How To Guide
Welcome to Adobe Systems Incorporated’s “Creating Accessible Adobe® PDF Files: A Guide for Document Authors.”
This is a step-by-step guide that covers the basics for creating and optimizing Adobe Portable Document Format
(PDF) files so that they can be made more accessible to users with disabilities such as blindness or low vision.
This guide provides information on using Adobe Acrobat® 6.0 software and Adobe Acrobat Capture® 3.0 software
to optimize documents for distribution as PDF documents that can be easily read with the aid of Microsoft®
Windows® based assistive technology, such as screen magnification or screen reading software.
For more information on reading accessible PDF documents with assistive technology, consult the companion
booklet to this one: “Reading PDF Documents with Adobe Reader 6.0, A Guide for People with Disabilities.”
Adobe PDF and accessibility
PDF is a standard on the World Wide Web and is also used to distribute electronic documents over corporate
networks, by e-mail, and on digital media. Users of Adobe Acrobat software can turn virtually any electronic
document or scanned image into a PDF file. These files can then be read by anyone using free Adobe® Reader® 6.0
software. Many corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies use PDF to distribute documents
to the public or to groups in their organizations. PDF is also the basis for new processes; its support for accessible
electronic forms, digital signatures, password security, and electronic mark-ups make PDF the ideal platform for
converting yesterday’s paper-based business processes to interactive digital processes.
Adobe is committed to providing solutions that improve the accessibility of both Adobe Acrobat software and the
information contained in Adobe PDF files. In 1997, Adobe introduced the Access.Adobe website
(http://access.adobe.com). In 2001, Adobe enhanced the PDF specification to allow the creation of “tagged” PDF
files in Adobe Acrobat software. Tagging a PDF file makes significant improvements to the accessibility of the
document, providing a mechanism to indicate the precise reading order and improve navigation, particularly for
longer, more complex documents. It is possible to add alternate text descriptions (alt text) to graphics appearing in
tagged PDF documents. Tagging PDF files enables content reflow for large type display without content disappearing
from the edges of documents. Tagging also allows PDF files to be presented on smaller devices, such as personal
digital assistants (PDAs) and cellular phones.
Does making PDF documents accessible affect their appearance?
Tagging a PDF document for accessibility does not affect its look or visual integrity. The logical structure tree, or tags
tree containing the information used by assistive technology, is an underlying interpretation of structural elements
found in the visual representation of a PDF document.
One of the strengths of tagging is that the tags tree can be rearranged so the document is more readable to those who
have difficulty accessing the visual document. Tags provide a mechanism for adding alt text to images and links,
which makes it easier for readers to navigate and understand a document. Table headings can be identified so that
people using assistive technology can relate information in a table to a column title instead of having information
read to them randomly.
For more information, see “Tagged PDF” on page 14.