This guide outlines how to enhance the accessibility of a PDF file using Adobe Acrobat Pro.



This video outlines the steps for enhancing the accessibly of a PDF document using the Accessibility and Action Wizard tools in Acrobat Pro.

What you’ll need

You will need to have Adobe Acrobat Pro installed on your computer, and ensure to run any updates on the application if available. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Pro please contact IT Service Desk via service.desk@fxplus.ac.uk for assistance. It’s worth noting that Adobe Acrobat Reader, the free program distributed by Adobe that allows you to view PDFs does not have the required, advanced features of Acrobat Pro as outlined in this guide.

Enhancing the accessibility of a PDF 

All digital content created by staff, including learning and teaching material, should meet the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.1 AA standard to ensure that the greatest number of users can view the content.

Both the 'Accessibility' and 'Action Wizard' tools in Acrobat Pro guide you through the steps required to make a PDF more accessible. You will be prompted to address accessibility issues such as missing document titles, alternative text for images or errors associated with the logical reading order of the document.

Step 1: Launch the Acrobat Pro application.

Step 2: Turn on the Accessibility and Action Wizard tools. At the top of the screen, click on 'Tools'. Scroll to the ‘Protect & Standardize’ section and select 'Add' under the ‘Accessibility' tool. Under the 'Customize' section, select 'Add' under the 'Action Wizard' tool. Both will then appear in the secondary tools panel to the right of the screen.
Acrobat Pro Tools Screen

Step 3: Next, open the PDF that you would like to make accessible.

Step 4: Click on the 'Accessibility' tool in the right panel and click on 'Set Alternative Text'. In the dialog box, follow the prompts and add alternative text to the images in your document. For images that don't convey any meaning, click on the 'Decorative figure' check box. When all alternative text has been assigned, click on 'Save & Close'.
'Set Alternative Text' dialog in Acrobat Pro  

Step 5: Click on the 'Action Wizard' tool in the right secondary tools panel. From the 'Action List', click on the 'Make Accessible' link. The right panel will change to display each task included in the 'Make Accessible' action.

Step 6: Click the ‘Start’ button and follow the prompts to complete the 'Make Accessible' action. 

  • Add a ‘Title’, ‘Subject’ and ‘Author’ in the ‘Description’ dialog box.
  • Under 'Recognize Text' set the 'Document Language' to 'English UK'.
  • Next, you will see the following message "Is this document intended to be used as a fillable form", in this case click on 'No, Skip this Step' as our example PDF is not a form.
  • Next, the 'Set Reading Language' dialog will appear. Ensure the 'Language' is set to 'en-GB'.
  • The 'Accessibility Checker Options' dialog will then appear, accept the default settings and click on the 'Start Checking' button.  
  • Click the ‘Close’ button at the top of the right panel when the report is generated.
    'Accessibility Checker Options' dialog in Acrobat Pro

Step 7: The report results are displayed in the 'Accessibility Checker' panel on the left of the screen. There will be 2 default document issues that will appear in the results, ‘Logical Reading Order’, and ‘Color contrast’ which need to be manually checked and passed.
'Accessibility Checker' results panel

Step 8: To review the ‘Logical Reading Order’, click on the ‘Accessibility’ Tool located in the secondary tools panel on the right and click on ‘Reading order’. The content needs to appear in its logical reading order as this is how the content will be read by a screen reader and other assistive technology. 

To make any adjustments to the reading order, click on 'Show Order Panel' in the ‘Reading Order’ dialog. The elements of the document will appear in the 'Order' panel on the left. From here you can re-order the reading order (1,2,3,4 etc.) of the page by clicking on one of the elements in the list and dragging it up or down. The re-ordered elements are then automatically updated on the document page.
'Reading Order' panel

When the reading order is established, close the order tab by clicking the 'Close' button indicated by an 'X' symbol. Click on the ‘Accessibility Checker' icon in the left panel to view the report. Hover over 'Logical Reading Order' and right click (Windows) or control + click (Mac) and in the menu select ‘Pass’. 

Step 9: Finally, ensure the colour contrast of the document is sufficient (you can test your colours online using WebAIM: Contrast Checker) and right click (Windows) or control + click (Mac) on ‘Color contrast’ and click ‘pass’.

Passing the 'Colour contrast' rule in the 'Accessibility Checker' report results

All issues should now be resolved and green ticks present on each section of the ‘Accessibility Checker report’. 

Your pdf is now accessible and ready for sharing.  

The Accessibility Checker Report Statuses Explained
The report displays one of the following statuses for each rule check:

PassedThe item is accessible.
Skipped by the userRule was not checked because it wasn't selected in the Accessibility Checker Options
dialog box.
Needs manual check

The Full Check feature couldn't check the item automatically. Verify the item manually. 

FailedThe item didn't pass the accessibility check

Resolving any issues from the report will ensure a high accessibility rating on Ally. Ally is the accessibility rating tool available on every module, course and resource page on Learning Space which scans each document uploaded to Learning Space and indicates how accessible it is. Whenever you upload a document you will see a red, amber or green speed-o-meter which rates the accessibility of your document.
An example of a green 100% accessibility score on Ally

Exclamation mark iconImportant: From September 2020, it is a legal requirement that all documents added to the Learning Space must meet the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.1 AA accessibility standards. More information about accessibility is available on the Falmouth Digital Accessibility Sharepoint site

Question mark iconFurther Support 

For further support on Learning Space, or to report any issues with this guide, please get in touch with the Digital Learning Team via dlsupport@falmouth.ac.uk. Alternatively, please refer to the numerous help guides found on our Knowledge Base

View the Accessibility Statement for all of our support guides.