Accessibility tools

Assess the accessibility of existing PDF documents using Adobe Acrobat Pro

Adobe Acrobat Pro features tools that can both verify and improve the accessibility levels of existing PDF documents. You can use these tools with any PDF, no matter what authoring tool was used to create the document.

The process of creating an accessible PDF requires the installation of Adobe Acrobat Pro. IU Students and Staff may download latest version of Adobe Acrobat Pro from IUware.

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.

Use the Make Accessible Wizard to verify and improve the accessibility of a PDF

Adobe Acrobat’s Make Accessible Wizard runs a set of steps used to check for proper accessibility information but also allows users to edit or provide the required information.


To start the Wizard:

  1. Select the Action Wizard menu from the Tools sidebar.
  2. Select the Make Accessible option and activate the Start button.
Adobe Acrobat Tools panel with Action Wizard option expanded and the Make Accessible Action selected and highlighted.
Select Make Accessible in the Tools sidebar to verify and improve accessibility.

The Wizard will guide the user through the following steps to verify and improve accessibility of the document:

  1. Add Document Description — Allows the user to add information to the document. Users should enter a descriptive document title or verify the title is correct. Other fields are optional.
  2. Set Open Options — Determines how the document will open. This step runs automatically, and no user action is needed.
  3. Recognize Text using OCR — Converts images of text contained in the PDF to plain text. This step should be run regardless
  4. Detect Form Fields — Detects form controls in the document and attempts to provide labels for each field. This step is only necessary if the document contains fillable forms. All form labels should be verified for accuracy.
  5. Set Tab Order Property — Attempts to set the correct reading order for the document. Although this step runs automatically, the reading order should be verified manually.
  6. Set Reading Language — Sets the primary language for the document. This will be English for most documents.
  7. Add Tags to Document — Adds PDF “tags” to the document. The tags provide accessibility information to assistive technology and need to be manually checked for quality.
  8. Set Alternate Text — Allows the addition and verification of alternative text. The arrow buttons should allow switching among images. Check the Decorative Figure box for images that should be ignored by assistive technology.
  9. Run Accessibility Full Check — Runs a full accessibility check on the PDF. The Accessibility check will be discussed in detail below.
Acrobat Set Alternative Text dialog with the annotation “Insert Alt Text Here” placed above the Alternative Text Field. The Decorative Figure Checkbox is also highlighted.
Step 8: Check Decorative Figure if assistive technology should ignore the image.

Verify accessibility with the accessibility checker

The Accessibility Full Check tool will check the entire document and expose any accessibility concerns organized by type of concern, including:

  • document
  • page content
  • alternative text


To start the Accessibility Full Check, activate the Start Checking option in the Accessibility Checker Options dialog. There is no need to change any of the Accessibility Checker options unless you are an advanced user.

The Full Check will produce a report that will appear in the Accessibility Checker panel in the Navigation Pane. Each of the categories in the Accessibility Checker can be expanded to view detailed accessibility information.

Acrobat Accessibility Checker results panel selected and open showing the accessibility results for a PDF.  The checker lists 3 Document issues including reading order, title, and color contrast.
View your results using the Accessibility Checker in the Navigation pane.

To address any issues, right-click errors and warnings, then select Fix, or select Skip Rule if the issue has already been addressed or manually checked. If you need further information about an accessibility issue, right-click and select Explain to find help information online.

Address outstanding PDF accessibility concerns using advanced tools

For most authors, using the Make Accessible Wizard and running the Accessibility Full Check should be enough to address most accessibility concerns in a PDF document.

If concerns persist, advanced users can use the Advanced Tools to manually improve the accessibility of a PDF document.