[BCAB] Accessible PDF

Jack Garfinkel j.garfinkel at helpthehospices.org.uk
Mon Apr 18 16:59:48 BST 2011

Hi Sam,

I'm sighted so it goes without saying that my advice is no substitute for proper testing. With that proviso, I've given you an overview below covering conversion from Word and retro-fitting an existing PDF. If you're situation is different e.g. your source document is a PowerPoint presentation, let me know.

Feel free to contact me off list if you want!

Jack Garfinkel

Online Editor

*Is PDF right for you?*
If this is online content, a normal web page may server you better in terms of accessibility if that's your primary concern. Consider your options

*Converting from word*
If you're starting with a word document, you're really asking is how to produce an accessible Word document which is something I train in-house staff on here.

Web aim have good resources on using Word:
Proper heading levels are the easy win, although there are more formatting subtleties once you've mastered the basics.

Adobe also have their own document:

You also need to convert it in the "correct" way - this isn't hard though, just be aware that that all PDF 'printing' programs are created equal.

Web aim on converting using Word 2007 or 2010:

If you only have word 2003 and don't want to buy Adobe Acrobat, then Open Office (and presumably, the forked project Libre Office) is your best bet. It will open .doc files, and the PDFs look pretty good under the hood to me.

Open office Wiki entry on exporting to PDF:

 *Retro fitting an existing PDF*
You need someone with Acrobat Professional who can manually tag the document to make it fully accessible. This assumes that the text in there is 'available' as text - generally it is though unless you're really unlucky. Even a scanned documents can usually have 'OCR' run on them, although results may be mixed.

Adobe's documentation on their tagging semantics is pretty poor, but does follow HTML principles. I learned most of what I know by looking at files converted from well formatted word documents and from a couple of other online resources:
-Adobe's overview of the 'accessibility repair workflow'
-Adobe's overview of PDF tags

If you've got a paid up version of Adobe Acrobat, there are other options - If you're lucky you might be able to export/convert to plain text which would allow access to the content even if not making the structure accessible.

-----Original Message-----
From: bcab-bounces at lists.bcab.org.uk [mailto:bcab-bounces at lists.bcab.org.uk] On Behalf Of Howie, Sam
Sent: 18 April 2011 11:25
Subject: [BCAB] Accessible PDF

Hi All
Can anyone tell how I can make pdf files fully accessible to screen reader users? Are there are set guidelines

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