Creating Accessible PDF Forms using Adobe Acrobat Professional
High Tech Center Training Unit for the California Community Colleges
- What are PDF "tags"?
- Creating a "tagged" PDF from MS Word
- Interactive PDF Forms
- Evaluating and Manipulating the Reading Order
- Image Only PDF
- Scanned image - does not contain text content
- Requires some type of OCR to be read
- Searchable PDF
- contains text content (can highlight the content on page)
- However, reading order is questionable
- Tagged PDF
- contains a document structure with a specified reading order
- headings, form fields, etc. are identified
- Tags provide structure to a PDF document
- The Tag structure can be used to control document reading order
- Tags can also improve PDF Form accessibility and conversion to alternate formats
Creating PDFs from MS Word
- Software Necessary
- MS Office 2000 (or later)
- Adobe Acrobat 5.x, 6.x, 7.x, OR 8
- Sample Workflow
- Create your content in MS Word
- Use "Styles" to provide document structure and modify content presentation
- Use the Column tool in MS Word to display multi-column layout
- Add appropriate descriptions for any images
- Convert to PDF using the "Convert to Adobe PDF" option from the menu bar
Creating a "tagged" PDF from MS Word and then adding interactive form fields is one method to creating an accessible PDF form. However, if the document needs constant revision (or even just minor updates), then it will be necessary to constantly redo the form creation process each time the content of the PDF needs updating - a potentially tedious task. Documents that require constant revision may be better suited to Adobe's LiveCycle Designer tool that creates XML-based documents from which accessible PDFs may be created. Rather than redoing the PDF document each time, edit the form content in Adobe's LiveCycle Designer and export out the revised PDF.
Adding Tags to PDF Documents
- An untagged PDF document may or may not have a logical reading order
- Tags may be added automatically by selecting:
Advanced > Accessibility > Add Tags to Document
- Sample Workflow
- Use automated tool to add tags to document
- Add appropriate descriptions for images
- Check reading order of document and modify where necessary
Untagged PDF documents may be usable with assistive computer technology, however, it is not possible to manipulate the reading order until the document becomes tagged. A PDF document created using Distiller would be an example of an untagged document.
Designing PDF Forms
- Planning the Form
- What type of functionality should the form provide?
- What information are you attempting to collect?
- Do you require a signature for completion/authenticity?
- How often will the form need to be updated?
- Identify the Technology
- Do you require a database?
- What versions of Adobe Reader will you support?
- Do you need security on the form?
- Will others need to edit the PDF form after it has been created?
There are several different form authoring tools provided by Adobe to create PDF or HTML versions of a form. Adobe's LiveCycle Designer allows authors to create XML-based forms that can be exported to PDF version; however, it is not possible for others to then edit this form using Adobe Acrobat. Adobe PDF Forms Access is another tool that will allow document authors tag PDF documents as well as add the necessary form fields for accessibility.
Form Field Types
- Text Fields
- Check Boxes
- more than one answer
- Example: Please mark all that apply
- Radio Buttons
- only one answer
- Example: Please select "Yes" or "No"
- List Box
- Combo Box
Creating Form Fields - Sample Workflow
- Open the tagged PDF document in Adobe Acrobat
- Select the Tags tab
- In the Options submenu, turn on the following options:
- Tag Annotations
- Highlight Content
- Navigate in the tags tree to the correct "tag"
- Choose the form input field type and draw the field on the PDF
- Add information to the Tooltip field to communicate to assistive computer technology
If dealing with calculation fields, one trick is to create a separate form field for the calculation and set the Form Field: property as "Hidden". This will cause assistive computer technologies to skip this field and not read it to a user.
- Ensure the button is part of the tag structure to maintain sequential keybaord navigation (i.e., "tabbing")
- Set the Options as a "Push" button with a text label
- Create an action with the trigger set to "Mouse Up"
- Set the Action to be "Execute a menu item" and set the action to be "Reset a Form"
Evaluating the Reading Order
- Save the PDF as Text (Accessible) or Text (Plain)
- Review the resulting text file for errors or inconsistencies in the document reading order
- Use the TouchUp Reading Order tool
- Review the specified zones and the order in which the zones are numbered
- Need to monitor multi-column layouts, sidebars, and figures for correct reading order
It is important to assess the reading order if the document contains a number of text boxes or sidebars as these are not always organized into a logical reading order.
Manipulating the Reading Order
- Adding content to the reading order
- Ensure the document is a tagged PDF and open the TouchUp Reading Order tool
- Draw a zone around the text you wish to add and select the appropriate label (e.g, Text, Heading, etc.)
- Removing content from the reading order
- With the TouchUp Reading Order tool open, select the appropriate zone you wish to remove
- Select the "Background" button in the TouchUp Reading Order panel
- This removes the specified zone (and content) from the document tag structure
The TouchUp Reading Order tool may also be used to reclassify headings, tables, or images in the document
- Sean Keegan
Web Accessibility Instructor
- High Tech Center Training Unit for the California Community Colleges