PDF Accessibility with Adobe Acrobat Pro

Last modified 6/21/2023

Accessible PDFs are an essential aspect of digital inclusivity, ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal access to information. Adobe Acrobat offers features to help improve the accessibility of a PDF.

Why Accessible PDFs Matter

Accessible PDFs are designed to be inclusive, allowing individuals with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the content. By making your PDFs accessible, you provide equal access to information, fostering inclusivity and enhancing user experience. Accessible PDFs benefit a wide range of users, including those with visual impairments, cognitive disabilities, or mobility challenges.

Where to Start?

Not sure where to start? No problem, follow along as we take you through all steps to consider when publishing an accessible PDF.

Need Access to Adobe?

Visit Adobe at ISU to download the latest version of Acrobat from Adobe Creative Cloud.

Adobe offers different versions of their Acrobat software, including Adobe Acrobat Pro and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. Instructions for accessibility should remain the same. You just want to make sure you are not trying to use the free Adobe Reader to update your PDFs for accessibility. If you have questions about your version of Acrobat, contact the web accessibility coordinator.

Check the Source Document

Do you have access to the original source document(s)? It is almost always easier to make the source document accessible before converting it to a PDF. At least, it will be a good start.

Open Adobe Acrobat

Open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro or Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. 

You must use Adobe Acrobat and not Adobe Reader. Adobe Reader does not have the tools needed to make the changes to your PDF. Illinois State University Students, Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Assistants have access to Adobe Acrobat Pro through the Adobe Creative Cloud. Undergraduate students can request student access.

Check the Document Type

Determine if your PDF is an image-only, a readable, or a tagged document. Ultimately, you want to have a tagged document. If your document is already readable or tagged your can skip to the Check for Form Fields heading.

Perform Text Recognition

If your document is an image-only, perform text recognition with Acrobat's optical character recognition (OCR) tool. This will give you a readable PDF document. You will need to tag the document for accessibility after you update the form fields and links.

In My Own Words

Meet Jessica who relies on readable PDFs.

Check for Form Fields

If your PDF has form fields, add or update interactive form controls with helpful tooltips. 

If your PDF contains linked text make sure they are selectable and open to the correct target link.

If your links are broken or not selectable, you can add/update links in Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Check Your Media

Ensure any media embedded or linked to from your document is provided in accessible formats.

For more information on accessible media:

Tag Your Document

Now is the time to check your document tags. Your document is not fully accessible without adding document tags.

Document tags are needed to tell screen readers and other assistive technology how to interpret the content's format and determine the reading order of the page's content. Remember, if you need to edit the content of your document during or after tagging, you may need to re-tag the document or form.

Title Your Document

Finally, add a descriptive document title to your file's properties.


Additional Resources