaces or special characters like $, %, etc. Capitalize the first letter in each word to make it easier to read.

Title: The title of the PDF will appear in a search result list. It should make sense out of context.

Author: Use the office name where it was created.

File Size: Check the file size of the document. Adding tags to a document increases its size because of the extra code created behind the scenes. To reduce the file size, from the Adobe Professional toolbar, select:

  • Document
  • Reduce file size
  • Select make compatible with Acrobat 5.0 and later
  • Click ok

Maximum file size is less than 5 megabytes (5,120 kilobytes).

Tagged PDF: Make sure that Tagged PDF is marked Yes. If it’s marked No, add tags to the document. From the Adobe Professional toolbar, select:

  • Advanced
  • Accessibility
  • Add tags to Document

Fast Web View: Check that Fast Web View is marked Yes. If it isn't, save the file again by selecting Save as from the File menu. Save as will produce a PDF that is Fast Web View enabled which makes it download more quickly from the server.

Video training

WSDOT staff can view a video showing this process on the intranet at: