Advanced accessibility tools

Use advanced accessibility tools to make custom, manual adjustments

These tutorials are meant for advanced technical authors with a baseline understanding of device and web accessibility. If you encounter challenges creating accessible PDF documents using these guidelines, visit the Getting Help page to contact different groups that can provide support.

Note: These guidelines apply to Adobe Acrobat Pro XI on Windows. There could be differences when applying the techniques with other versions of Adobe Acrobat.

Verify the tag structure of a PDF

After running the Make Accessible Wizard, you will need to verify that the structure of the document is accessible.

Check the tags that have been added to the PDF via conversion from Word or the Wizard, and verify that they are accessible. These tags are similar to HTML tags and indicate the PDF’s underlying structural markup.


  1. Open the Tags panel by clicking on the Tags button in the Navigation pane.
  2. Review the tag structure to make sure each tag contains appropriate content:
    • Headings as <H1-H6>
    • Paragraphs as <P>
    • Images as <Figure>
    • Lists as <L>
    • Tables as <Table>
  3. If the tag does not contain the appropriate content, you can modify it using the TouchUp Reading Order tool.
Acrobat Tags Panel selected, highlighted, and open showing the tag structure of a PDF.
Step 1: Open the Tags panel by selecting the Tags button in the Navigation pane.

TouchUp Reading Order tool

You can use the TouchUp Reading Order tool to quickly add and edit PDF tags. Authors can also use the tool to determine the reading order of elements on each page, which instructs assistive technology what to read.


To display the TouchUp Reading Order tool:

  1. Go to the Tools menu.
  2. Choose Accessibility.
  3. Select TouchUp Reading Order tool.
Adobe Acrobat Touch Up Reading Order Tool dialog.
To display the reading order, visit the Tools menu and expand the Accessibility section. Then choose the TouchUp Reading Order option.

Additional advanced options

  • Document reading order

    The TouchUp Reading Order window contains a group of buttons with the names of common tags. Use these buttons to assign tags to selected text or objects.


    • Use the Text button for body text.
    • Use the Heading 1-6 buttons to assign correct heading levels.

    Once the TouchUp Reading Order tool has loaded, the view on the screen will change.

    Content is highlighted in boxes with numbered tags
    View the tags and reading order of your document using the TouchUp Reading Order tool.

    Note: If the Structure Types radio button is selected in the tool, pages will display structural tags for each content item instead of the reading order.

  • Add or remove items from the reading order

    Sometimes content that is part of a PDF’s reading order will recut on multiple pages, e.g., repetitive headers or footers.

    This content does not need to be presented to users of assistive technology more than once. Mark it as background content, and it will be ignored by assistive technology.


    To tag content as background content:

    1. Highlight each appropriate element.
    2. Select the “Background” button in the “TouchUp tool” dialog.

    Note: If a part of the page is not in a grey box as tagged content, it has already been designated as background content.

    If the background content should actually be read by assistive technology, drag a box around the content. Select the appropriate button (e.g., TextHeading 1-6, or Figure) from the TouchUp tool dialog to tag the content and adjust its place in the reading order.

  • Check and modify the reading order

    Use the TouchUp tool’s Order panel to adjust the reading order of page content to match the visual reading order.


    To open the the Order panel and adjust the reading order:

    1. Select the Show Order Panel button in the TouchUp tool dialog.
      The Order panel will appear in the left sidebar with each piece of content and a number reflects its place in the reading order. Each page has its own reading order, starting at number one.
    2. Drag and drop the content so that the assistive reading order reflects the page’s visual reading order.

    Order panel with numbered content
    Use the Show Order Panel button to view the reading order of the content.

  • Modify tags

    The TouchUp Reading Order tool can also be used to add and edit tags for multiple types of content.

    To add a new tag to a part of a PDF document, drag a box around the content and select the appropriate “tag type” button (e.g., Figure) from the TouchUp tool dialog.

    To edit an existing structural tag for part of the PDF, select the content box then select the appropriate “tag type” button from the TouchUp tool dialog.

  • Add alternative text descriptions for informative non-text content


    To add or change alternative text when using the TouchUp Reading Order tool:

    1. Right-click on the image.
    2. Select the Edit Alternate Text option.
    3. Enter the appropriate alternative text in the new Alternative Text dialog box.

    The alternative text should describe the purpose or function of the image using the fewest words possible. Using fewer than 15 words is a good rule of thumb.

    If the image is purely for decoration and serves no informative purpose, no alternative text should be provided.

  • Provide appropriate structure for data tables

    Use the tool’s Table Editor mode to provide or modify both row and column headers for tables in a PDF document. When the Table Editor mode is active, table header cells will be identified in red.


    1. To activate Table Editor mode, right-click on a table and select the Table Editor option.
    2. To add or modify headers:
      1. Drag a box through the cell(s), or select the cells one-by-one.
      2. Right-click on a selected cell(s).
      3. Select the Table Cell Properties option. A dialog should appear.
      4. Within this dialog’s Type section, select the Header Cell radio button and appropriate Scope option (e.g., row or column).

    If the table contains multiple levels of table headers, visit the Getting Help page to find assistance.

Re-verifying accessibility with an Accessibility Full Check

After modifying a PDF’s tags or adjusting its reading order, always re-verify its accessibility using the Accessibility Full Check tool.


To open the Accessibility Full Check:

  1. Go to the Accessibility subsection of the Tools pane.
  2. Select the Full Check option.
  3. Adjust any of the Accessibility Checker Options, if needed.

If any accessibility issues remain, the author may need to repeat some of the steps listed above.

For details about resolving accessibility issues found in the Accessibility Full Check, go back to the Verify accessibility with an Accessibility Full Check section from the Accessibility tools page.

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General guidelines     Accessibility tools