Daniel Ross led a PDF accessibility webinar for one of our faculty learning groups earlier this November. His goal was to teach the simplest yet most effective ways to make PDF files accessible to all users. Daniel also focused on making the PDF accessible for screen reader users.

Daniel emphasized how PDF files can be made accessible without a proficient understanding of computer coding. Through Adobe Acrobat Pro, he led the discussion on how to make these files accessible to all audiences.


To begin, launch Adobe Acrobat Pro and locate the Tools menu. From the action wizard, click Make Accessible, which will prompt the accessibility wizard. From here, press the start button, and your document will be scanned.

After clicking the start button, it will prompt you to enter a title and the author of the document. In most instances, the wizard will detect this from the cover page of your PDF. If your PDF does not have a cover page, you will have to manually enter the title and the author of the document. Once you are satisfied with these descriptions, click next/ok and continue.

A Recognize Text box will appear next. Briefly check this box to ensure your document is perceived in the intended language, and leave the other settings as they are. Click OK and continue.

The program will auto-tag information within the document. Over the course of the past few years, Adobe Acrobat Pro has made significant strides to streamline the accessibility process. Previously, small dots and underlines would be perceived as separate objects and would be tagged accordingly. Now, the program ignores these small mark-ups and makes the tagging process much easier.

You will be asked if the document is a fillable form. Daniel mentioned that most forms, at least within the University, are now web based. He advises to skip this step if you know that your PDF does not contain any form fields. You will be directed to the next prompt.

The next portion of the accessibility tester will ask you to scan the objects the program found and add alt text. You can either add the alt text at this step, or skip it and revisit it once the editor loads. It is important to note that you will only need alt text for images that users will need to understand the information within your document. If your document has simple decorative images, there is no need to add additional alt text.

One more field labeled Accessibility Checker will appear. Click Create Report so you can see all of the steps the program took to make your document accessible. This list will be available on the left window of Adobe Acrobat Pro. You can go back and modify anything the program found by right clicking (Windows) or two finger clicks (Mac).

Daniel notes that although the program has improved significantly over the years, you will still have to make some manual corrections. This is dependent on how well the program was able to interpret the PDF file you have selected. He recommends spending no more than a half hour on each PDF file. If the file is unapproachable after running the scan, he advises users to search for another version of the PDF online and to attempt the scan again.

See Adobe’s documentation for more information.

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