Documents (PDF)


PDFs created from scanned or inaccessible documents need to be “tagged” in order to make them accessible.

Who’s affected

Screen reader users, keyboard users


Guideline 1.3.1 Info and Relationships, Guideline 1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence

What to do

First, make sure you have a copy of Adobe Acrobat Pro DC on your computer. The University provides a license to the full Adobe Creative Suite for faculty, students and staff.

PDFs are typically created from source documents created in a Microsoft Office or a Google product. The easiest way to make a pdf accessible is to create it from an accessible source document (or go back and edit the source doc to make it accessible, then reproduce the pdf).

Born accessible – make a PDF

Once you’ve determined that your source document is accessible:

  • Use your chosen software’s native “File > Save/Download > Download as PDF” functionality to output a PDF
  • Open it in Adobe Acrobat Pro and run the Accessibility checker
  • Remediate if necessary based on the Accessibility checker results

Remediation: When you don’t have access to the source document

This happens a lot. To fix an inaccessible PDF use Adobe’s help documentation. It’s going to be the most up-to-date and accurate for your version of acrobat.  Adobe: create and verify PDF accessibility

Remediation steps:

  1. Add metadata.
  2. Add and touch up tags.
    1. Here’s why: short video of a screen reader reading untagged pdf (:29)
  3. Fine-tune reading order and tab order. 
  4. Check your work.

Remediation: Make a scanned document accessible

Use Acrobat Pro DC’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tool, then follow remediation steps.

Recommended tools: Adobe help sheet on editing scanned documents, How to Tag a table in Adobe Acrobat Pro (video: 12:56)