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June 13, 2017 /Adobe Acrobat DC /Learn /

Adobe Continues to Improve on Making PDFs Accessible

Creating accessible PDF documents is an important and yet sometimes challenging process. Depending upon the accessibility of the original source document there may be many steps involved in making the PDF version accessible. At Adobe, we are continually working to improve that process. With Adobe Acrobat Pro DC you get continuous updates and access to the latest features and with the most recent release we’ve made improvements to help you more efficiently create an accessible PDF document.

Creating Accessible PDFs on the Mac

Acrobat Create PDF for Word docs on Mac now creates well tagged PDFs to support meeting the PDF/UA standard. For the best results, it is important to have run the “Accessibility Checker” in Word and resolved any errors first. As is always the case in creating an accessible PDF, the more accessible the source document is, the better results you will get in the conversion process.

Once the latest version of Acrobat Pro has been installed an Acrobat tab will be added to the Word Ribbon. Selecting that tab brings up the option to Create PDF. Upon selecting to create a PDF the accessible Word document will be converted to a PDF document tagged for accessibility. Depending upon the structure and content of the document some remediation may be necessary. This can be done using the Accessibility tools built into Acrobat Pro.

Word ribbon on the Mac showing the new addition of the Acrobat tab for generating PDFs tagged for accessibility

Remediating PDFs in Acrobat

Tag Panel Improvements

Tag Tree Expanded by Default

Typically, one of the first steps in fixing the tags for a PDF would be to expand the Tag Tree to show the major tags in the document. This has often been a time consuming and repetitive process  for the remediator. To improve the efficiency of the remediation process, the Tag Tree (Structure Tree) is now expanded by default to display the primary document structure tags such as:

  • Paragraphs <P>
  • Headings <H>
  • Lists <L>
  • Tables <Table>
  • Images <Figure>

Tag Tree showing expanded by default to display the primary structure tags

Delete All Empty Tags

There are times when fixing tags within a document that you may end up with a number of empty tags that just don’t belong in the tag tree. Although these empty tags are not likely to cause any difficulty for a screen reader, it can lead to confusion every time the tag tree is reviewed as to whether those tags need to be fixed or just deleted. Obviously, the longer the document the greater impact this will have and the more time it has taken to individually delete these tags.

To solve this, we have added new functionality in the dropdown menu located at the top of the tags panel (to the left of the circled “I”). Open the dropdown menu and under the previously existing “Delete Tag” option you will now find a selection to “Delete Empty Tags”. This will delete all empty tags except for valid empty tags such as <TD>, <TH>, and <Link-OBJR>.

A cautionary note is relevant, sometimes not all empty tags should be empty, it is important to ensure that you have resolved all empty tag issues first before executing this functionality. However, since undo functionality was added to the Tag Panel in the October 2016 release, Ctrl + z will undo this action if you’ve taken it in error.

Tag Panel with the dropdown menu open showing the new "delete empty tags" function

Improved Contrast for Selection Indicator

In the past, it has sometimes been difficult, depending on the content and structure of the document to clearly see which content has been selected. To help alleviate this issue, the blue selection rectangle now has greater contrast making is easier to see what is selected.

Tag tree and document showing the increase in contrast for the selection rectangle around the selected paragraphs

Preflight tool to check PDF/UA

For some organizations, the Preflight tool is used to verify that your PDF contains only the features, fonts, and formatting that you’ve specified. Now, as part of using the Preflight tool to inspect and, in certain cases, correct the document’s contents you can also use the accessibility tools to improve the accessibility of your document. These tools function in exactly the same manner you’ve previously learned to use them in Acrobat but now, if you are using Preflight, you can accomplish all of your remediation tasks in one place.

In Closing

The Adobe Document Cloud team is committed to providing more innovations and an improved experience for creating accessible PDFs. To that end there will be updates in each release of Acrobat Pro DC which will be detailed in our continuing series of Document Cloud accessibility blogs. In addition to information about updates to Acrobat Pro DC, there will be a series of “Tips and Tricks” blogs covering steps to create accessible PDFs.

Stay tuned for our next blog which will cover the improvements made to the mobile Acrobat Reader experience using screen readers to read well-tagged, accessible, PDF documents.

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