ACM publications are read (and reviewed) by many people. Making your paper accessible will help to promote the equal participation of people with disabilities in science and engineering. This note describes how to check if your PDF is accessible, and how to fix the most common accessibility problems. For more information please refer to Adobe's accessibility resource center.
How do I test if my PDF is accessible?
- The document should be tagged. In Adobe Acrobat Pro: Go to the 'File' menu. 'Document properties'. 'Description' tab. Look for 'Tagged PDF: Yes' among the set of advanced properties. If you do not have access to Adobe Acrobat, try selecting some text in the PDF and pasting it into a text editor. If you can't do this, or the text looks wrong, chances are your document is not readable with a screen reader.
- Check the accessibility. In Adobe Acrobat Pro: Go to the 'Advanced' menu. 'Accessibility'. 'Full Check'. The checker will report accessibility problems.
- Fonts should be embedded, or your PDF will need to be regenerated, and you may lose accessibility that you have added. In Adobe Acrobat Pro: Go to the 'File' menu. 'Document properties'. 'Fonts 'tab. All of the fonts should have the word 'embedded' in parentheses after the font name (unless they are not visible in the final document).
How do I fix accessibility problems?
Word users should correct as many problems as possible in the Word source file rather than the pdf, as described in the next section. On a PC, the Adobe plugin for Word can export accessibility features from the Word document into the pdf.
On a Mac, this is not the case. Those using Word on a Mac, and all LaTeX users will need to edit the PDF directly using Adobe Acrobat. A better basic PDF may be produced by using latex2pdf as opposed to ps2pdf. See also the WebAim PDF Accessibility primer which provides information for OpenOffice users.
The accessibility checker in Adobe Acrobat Pro provides help with fixing many accessibility problems. The following steps are for Adobe Acrobat Pro 9. More detailed instructions for Adobe Acrobat Pro XI, and a video, are also available. Please see Adobe's best practices for instructions covering more versions of Adobe Acrobat.
- Add tags. Go to the 'Advanced' menu. Select 'Accessibility', then 'Add tags to document'.
- Add alternative text for figures. Context-click the Figure, select 'Properties', and fill in 'Alternate Text'.
If no 'Properties' option appears, go to the 'Advanced' menu, select 'Touch Up Reading Order', and then try context-clicking on the figures again, looking for an 'Edit alternate text' option.
- Specify the document language. Go to the 'File' menu. Select 'Properties', then the 'Advanced' tab, 'Language' field.
In some versions of Acrobat, the 'Properties' option is called 'Document Properties'. In some versions the 'Language' field is in a 'Reading Options' tab.
- Define tab order.
- Go to the 'View' menu. Select 'Navigation tabs', then 'Pages'.
- Click on any page, then type Ctrl-A (or Command-A on a Mac) to select all the pages.
- Go to the 'Options' menu in the top right of the dialog box (icon showing two cogs), and select 'Page Properties'
- In the 'Tab Order' tab, select 'Use document structure'.
- Make sure tables have headings.
- Go to the 'View' menu. Select 'Navigation tabs', then 'Tags'.
- Select the 'Tags' tab. This panel shows the document structure as a tree.
- Navigate to the table cells that should be headers.
- Check they have the type <TH>. If not, then right click on the header cell, select 'properties', select the 'Tag' tab, and change the value for 'Type' to 'Table Header Cell'.
Creating an accessible PDF directly from Word
The following link provides step-by-step instructions for adding basic accessibility information to a Word document on a PC, then exporting it to a PDF document intended for ACM: Create an accessible ACM submission using Microsoft Word