PDF Accessibility: Streamlined

 In Articles, Compliance, PDF Accessibility, Software

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Streamline PDF Accessibility with Adobe’s Auto-tagging and CommonLook

Accessibility Automation

As mentioned in a recent CommonLook article, there has been a lot of focus lately on using automated “solutions” for PDF tagging and accessibility. While automation makes it sound wonderfully easy, it doesn’t necessarily get the job done better. In fact, full accessibility cannot be achieved 100% through automation – it always requires a certain amount of manual labor either proactively, before the PDF is generated, or as remediation after the fact. (The article PDF Accessibility: Automation vs Remediation Fact Checker goes more in-depth into the types of things that are typically missed, or tagged incorrectly, when automation is used.)

Auto-tagging PDFs

In addition to the claims about how quickly automation can do things, there have been a lot of claims along the lines of “our tool can automatically tag PDFs in bulk and get you most of the way there.” (Notice, though, that they admit to only getting your PDFs partially compliant!) Of course, what they don’t tell you, and what you may not be aware of, is that Adobe Acrobat Professional can automatically tag PDFs in bulk, too! If you’ve already got Adobe Acrobat, then you don’t need another tagger. In fact, Acrobat’s been adding tags to PDFs longer than anyone else, during this time they’ve spent a lot of effort (and money) enhancing their functionality and its accuracy, and it shows!

Furthermore, using Adobe Acrobat to automatically add tags to your PDFs in bulk is really a pretty simple process and, at the same time, with the guidance they provide, you may get a more correctly tagged document than if you used Acrobat on individual documents, one at a time. All you need to do is, go to the Action Wizard (in the Tools menu), choose “Make Accessible” and choose the PDFs you want to tag. When you select “Start,” Acrobat will run you through a few additional steps. You’ll be asked to verify the metadata (Title, Author, etc.), Acrobat will run OCR (Optical Character Recognition – for scanned documents) if needed, it’ll ask you if form fields are needed, and check the images asking you to add Alternative Text if needed or to mark them as decorative, if appropriate. When the process is finished, save your changes, and Acrobat will automatically repeat the steps for the next document.

Because PDF accessibility can’t be done 100% through automation even though Acrobat has improved their tagging functionality, chances are there will be some touch-up work that needs to be done in the tags when the process is done; but this is true no matter whose technology you’re using to add tags. (Again, some of the things requiring correction or manual verification are discussed in our other article referenced earlier.) So, where do you go from there? The Acrobat “Full Check” might be a good place to start although, historically, that checker has been known to miss some things and it doesn’t verify that documents conform to any established accessibility standards. Other free testing options include the PAC 3 checker or CommonLook’s PDF Validator. The PAC-3 checker will test PDFs against the PDF/UA standard and CommonLook’s PDF Validator will test them against WCAG 2.0AA, PDF/UA and the HHS (US Department of Health and Human Services) standards.

Fix PDF Accessibility Issues

When you find issues that need to be fixed, CommonLook is here to help with the CommonLook PDF software and training to help you expertly fix issues on your own. Or, use our expert Remediation Services to take care of the really tricky (or long, time-sensitive, etc.) documents for you.

We hope that this article has been informative! For more information, software demos, trials, or anything else CommonLook or PDF accessibility related, please contact us at info@commonlook.com!