Creating Accessible PDF Forms using Adobe Acrobat Professional

Sean Keegan

High Tech Center Training Unit for the California Community Colleges



PDF Tags

Creating PDFs from MS Word


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

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


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


Creating Form Fields - Sample Workflow

  1. Open the tagged PDF document in Adobe Acrobat
  2. Select the Tags tab
  3. In the Options submenu, turn on the following options:
    • Tag Annotations
    • Highlight Content
  4. Navigate in the tags tree to the correct "tag"
  5. Choose the form input field type and draw the field on the PDF
  6. 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.

Button Fields


Evaluating the 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

The TouchUp Reading Order tool may also be used to reclassify headings, tables, or images in the document


Thank you