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Adobe PDF Accessibility

The Law

Section 508
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was amended in 1998 to require Federal agencies to make electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The accessibility of electronic content (PDFs) is also required in this amendment.
  • 1194.21 (F): Textual information shall be provided through operating system functions for displaying text. The minimum information that shall be made available is text content, text input caret location, and text attributes.
  • 1194.21 (I): When electronic forms are used, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
  • 1194.22 (D): Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.

Universal Design

Creating accessible PDFs is beneficial for a variety of student populations, not just the visually impaired.

  • Accessible PDFs allow text to be recognized as text and not as an image meaning students can highlight and take notes on the digital documents.
  • The text of an accessible PDF can also be read by any screen reading software–students can listen to the documents on the go!
  • Creating accessible PDFs does not sacrifice the visual appearance of your document, so only one file type is needed.
  • Accessible PDFs use XML tags to structure the document content. Structured content makes document search easier, helping students to review readings and content quickly.

 

Note: The accessibility checker is only available through Acrobat Pro. Acrobat Reader cannot perform this function.

The Accessibility Checker tool in Adobe Acrobat Pro finds accessibility issues in your PDF Documents. The tool generates a report of issues that could make your content difficult for people with disabilities to understand. Accessibility Checker also explains why you should fix these issues and how to fix them.

Start Accessibility Checker

  1. Open the PDF document (.pdf) that you would like to review for accessibility.
  2. Select Tools.
  3. Select Accessibility.
  4. Select “Full Check.”
    The Accessibility Menu contains options including Autotag Documents, Reading Options, Full Check, Accessibility Report, Identify Form Files, Set Alternate Text, Setup Assisstant, and Reading Order. Select "Full Check" to get your accessibility report.
  5. Select “Start Checking.”
  6. The Accessibility Checker pane will open on the left-hand side of the screen.
    Right-click on flagged items and select "Explain" to learn more.
  7. Right-click a specific issue and select “Explain” to see an explanation of the problem and steps to remediate.
    Right click on an item in the Accessibility Checker to access the Context Menu. This menu includse options like Pass, Fail, Skip Rule, Explain, Check Again, Show Report, and Options.

Understand the Inspection Results

After Accessibility Checker inspects your content, it reports the inspection results based on the severity of the issue found, categorized as follows:

  • Passed: The item passed the accessibility check.
  • Passed Manually: The item was marked passed by manual inspection.
  • Skipped by User: The rule was not selected in the Accessibility Checker Options dialog box.
  • Needs Manual Check: The Full Check feature could not check the item automatically. Verify the item manually.
  • Failed: The item did not pass the accessibility check.

Understand the Context Menu

A context menu is available for each accessibility result. To see the context menu, right-lick on the item in the Accessibility Checker panel. Choose one of the following options from the context menu:

  • Fix: Acrobat either fixes the item automatically, or displays a dialog box prompting the user to fix the item by entering information or making a choice. For example, a dialog is displayed allowing the user to enter alternative text for an image.
  • Skip Rule: Deselects this option in the Accessibility Checker Options dialog box for future checks of this document, and changes the item status to Skipped.
  • Explain: Opens the online Help.
  • Check Again: Runs the checker again on all items. Choose this option after modifying one or more items.
  • Show Report: Displays the accessibility report for the page range/document with links to tips on how to repair failed checks. The link to tips is the same as the help that is provided by the “explain” item. Once the report is shown, a new option to attach the report also appears.
  • Options: Opens the Accessibility Checker Options dialog box where checking options can be set.

Download Examples

Accessible PDF

Inaccessible PDF

Inaccessible Scanned PDF

Adobe Resources

Adobe Acrobat Accessibility

Visit this webpage to learn more about Adobe Acrobat’s accessibility standards, features, guides, and templates.

Make Your PDFs Accessible

Learn more about the “Make Accessible” tool in Adobe Acrobat Pro. Learn to check for and fix issues.

UMKC Resources

Accessibility Open Lab

Do you have concerns or questions about accessibility? Do you need help making videos, Word Documents, PowerPoints, Excel Files, or PDFs accessible? Come join our Accessibility Open Lab! Bring your questions and inaccessible materials with you.

Download Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Checker Instructions

Keep a copy of instructions for the Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Checker on your computer for easy reference!

Legal Resources

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

Learn about Section 508 and UMKC’s legal obligation to create and deliver accessible content.

PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.0

Learn about techniques for creating accessible PDFs in order to meet WCAG 2.0 standards.