Creating Accessible Forms in Adobe Acrobat X Pro

Creating Accessible
Forms in
Adobe Acrobat X Pro
Form Creation Workflow
Source Document
• Every PDF begins with a source document
• Every source document should be created
using appropriate design practices.
– Garbage in = Garbage out
Designing a Proper Source Document
• Text Content
– Use the application's built-in features to create structural elements
like sections, paragraphs, headers/footers, lists, tables, columns etc.
– Create paragraph styles with built-in line spacing before and after a
paragraph. Avoid using Enter, Spacebar or Tab for spacing.
– Use standard fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Calibri)
– Avoid using text-boxes as they flow to the bottom of a page when the
document is converted.
Designing a Proper Source Document
• Graphic Content
– Include alt text for images
– Do not include alt text for decorative elements (tag as artifacts)
– Group overlapping graphic elements into a single image before
– Do not use images created by word processing drawing tools.
Instead, convert them into a single graphic file then insert into
the document.
– Insert images inline with the text (do not float).
– Avoid placing graphics within "drawing canvas“
– Avoid using watermarks
Designing a Proper Source Document
• Layout
– Use Heading Styles to define sections and subsections
– Use Column formatting to layout information in a
multi-column format (not tables)
– Avoid complex layouts
– Do not overuse decorations, background images and
overlaying graphics as they require manual conversion
into artifacts
Designing a Proper Source Document
• Lists
– Do not create lists manually by typing numbers or
– Use the "list style" built-in to the application.
Modify the styles to define the bullets, fonts,
spacing and nesting of the list items
Designing a Good Source Document
• Tables
– Do not merge or split cells
– Apply row headers
– Use percentage to set table and cell size for
graceful resizing
Designing a Good Source Document
• Form Fields
– For fields, include the field label and a repeated
underscore “_____”. Adobe will create an input
field as long as the underscore during conversion
to PDF.
– Include the field label and a placeholder for
elements to be added later in Adobe Acrobat
(checkboxes, radio buttons, etc.).
Converting Source Documents
• Save and convert source document to PDF
– To convert a MS Word doc, save it as a PDF from
within Word using the “Save As” command.
– Do not use the “Print to PDF” option as necessary
elements will be lost during conversion.
Q: What makes a form a form? A: Fields.
A “field” is categorized based on the type of
information it collects.
There are basically 5 field types:
Text – for any alpha, number or basic
character string
Numeric – for real numbers (calculated)
Radio button- list of items that allow one
item to be selected
Check boxes – list of items where one or
more items can be selected
Drop-down list – a single box with a menu of
options of which only one can be selected.
Accessible Form Fields
• In addition to “fields”, a form
should include titles and
instructions to guide the user
in filling out the form.
• All content should be
renderable by a screenreader
and users must be able to
perform all tasks using only the
Form Design and Layout
• Clear instructions
• Meaningful field labels
placed on the same line
as the field if possible
• Use “text properties” like
Tool tips, titles etc. to
provide additional filling
Form Design and Layout
• Maintain consistent layout and logical taborder
• The form should not automatically change
focus or trigger an event
• Users must be able to complete the form
using only the keyboard
Tagged PDFs
• Structure is the term used to
describe the logic that binds
content in a PDF together.
• In PDF files, structure is expressed
as "tags".
• Acrobat will add tags to a PDF file,
but human intelligence is still
required to ensure the tags are
A Properly Tagged PDF has:
• Logical reading order
• Images with alternate
• Tables tagged correctly
• Form-fields created properly
Adobe Acrobat X Accessibility Tools
• Adobe Acrobat X Accessibility
tools are similar to version 9,
but are in a new location.
• Click the “Tools” button to
reveal the panels.
Adobe Acrobat X
The “Accessibility” tool panel will not
be viewable by default.
To add it, click the show panels
and select
“Accessibility” from the subsequent
– Note: Once you’ve added it to your
tool panel once, it will appear by
default from that point forward.
Click the “Accessibility”
header to expand the tool
Here you will find all the
same Accessibility options
used in Version 9.
Additionally, form tools are
now found under the
“Forms” header in the tool
Accessible PDF Forms
To be accessible, a PDF form must:
– be created as a tagged document.
– have appropriate text descriptors using tool tips or
Using the Tag Tree
• You can confirm your
document contains tags by
opening the tags pane (click
the Tag icon).
• Right-click on a tag in the tree
and select “Highlight Content.”
As you click on a tag in the
tree, that item will be
highlighted in your document.
This is helpful to see what
item each tag correlates to.
Using the Tag Tree
Note: If your document
isn’t tagged, you will see
“No Tags available” in
the tag tree.
A PDF with no tags is not
Creating Forms
To enter Forms mode,
select “Forms > Edit”
from the tool panel
Fields are highlighted in
Creating Forms
Note: If your document
has no recognizable
form fields, you will
receive an error.
Click Yes and Adobe will
detect form fields in
your document.
Creating Forms
• Confirm fields were properly
created. For example, maybe you
wanted a check box where Adobe
inserted a radio button.
• To correct, delete the radio button
(click on it and hit delete key).
• Under the “Tasks” panel, click “Add
New Field > Check Box.”
• Click on the area where you want to
insert the checkbox.
Creating Forms
Give the checkbox a name.
Click the “All Properties” link to enter
additional information like a “Tooltip”
to provide extra, helpful information.
Click close.
Creating Forms
• Check each field for
appropriate name, tool tip
and other optional properties
by right-clicking on the field
and clicking on Properties.
• When finished, click “Close
Form Editing” in the Tasks
Tab Order
• Check the logical tab order by
tabbing thru the document.
If the tab order is incorrect,
in the page navigation pane,
right click on the page
thumbnail and go to “Page
Tab Order
On the Tab Order tab, select your option:
Use Row Order - Tabs from the upper left field,
moving first left to right and then down, one
row at a time.
Use Column Order -Tabs from the upper left
field, moving first from top to bottom and then
across from left to right, one column at a time.
Use Document Structure - For forms with tagged
fields, follows the order set up in the tagging.
Unspecified- Uses the existing sequence. For
untagged forms, this is the order in which the
fields were created.
Click OK.
Final Check
• Next, run an Accessibility Full Check and make
any repairs suggested in the error report.
– Note: You cannot run an Accessibility check while
in forms mode. You must be in input mode.
• Lastly, confirm the document reading order
from the beginning to the end.
• CSULB Training
• CSULB Accessible Technology Initiative
• Chancellor’s Office

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