This blog post continues the series on accessibility in the digital world, and is also the second in a sub-series on Non-HTML Content Accessibility; it will be the first of two (2) posts on PDFs. The great thing for those who use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC (which is what we have at UNT, and it is necessary to have the Pro version to have all of the accessibility options) is that there are many features available to make and improve accessibility. If you need to purchase Adobe Pro DC there are a few options: buy it at a store, buy it online at Adobe website, or at Amazon.           It is important to make your PDFs accessible. People with disabilities or who use screen readers have more trouble accessing files that have not been made accessible. When you make a document accessible it benefits everyone, PDFs created with accessibility in mind can be reformatted by the software to be read on mobile devices, and preset tab orders for forms assist by making it easier and predictable to complete the document. Also PDFs use a “logical tagged structure tree:” this is within each document coding and provides a reading order, defined element roles and relationships, and alternative and replacement texts. 

How to Make a PDF Accessible

It may seem daunting to make a document accessible, but if you know what to look for and how to create one from scratch it is much easier to make the changes. 
  1. You need to understand the nature of PDFs, and the intended use of the document.
  2. Make sure that the text is searchable. If you have a scanned document this is especially important as a scan is a visual representation, a photo. To correct this convert the scanned document using Adobe’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
    1. Go to Tools
    2. Click Enhance Scans
    3. Recognize Text; there are 2 choices, usually you will select “in this file”
    4. Go to settings on the Recognize Text sub-bar. I recommend making sure output is set to “Editable Text and Image,” and Downsample to “600 dpi.” Click OK.
    5. Finally, click the “Recognize Text” button, and let the OCR run. It will go through the document without anything else from you. Once it is done, it can take time if you have a large file, save the document before doing anything else.
  3. Use text characters that are unicode or easily converted to unicode. This includes many of the fonts available in Microsoft Office Suite. If it cannot convert the text to unicode it will select the nearest font it does recognize (this can cause character recognition issues so double check).
  4. Make sure that you specify the document language, this assists in character recognition, and in allowing screen readers to pronounce the words and phonetics properly.
  5. Descriptive Titles help all users locate and identify the document quickly and easily. It is much easier to find a document titled “Dec2017_ProjectedBudget” than one titled “Document 53.”
  6. Be careful with security settings. Screen readers can still read protected documents, but you need to make sure that the settings are correct, and automatically allow for the necessary accessibility permissions. The best long-term solution is to make sure that the screen reader or other assistive technology is registered with Adobe as a Trusted Agent or you can do single sign on; either will override security settings that prevent the trusted assistive technology from functioning. While maintaining all other forms of security.
  7. Alternative Text Descriptions for Non-Text Elements; this has been touched on in a previous post. It applies to images, audio, video, and multimedia elements. It can be found in the Content Panel
  8. The last thing to talk about on this post is Document Structure Tags, which helps ensure proper reading order. This identifies headings, paragraphs, sections, tables, and other page elements. This can also be found in the Content Panel. These are especially important is you are working on Forms and Interactivity for you PDF.
The second part of PDF accessibility will focus on Forms, Interactivity, the Repair Workflow feature of Adobe, as well as their Accessibility Checker.  

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