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Accessibility features in PDFs

  1. Acrobat User Guide
  2. Introduction to Acrobat
    1. Access Acrobat from desktop, mobile, web
    2. What's new in Acrobat
    3. Keyboard shortcuts
    4. System Requirements
  3. Workspace
    1. Workspace basics
    2. Opening and viewing PDFs
      1. Opening PDFs
      2. Navigating PDF pages
      3. Viewing PDF preferences
      4. Adjusting PDF views
      5. Enable thumbnail preview of PDFs
      6. Display PDF in browser
    3. Working with online storage accounts
      1. Access files from Box
      2. Access files from Dropbox
      3. Access files from OneDrive
      4. Access files from SharePoint
      5. Access files from Google Drive
    4. Acrobat and macOS
    5. Acrobat notifications
    6. Grids, guides, and measurements in PDFs
    7. Asian, Cyrillic, and right-to-left text in PDFs
  4. Creating PDFs
    1. Overview of PDF creation
    2. Create PDFs with Acrobat
    3. Create PDFs with PDFMaker
    4. Using the Adobe PDF printer
    5. Converting web pages to PDF
    6. Creating PDFs with Acrobat Distiller
    7. Adobe PDF conversion settings
    8. PDF fonts
  5. Editing PDFs
    1. Edit text in PDFs
    2. Edit images or objects in a PDF
    3. Rotate, move, delete, and renumber PDF pages
    4. Edit scanned PDFs
    5. Enhance document photos captured using a mobile camera
    6. Optimizing PDFs
    7. PDF properties and metadata
    8. Links and attachments in PDFs
    9. PDF layers
    10. Page thumbnails and bookmarks in PDFs
    11. Action Wizard (Acrobat Pro)
    12. PDFs converted to web pages
    13. Setting up PDFs for a presentation
    14. PDF articles
    15. Geospatial PDFs
    16. Applying actions and scripts to PDFs
    17. Change the default font for adding text
    18. Delete pages from a PDF
  6. Scan and OCR
    1. Scan documents to PDF
    2. Enhance document photos
    3. Troubleshoot scanner issues when scanning using Acrobat
  7. Forms
    1. PDF forms basics
    2. Create a form from scratch in Acrobat
    3. Create and distribute PDF forms
    4. Fill in PDF forms
    5. PDF form field properties
    6. Fill and sign PDF forms
    7. Setting action buttons in PDF forms
    8. Publishing interactive PDF web forms
    9. PDF form field basics
    10. PDF barcode form fields
    11. Collect and manage PDF form data
    12. About forms tracker
    13. PDF forms help
    14. Send PDF forms to recipients using email or an internal server
  8. Combining files
    1. Combine or merge files into single PDF
    2. Rotate, move, delete, and renumber PDF pages
    3. Add headers, footers, and Bates numbering to PDFs
    4. Crop PDF pages
    5. Add watermarks to PDFs
    6. Add backgrounds to PDFs
    7. Working with component files in a PDF Portfolio
    8. Publish and share PDF Portfolios
    9. Overview of PDF Portfolios
    10. Create and customize PDF Portfolios
  9. Sharing, reviews, and commenting
    1. Share and track PDFs online
    2. Mark up text with edits
    3. Preparing for a PDF review
    4. Starting a PDF review
    5. Hosting shared reviews on SharePoint or Office 365 sites
    6. Participating in a PDF review
    7. Add comments to PDFs
    8. Adding a stamp to a PDF
    9. Approval workflows
    10. Managing comments | view, reply, print
    11. Importing and exporting comments
    12. Tracking and managing PDF reviews
  10. Saving and exporting PDFs
    1. Saving PDFs
    2. Convert PDF to Word
    3. Convert PDF to JPG
    4. Convert or export PDFs to other file formats
    5. File format options for PDF export
    6. Reusing PDF content
  11. Security
    1. Enhanced security setting for PDFs
    2. Securing PDFs with passwords
    3. Manage Digital IDs
    4. Securing PDFs with certificates
    5. Opening secured PDFs
    6. Removing sensitive content from PDFs
    7. Setting up security policies for PDFs
    8. Choosing a security method for PDFs
    9. Security warnings when a PDF opens
    10. Securing PDFs with Adobe Experience Manager
    11. Protected View feature for PDFs
    12. Overview of security in Acrobat and PDFs
    13. JavaScripts in PDFs as a security risk
    14. Attachments as security risks
    15. Allow or block links in PDFs
  12. Electronic signatures
    1. Sign PDF documents
    2. Capture your signature on mobile and use it everywhere
    3. Send documents for e-signatures
    4. About certificate signatures
    5. Certificate-based signatures
    6. Validating digital signatures
    7. Adobe Approved Trust List
    8. Manage trusted identities
  13. Printing
    1. Basic PDF printing tasks
    2. Print Booklets and PDF Portfolios
    3. Advanced PDF print settings
    4. Print to PDF
    5. Printing color PDFs (Acrobat Pro)
    6. Printing PDFs in custom sizes
  14. Accessibility, tags, and reflow
    1. Create and verify PDF accessibility
    2. Accessibility features in PDFs
    3. Reading Order tool for PDFs
    4. Reading PDFs with reflow and accessibility features
    5. Edit document structure with the Content and Tags panels
    6. Creating accessible PDFs
  15. Searching and indexing
    1. Creating PDF indexes
    2. Searching PDFs
  16. Multimedia and 3D models
    1. Add audio, video, and interactive objects to PDFs
    2. Adding 3D models to PDFs (Acrobat Pro)
    3. Displaying 3D models in PDFs
    4. Interacting with 3D models
    5. Measuring 3D objects in PDFs
    6. Setting 3D views in PDFs
    7. Enable 3D content in PDF
    8. Adding multimedia to PDFs
    9. Commenting on 3D designs in PDFs
    10. Playing video, audio, and multimedia formats in PDFs
    11. Add comments to videos
  17. Print production tools (Acrobat Pro)
    1. Print production tools overview
    2. Printer marks and hairlines
    3. Previewing output
    4. Transparency flattening
    5. Color conversion and ink management
    6. Trapping color
  18. Preflight (Acrobat Pro)
    1. PDF/X-, PDF/A-, and PDF/E-compliant files
    2. Preflight profiles
    3. Advanced preflight inspections
    4. Preflight reports
    5. Viewing preflight results, objects, and resources
    6. Output intents in PDFs
    7. Correcting problem areas with the Preflight tool
    8. Automating document analysis with droplets or preflight actions
    9. Analyzing documents with the Preflight tool
    10. Additional checks in the Preflight tool
    11. Preflight libraries
    12. Preflight variables
  19. Color management
    1. Keeping colors consistent
    2. Color settings
    3. Color-managing documents
    4. Working with color profiles
    5. Understanding color management

A document or application is accessible if people with disabilities, such as mobility impairments, blindness, and low vision, can use it. Accessibility features in Acrobat, Acrobat Reader, and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) enable people with disabilities to use PDF documents, with or without screen readers, screen magnifiers, and braille printers.

Making PDFs accessible tends to benefit all users. For example, the document structure that enables a screen reader to read a PDF out loud also enables a mobile device to reflow and display the document on a small screen. Similarly, the preset tab order of an accessible PDF form helps all users, not just users with mobility impairments, fill the form more easily.

Accessibility features in Acrobat and Acrobat Reader fall into two broad categories. There are features to make the reading of PDF documents more accessible, and features to create accessible PDF documents. To create accessible PDF documents, use Acrobat, not Reader.

Features for accessible reading of PDFs

  • Preferences and commands to optimize output for assistive software and devices, such as saving as accessible text for a braille printer

  • Preferences and commands to make navigation of PDFs more accessible, such as automatic scrolling and opening PDFs to the last page read

  • Accessibility Setup Assistant for easy setting of most preferences related to accessibility

  • Keyboard alternates to mouse actions

  • Reflow capability to display PDF text in large type and to temporarily present a multicolumn PDF in a single, easy-to-read column.

  • Read Out Loud text-to-speech conversion

  • Support for screen readers and screen magnifiers

Features for creating accessible PDFs

  • Creation of tagged PDFs from authoring applications

  • Conversion of untagged PDFs to tagged PDFs

  • Security setting that allows screen readers to access text while preventing users from copying, printing, editing, and extracting text

  • Ability to add text to scanned pages to improve accessibility

  • (Acrobat Pro) Tools for editing reading order and document structure

  • (Acrobat Pro) Tools for creating accessible PDF forms

Acrobat Standard provides some functionality for making existing PDFs accessible. Acrobat Pro enables you to perform tasks, such as editing reading order, or editing document structure tags that are necessary to make some PDF documents and forms accessible.

Additional resources

For more information about accessibility features, see these resources:

About accessible PDFs

Accessible PDFs have the following characteristics.

Searchable text

A document that consists of scanned images of text is inherently inaccessible because the content of the document is images, not searchable text. Assistive software cannot read or extract the words, users cannot select or edit the text, and you cannot manipulate the PDF for accessibility. Convert the scanned images of text to searchable text using optical character recognition (OCR) before you can use other accessibility features with the document.

Alternate text descriptions (Acrobat Pro)

Screen readers cannot read document features such as images and interactive form fields unless they have associated alternate text. Screen readers can read web links; however, you can provide more meaningful descriptions as alternate text. Alternate text and tool tips can aid many users, including users with learning disabilities.

Fonts that allow characters to be extracted to text (Acrobat Pro)

The fonts in an accessible PDF must contain enough information for Acrobat to extract all of the characters to text for purposes other than displaying text on the screen. Acrobat extracts characters to Unicode text when you read a PDF with a screen reader or the Read Out Loud feature. Acrobat also extracts characters to Unicode when you save as text for a braille printer. This extraction fails if Acrobat cannot determine how to map the font to Unicode characters.

Reading order and document structure tags (Acrobat Pro)

To read a document’s text and present it in a way that makes sense to the user, a screen reader or other text-to-speech tool requires a structured document. Document structure tags in a PDF define the reading order and identify headings, paragraphs, sections, tables, and other page elements.

Interactive form fields (Acrobat Pro)

Some PDFs contain forms that a person is to fill out using a computer. To be accessible, form fields must be interactive to let the user enter values into the form fields.

Navigational aids (Acrobat Pro)

Navigational aids in a PDF include links, bookmarks, headings, table of contents, and preset tab order for form fields. Navigational aids assist users in understanding the document without reading completely through it. Bookmarks are especially useful and can be created from document headings.

Document language (Acrobat Pro)

Specifying the document language in a PDF enables some screen readers to switch to the appropriate language.

Security that doesn’t interfere with assistive software (Acrobat Pro)

Some PDF authors restrict users from printing, copying, extracting, adding comments, or editing text. The text of an accessible PDF must be available to a screen reader. You can use Acrobat to ensure that security settings don’t interfere with the screen reader’s ability to convert onscreen text to speech.

For more information about PDF accessibility, see www.webaim.org/techniques/acrobat/.

About tags, accessibility, reading order, and reflow

PDF tags are similar in many ways to XML tags. PDF tags indicate document structure: which text is a heading, which content makes up a section, which text is a bookmark, and so on. A logical structure tree of tags represents the organizational structure of the document. Therefore, tags indicate the reading order and improve navigation, particularly for long, complex documents without changing the PDF appearance.

Assistive software determines how to present and interpret the content of the document by using the logical structure tree. Most assistive software depends on document structure tags to determine the appropriate reading order of text. Document structure tags let assistive software convey the meaning of images and other content in an alternate format, such as sound. An untagged document does not have structure information, and Acrobat must infer a structure based on the Reading Order preference setting. This situation often results in page items being read in the wrong order or not at all.

Reflowing a document for viewing on the small screen of a mobile device relies on these same document structure tags.

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Often, Acrobat tags PDFs when you create them. To determine whether a PDF contains tags, choose File > Properties, and look at the Tagged PDF value in the Advanced pane of the Description tab.

In Acrobat Pro, the logical structure tree appears on the Tags panel. It shows document content as page elements nested at various levels.

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