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Accessibility Workshop on OER for Hostos

PDF Accessibility

PDF Accessibility

  • If you are using PDFs in your course you need to make sure they are accessible.
  • Creating an accessible PDF document from scratch is not easy. It is easiest to first produce an accessible document using WORD or PowerPoint or HTML and then saving it as a pdf.
  • However sometimes professors need to include content they scan as a pdf, such as an article or chapter from a journal or book. This content needs to be made accessible.   
  • First step: Set up your scanner to scan with OCR "Optical Character Recognition" On.
    • This means the page is scanned for individual characters and not as a singular image, and is therefore searchable.
    • Check each scanner to see where this is to be set-up
  • After you scan your document run it through Adobe Acrobat Pro "Accessibility Checker" (instructions below) to fix accessibility issues.
  • As an aside, when you are scanning your documents, try and limit the amount of black bars along the edges, this will limit the amount of toner users who print out your scans will need to use.

Watch and listen to the same PDF but in different states of accessibility. The first example shows you a badly scanned and tagged PDF. The second example shows you the exact same section of the PDF but made accessible.

Attribution: [Lauren Alcorn] (2016, Apr.5 ) Example of Using a Screen Reader with an Accessible PDF [Video File]. Retrieved from

If you are curious the screen reader is reading an excerpt from Andrea Smith's (2016) Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy - Rethinking Women of Color Organizing. In Violence, I. N. C. I. T. E. W. C. A. (pp. 66-73) Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology. Durham: Duke University Press.

Here is an example of a screen reader reading an article, which is formatted in 2 columns but the reading order has not been set, so the screen reader jumps from column to column, reading the text incorrectly. If this pdf had been properly tagged and the reading order set, the screen reader would know the correct reading order.

Attribution: [NC State IT Accessibility] (2013, Oct.16) Untagged PDF Being Read by a Screen Reader [Video File]. Retrieved from

Fixing PDF with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Instructions on checking PDF accessibility with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

FYI: all CUNY computers have Adobe Acrobat Pro DC installed.

  1. Step One: Set Up "Action Wizard" & "Accessibility Checker"

    • Open Adobe Acrobat DC Pro
    • Click on “Tools” from 2nd TOP menu (next to “Home”)
    • In the search box type in “Action Wizard”
    • Click “Add” to add the “Action Wizard” to the right column's shortcut menu
  2. Step Two: Begin Check

    • Open up your PDF
    • Click on “Tools”
    • Click on “Action Wizard” located now on your right shortcut menu column.
      • If you don’t see the right column look for an arrow along the right hand side of your screen and click on arrow to open up your right hand column.
      • If for some reason you still don’t see an arrow or the right column just type in “Action Wizard” again in the search box in the top menu area to get to the “Action Wizard”.
    • Select “Make Accessible” from the right column's “Actions List”
    • Click on the “Start” button
    • Note: You will now see a series of pop-up boxes .
  3. Step Three: Description

    • You will see a box which allows you to "tag” your document with some information.
    • Tag your PDF with "Title”, “Author”, “Subject” and “Keywords”.
    • To edit information you’ll need to uncheck the “Leave As Is” box.
  4. Step Four: Recognize Text and General Settings

    • Select “Document Language”
    • Select “Output” type:
      • Searchable Image: Ensures that text is searchable and selectable. This option keeps the original image, deskews it as needed, and places an invisible text layer over it.
      • Searchable Image (exact): Ensures that text is searchable and selectable. This option keeps the original image and places an invisible text layer over it. Recommended for cases requiring maximum fidelity to the original image.
      • Editable Text and Images: Synthesizes a new custom font that closely approximates the original, and preserves the page background using a low-resolution copy.
  5. Step Five: Is PDF a Fillable Form?

    • Select whether PDF is an online “fillable” form. Select “Yes, Detect Form Fields” or “No, Skip this Step”.
  6. Step Six: Reading Language

    • Set “Reading Language”
  7. Step Seven: Figure/Image Detection

    • "OK” the detection of all figures and display any figures missing ALT-TEXT (alternative text)
    • If NO images are found you’ll get a pop-up box telling you nothing was found
  8. Step Eight: Set Alternative Text (Alt-text)

    • If there are images or figures missing “Alt-Text” this pop-up box will appear
    • Type in the “Alt-Text” for each image in this field.
    • Make sure to put a period at the end of your alt-text.
    • You also have the option to select “Decorative Figure” if the image is only decorative.
    • Need Help figuring out what is good alt-text for your images, check out this video "Composing Meaningful Alternative Text"
    • NOTE:
      Sometimes it is not easy to tell what images the automated system is asking about so it may be best to hit the “Save & Close” button here and check/fix image alt-text issues from the “Accessibility Report” where it is easier to see the images since they are highlighted. (See section III)

  9. Step Nine: Understanding the Accessibility Report and fixing issues

    • Your accessibility report will appear on the left hand column
    • Any item with an issue will be listed in BOLD and the number of issues will be noted in parenthesis
    • The report displays statuses for each rule check:
      • Passed: The item is accessible.
      • Skipped by User: Rule not checked, user choose to skip rule in Accessibility Checker Options dialog box.
      • Needs Manual Check: Full Check feature couldn't check item automatically. Verify the item manually.
      • Failed: The item didn't pass the accessibility check.
    • Failed Items:
      • Right click on any item which says “Failed”
      • Select “Fix”, “Skip Rule” or “Explain”
      • If you choose “Fix” the system will fix items it can automatically
      • For other items a pop-up box may appear which will allow you to fix items.

Here is a video walking you through the steps to run Adobe Acrobat Pro's "Accessibility Checker" on your PDF.

Attribution: [lirpapierson] (2016, Jan. 24) Making a PDF accessible with Acrobat Pro DC [Video File]. Retrieved from

Here is a video walking you through checking your PDF's reading order using Adobe Acrobat Pro's "Accessibility Checker".

Attribution: [Better Design 4 All] (2017, Nov. 18) Touch up Reading Order [Video File]. Retrieved from