PDF Accessibility Overview

Adobe Acrobat is the key to both check and fix PDF accessibility. Acrobat is rarely used to create a document, though. It’s not made for that. The more accessibility work you do in the application where you create your document, such as Word, the less you’ll have to do in Acrobat.

Why PDFs Matter

Students who use screen readers often have trouble reading PDFs. Problems include being hard to navigate, having content that reads out of order, and being completely unreadable.

Why so Many PDFs are Not Readable by Screen Readers

When a student can’t read a PDF with a screen reader, it’s most often because of one of the following.

  • No text. The document must have real text, not just an image of text.
  • No tags. The content must have tags. These lie below the surface, like HTML tags.
  • Incorrect order. Even with text and tags, your content may get read by a screen reader in an order you would not expect.

The most common culprits are articles that people scan from print publications then save as PDFs. Each page is one big image. To a screen reader, there is no text to read. Students with screen readers may have software that will use optical character recognition to make text from an image and then will add tags to the text. Although this kind of solution may help students get by, automated remedies frequently fall short of providing full accessibility.

Where to Get Acrobat

Wright State faculty and staff may install a recent version of Adobe Acrobat for free on their work computers. If you have a Wright State-owned PC, you probably have a “Software Center” where you can access an Acrobat installer. Until a Mac version of Software Center is released, Mac users who want to install Acrobat may call the Help Desk, (937) 775-4827. See the CaTS Personal Purchases page for information on getting Acrobat at a discount for your personal computer. It’s part of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Note: Adobe Acrobat is not the same as Adobe Reader, which is for reading PDF documents and not designed to edit PDFs or make them accessible.

Next Step

Once you have Acrobat installed, you may want to learn to use its “Make Accessible” wizard.

Also, Adobe provides a PDF on making accessible PDFs:

Adobe® Acrobat® X Pro Accessibility Guide: Best Practices for PDF Accessibility