New Adobe White Paper on Creating Accessible PDF Files from InDesign

A few years ago, Steve Werner wrote a post discussing the basics of Accessible PDF files (that is, PDF files that can be read by a screen reader, or some other device used by people with visual disabilities). Now, Adobe has released a white paper that details many of the features (and challenges) of exporting accessible PDFs from InDesign. You can find the PDF directly here, or find it listed on this Web page.

I don’t think Adobe would mind if I let it slip that I had somewhat of an, um, involvement in this document. It was a fascinating challenge, both to learn the issues involved and to realize the significant limitations that still exist. As you’ll see, it’s no slam-dunk, and there are still many tasks that need to be performed in Acrobat after the PDF is created. This PDF file is, in itself, tagged for accessibility, of course.

If you’re looking for more information on accesibility and how to relates to InDesign, check out our InDesignSecrets Accessibility page.

There is no doubt in my mind that much must be done to make the accessibility features in InDesign more capable/reliable. Some of it is non-intuitive, and some features are (to be blunt) just simply broken at this time. If creating accessible (Section 508) documents is important to you, please let Adobe know they need to make this a high priority in future versions.

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6 Comments on “New Adobe White Paper on Creating Accessible PDF Files from InDesign

  1. Paper is great – I’ve had a good look through it.

    Not sure if this is the right place to ask but I’ve got an issue I wanted to clarify.

    No matter what I do, the order that I create frames in InDesign determines the order in the Order panel in Acrobat – even though i’ve rearranged tags in the Structure pane in InDesign.

    Tag order is correct in Acrobat, read out loud and export to Accessible Text works great but the order panel and View > Reflow show an incorrect order based on the original order I created frames in InDesign.

    I have 2 questions = is this a known issue or I am doing something wrong, and do i need to change order in Acrobat to make PDF accessible? I would guess not but i’ll obviously have problems if i wanted to reflow the PDF on a different portable device (hence View > Reflow not working correctly).

    The paper doesn’t mention this and does mention checking all these things.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. This is an interesting issue. I design documents in InDesign, organize the tags as part of ther 508 workflow, and then hand it off to our 508 team. I’m also told that the reading order is awry, and in some cases there are mysterious items that don’t appear on the viewable page.

    One issue concerned master pages. Because their tagged items are original to the document, they seem to come first in the reading order. Solution – I’m not using master pages. Rather inconvenient.

    Layers may also be an issue. Real World InDesign CS4 says exporting with PDF/X-4 preserves layers. Should we export using PDF/X-3, which flattens the layers?

    Steve

  3. I’ve been working for days on a big InDesign doc that has to be tagged. I followed David’s InDesign magazine instructions before which are great. But Acrobat scrambles the order even though it’s in order in InDesign. It’s also breaking my text columns into dozens of bits, which means it’s impossible to redo the order.

    I had the same problem as someone mentioned with master pages. This presents all sorts of problems, one being that when the order is wrong in Acrobat, and you try to switch the order, your graphics disappear! Why is this happening?

    Transparent objects that need Alt text apparently don’t want to be tagged. Photos were set to Multiply in the blending mode, which I had to undo so the alt text would read in Acrobat. Some figures set with Alt text do not show up in Acrobat. And I’m also not able to draw a box around something to retag it in Acrobat.

    Because the cover text elements would not show up at all, I had to cheat and create one big Alt text block using the background art. And had to set the cover title and subtitle as artifacts.

    I can’t believe we have to work this way.

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