Academic Technology and Creative Services : Spring 2009
PDF Accessibility : Creating Accessible PDFs 2
WHAT IS ACCESSIBILITY?
Accessibility in terms of electronic documents (in particular, documents provided for a general
audience on the Web) generally refers to facilitating the use of technology for people with
disabilities. Providing equivalent access to electronic documents for all faculty, staff and students
across the CSU system is required by SB302. This Senate Bill extends the requirements of
Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act to the California State University. To learn more
about accessibility requirements for Sac State, refer to Sac State’s Accessibility Web site
CREATE ACCESSIBLE PDF DOCUMENTS
The best method to create an accessible PDF is to START with an accessible file (such as an
accessible Word or PowerPoint document).
What Makes a PDF Accessible?
Accessible PDFs, above all, can be read intelligently by screen reader software (software used by
the visually impaired to read material on the screen out loud). Accessible PDFs contain “tags”
that define the document structure. Additionally, accessible PDFs:
Contain a logical reading order.
Have alternative text defined for all images in the document. This text is used to
describe an image in the event that the image cannot be seen.
Have header rows defined for tables containing data
Have a document language specified (e.g. “English”).
PDF forms, in addition to the requirements above, must:
Have field descriptions defined for all fields.
Contain the correct field tab order.
The text on an accessible PDF can also be “reflowed” on smaller-sized displays (e.g. cell phone).
When “reflowed”, all text can be viewed without the need to scroll back and forth horizontally.
Accessibility Features: Acrobat 8 vs. Acrobat 9 (Professional)
If possible, create and edit PDFs using the most current version of Acrobat. Improvements
toward PDF accessibility increase with each new version of the software. This handout is
written for Acrobat 9 Professional users, but most listed features and steps are compatible with
version 8 as well. Differences between versions are noted when applicable.
In particular, version 9 of Acrobat Professional offers increased functionality of accessibility
tools, such as the Table Editor.