On this page: Four Steps to Accessible PDF | Getting Started | The Interface | A Typical Workflow

Four Steps to Accessible PDF

Assuming you’re starting with an untagged PDF, ensuring accessibility by successfully tagging your file includes 4 key steps.

Number 1. In Acrobat Professional
Check for tags, Add Tags if needed

Open Adobe Acrobat’s Tags Panel to check for the presence of tags. If none are present, use Acrobat’s “Add Tags” feature to create an unverified tags tree.

While Add Tags by itself can do a fairly good job on many documents, the tags must be checked before the file is considered remediated.

Number 2.In CommonLook PDF
Verify reading order and artifacts

In CommonLook PDF, check and correct the tags to ensure the logical reading order of the PDF’s content is correctly tagged to ensure that it’s accessible to assistive technology users.

For previously tagged PDF files, this is the starting-point for CommonLook PDF remediation.

Number 3.In CommonLook PDF
Check and correct the tags

The tags generated by Acrobat’s Add Tags must be checked; often they’re merely a starting point. In many cases you’ll find that content has been tagged incorrectly. A list item might be tagged as a paragraph, a table might appear tagged as a figure, and more. Alternative text will be required for figures, and so on.

Number 4. In CommonLook PDF
Clear all remaining checkpoints

If applicable, WCAG 2.0 and PDF/UA compliance may require the use of various checkpoints beyond those of Section 508 (1194.22). For example, WCAG 2.0 prohibits the use of color alone to represent information (e.g., the use of red ink as the sole indication of a negative number).

Let’s review how CommonLook PDF helps ensure PDF files are accessible.

Starting CommonLook PDF

CommonLook PDF main menu. A plug-in for Acrobat Professional, CommonLook PDF is launched from the plug-ins menu. The main menu for CommonLook PDF will not be active unless a PDF is already open in Acrobat. The menu choices are:

  • Section 508 – Select a specific checkpoint from the US Federal 1194.22 regulations to run against the current page or the whole document. For example, choose checkpoint G and H to review only tables. NOTE: OK Edition users will see “Standards” instead.
  • Current Document Results – Shows applicable checkpoint status and reason.
  • Verify and Remediate – A three pane window that shows tags, content and a checklist of items to be addressed. This is the most commonly used selection.
  • Logical Structure Editor – Identical to Verify and Remediate, but the Logical Structure Editor walks the user through each page showing only the pages with tags requiring review.
  • Continue Verification – Picks up from where remediation was last stopped.
  • Edit Preferences – Maintain Verification Results allows CommonLook PDF to track remediation progress to avoid repeating pages. (The ECMF server feature has been retired)

State of OK Edition

Plug-ins menu highlighting Standards option. If you’re using the State of Oklahoma edition of CommonLook PDF you’ll see a “Standards” menu option in place “Section 508”.

While the application is fundamentally similar to the standard edition, the State of Oklahoma edition does include some additional checkpoints and other modifications specific to State of Oklahoma regulations. For more information, see the Checkpoint Reference.

The Interface

To begin getting into CommonLook PDF, try the Verify and Remediate interface where most users perform the work of testing, remediating and verifying PDF accessibility.

To launch Verify and Remediate, click Plug-Ins > CommonLook PDF > Verify and Remediate in the Acrobat Professional toolbar. After CommonLook PDF processes the currently open PDF page, Verify and Remediation shows three windows:

Screen shot of the CommonLook PDF user interface.

On the left: The Logical View, displaying the tags tree.

On the right: The Physical View. It’s important to have the context in mind when making decisions about reading order and tag type. The Properties tab at the bottom of the window allows modification of tag properties.

At the bottom: The checkpoints applicable to the current page. A double-click will guide you through addressing that checkpoint’s requirements. A checkpoint may also appear more than once, for example, each image on a page will have its own checkpoint for alternative text.

Selecting Content

For maximum efficiency with CommonLook PDF, get familiar with the Selection Tool highlighted in the following image:

CommonLook PDF toolbar highlighting the selection tool in the Exact setting.

As the name implies, this tool is used to select content, and it works in both Logical and Physical windows.

Clicking on an item in the Logical Window will select it directly. Holding down the left mouse button and drawing a box around items in the Physical Window will show the selection in the Logical Window.

The selection tool includes different modes. For the greatest efficiency, use the most appropriate selection mode.

A Typical Workflow

The following list sets out fairly typical steps in a CommonLook PDF validation and remediation session.

  1. If your PDF is a form, ensure all form-fields have been created.
  2. If it’s not already tagged, run Add Tags in Adobe Acrobat Professional.
  3. From the Acrobat Plug-Ins menu, choose CommonLook PDF and select the option to Verify and Remediate.
  4. Correct the logical order by moving tags in the left (Logical) window.
  5. Double click each of the verification checkpoints in the bottom window and make the appropriate adjustments to your tags.
  6. Work your way through each page in the document.
  7. Click Save after finishing the last page and close CommonLook PDF.
  8. Save the report that appears when CommonLook PDF closes. These reports list applicable and tested checkpoints and actions taken to ensure the PDF is accessible.

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