Web accessibility – PDF tagging

Presenting your message so that it speaks to the intended audiences.

WHAT IS WEB ACCESSIBILITY?

Web accessibility is an inclusive practice of making electronic information available to all people, regardless of physical or developmental abilities or impairments. 

Elements that affect accessibility include colours, size of text, choice of fonts, length of sentences, complexity of the vocabulary but also how information is structured and displayed on a page.

WHAT ARE PDFs?

PDFs (Portable Document Format) are commonly used to present information on the internet. They were originally designed to be printed so standard PDFs may not be accessible to people with disabilities and people using PDAs, mobile phones, text-to-voice readers and assistive devices. 

WHAT IS PDF TAGGING?

In addition to text, PDFs contain various visible and invisible elements including pictures, bookmarks, links, columns, titles and forms. 

For this reason, PDF files need to be designed with heading levels, sections, chapters, footers in a structured way. This is called tagging. 

CHARACTERISTICS OF A FULL ACCESSIBLE PDF INCLUDE:

  • Valid reading order for all page content 
  • Tags for all logical content 
  • Images with correct descriptions 
  • Tables with a correct structure 
  • Maximum usability for form-fields, links and other interactive and multimedia features  
  • Labels to confirm the language in which the document is written

FAQs

Why do I need tagging?

In order to retain visible and invisible elements of a PDF for effective use on small screens, readers and assistive devices, documents must go through tagging. Making PDF documents accessible makes business sense but is also a legal requirement in many contexts.

Will I have to change the design in order to tag my PDF?

No, the design will remain the same. The only thing that changes when tagging PDFs is that labels are added to elements that are not written in words.

I have tagged all the PDFs in English, is it enough?

Every PDF should be tagged in the language that can be understood by its intended audience. Pages in languages other than English must be tagged in each language.