Updating PDFs for Accessibility

These instructions are courtesy of the Catholic University of America and used with permission.

Updating PDFs for accessibility is a fairly simple process.

  1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro.
  2. Click on Tools in the upper right-hand corner.
  3. Go down to Action Wizard in the menu.
  4. Click on Make Accessible in the submenu, under Actions.
  5. Press the green Start button near the top of the new menu.
  6. Assign a new Title and Subject to the PDF. Title is fairly straightforward; perhaps incorporate “ADA” in the original title. For Subject, choose keywords related to the PDF’s topic.
  7. Make sure the Primary OCR Language is set to English (unless the document is in some other language), PDF Output Style is Searchable Image, and Downsample is set to 600 dpi, and press OK.
  8. If you’re updating a PDF that is meant to be used as a fillable form, where data can be input in the user, choose Yes, Detect Form Fields on the next dialog box. Otherwise, choose No, Skip This Step.
  9. Choose the primary language and press OK.
  10. Acrobat will pop up a message saying, “Acrobat will detect all figures in this document and display any figures with missing alternate text.” Press OK. At this point, there are two possibilities:
    1. Acrobat won’t find any figures without alternate text, and will tell you so. Just press OK to continue.
    2. Acrobat will find some, and will bring up the Set Alternate Text box. Input a description that can be used for those who can’t see the image. If it’s nothing more than an illustration, click the “Decorative Image” checkbox. Use the arrows to move through all the images, and when finished, push the Save and Close button.
  11. Press the Start Checking button at the bottom of the Accessibility Checker Options box. You may want to turn off the “Create Accessibility Report” option (first on the list).
  12. Several things will usually be flagged in the Accessibility Checker that comes up on the right-hand side.
    1. Under Document, Logical Reading Order and Color Contrast will almost always be flagged. Those need a manual evaluation. Assuming the document isn’t poorly laid out or difficult to read, right-click on them and select Pass.
    2. It’s not uncommon for Bookmarks, also under Document, to show up as Failed. Right-click on it, choose “Fix”, then press Select All and OK.
    3. Other flags are usually the result of Acrobat not really understanding what kind of document this is. If anything stands out, escalate this to your supervisor; otherwise, just right-click and select “Skip Rule.”
  13. When finished, save the document. You’ll know that it’s updated if the title on the top left changes to match the new title you entered in Step 6.