PFD Accessibility - fixing tags and reading order

There are two possible problems with the tags in a PDF. The first is that the document is untagged. This means that no tags have been given and therefore a screen reader will have to get information in some other way. The second is that the document is tagged... maybe it has been automatically tagged when created from Word... but the tags are not quite right. 

This can happen when the Word document or PowerPoint that the PDF was created from, wasn't checked for accessibility, but there are other things that can affect it too. It is always best to check the tags. 

In the video that follows, I have deliberately kept in some of the things I tried that didn't quite work, to show you how to overcome them. It is a longer than usual video, but should give you a good overview of how to check and fix tags.

Fixing Tags

Tags determine the running order of a PDF when it is read by a screen reader. So the most important thing is that all the items are in the correct order. In the video, some of the logos are in the wrong order. This is probably because they were not inline in the original Word document. When images are not inline (square wrapped or behind or in front of text) they may not read in the correct order or they may not read at all.

There are different types of tags. Most text should be tagged as paragraph. This puts it in a <p> tag.

Images should be tagged as <figure> and they must be given alt text. In this video, you will see that the main image on the page was originally tagged as a paragraph and had no alt text. We'll fix that!

Another problem that probably stems from the original document is empty tags. These are read by most screen readers and can be really irritating, especially if there are many of them. They can be caused by using line breaks instead of correct paragraph formatting. The empty lines convert into empty tags. We'll be deleting those, though, as you'll see, I didn't use the most efficient method at first. With hindsight, I should have just deleted them all from the tags list. Marking as artefact/background is really better when there is something there that is purely decorative.

A word about decorative vs alt text... Many people mark logos as decorative. I don't agree. I think putting a logo on a document has a purpose beyond making it look pretty. It tells the reader who has endorsed the content or who represents that content. So, I prefer to mark them with alt text. As you will hear in the JAWS reading at the end though, I didn't put any full stops in. My bad! So they read as one long sentence - all four logos. I could have fixed this and re-recorded but then you wouldn't know how bad it sounds. 

Remember full stops!

How to video


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