PDF accessibility - creating tags

It's been a while since I last posted about PDFs. However, as part of my handover at work, I've been creating some video resources about how to tag PDFs. This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but hopes to introduce several different types of tag and how to create them.

Headings and paragraphs

Most of the text on the page is likely to be normal paragraphs. Normal text is marked up using a paragraph tag. Headings should also be marked up. Formatting alone is not enough. Headings should be nested correctly, beginning with <h1>, and not skipping any headings. This will be explained further in the video.


When we see a list on a page, it is obvious that it is a list. We can immediately see how many items there are and where each new item begins. For a screen reader to give this information, lists need to be marked up correctly. This video will show you how.


Tables should only be used to present tabular data or information. Never use tables for layout. (I may have mentioned this before.) Tables are a little bit trickier to tag in a PDF, but by following this video, you should be able to do it successfully.


I usually begin with images but I have left this until last, as it uses a slightly different method. As well as tagging an image and ensuring that it is in the correct order in the tags index, you must give any images alt text. If an image is purely decorative, it can be omitted from the tags index and marked in the reading order pain as background/artefact.

I hope these videos are useful for anybody who is trying to tag a PDF or correct the tags so that a screen reader can read it. By now it should go without saying, that the final thing to do, is test it with a screen reader. I usually use JAWS, but you should use whichever you believe is in use by your audience.


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