PDF Accessibility Guide

  1. Log into Acrobat Pro on your computer.
  2. Upload the document you’re testing.
  3. Click on “Tools”, then Open the “Accessibility Checker”.
  4. Run a “Full Check”.
  5. For anything with a red x next to it, right click that issue and select “fix” if that’s an available option.
  6. The next steps are dependent on the issues you come across.


The PDF needs a title that describes what it’s purpose is. There should be a heading to the PDF that makes sense. If so, use that. If not, use your best judgment to determine a title based on the content of the PDF.


Every image that’s not decorative (serves no other purpose except to look pretty) needs alternative text added to it. For any image with words in it (i.e the USF Logo that says “University of San Francisco”), those words need to be included in the alt text. For images without words, a detailed description is ok.

Fixing a Table

  1. Accessibility > Reading Order
  2. Select the table by clicking the number in the top left hand corner of the table (3 in the reading order in the image below).
  3. Select the Table Editor button on the TouchUp Reading Order panel. The table cells will be outlined in red and labeled with their tags. The red outlines may not exactly match up to the table cells but you should be able to determine if the cells are tagged correctly.

TouchUp Reading Order tool and example table
TouchUp Reading Order tool and example table

The following images show an example table in the Table Editor. The cells are outlined in red, and the tab for each cell is displayed. Upon conversion, the Results header was incorrectly split and does not span its two sub-headers. The headers to the right were incorrectly split into 2 cells each and do not span the Results headers. In addition, the incorrectly split cells were merged into one cell.

Example data table in the Table Editor

To repair the Results header (this will be the most common issue):

  1. Select the header in the table (it will be outlined in blue when selected)
  2. Access the context menu (right click inside the table cell)
  3. Select Table Cell Properties...
  4. If the table cell needs to be header, change from data cell to header cell.
  5. Run the accessibility check again to see if the table issue has been resolved. If not, try the things below.
  6. In the Table Cell Properties dialog, change the Column Span from 1 to 2
  7. Press OK. You'll get a warning that the change might result in a malformed table structure. In this case, the change is correct. The cell you changed should change color to show the new span, as shown in the following image.

Table Cell Properties dialog box

Similarly, to repair the incorrectly split header cells to the left of Results header:

  1. Select the top cell in the column (it will be outlined in blue when selected)
  2. Access the context menu
  3. Select Table Cell Properties...
  4. In the Table Cell Properties dialog, change the Row Span from 1 to 2
  5. Press OK. The following image shows the repaired table.

Example of repaired table

To fix headings and nesting

This rule checks nested headings. When this check fails, headings are not nested properly.

To fix the list structure

  1. Find the list in the Accessibility Checker panel by right-clicking (Windows) or Ctrl-clicking (Mac OS) the failed element and choosing Show in Tags Panel.
  2. Create elements, change the types of elements, or rearrange existing elements by dragging them.
  3. The title of the page should be an <h1>, then the next suheading should be an <h2>. Any heading nested within that section should be an <h3>, and so on through <h6>.
  4. Run the accessibility check and make adjustments until all tests are passed.