How to Make PDFs Accessible | Episode 6: Fullerton College

Welcome to episode six on community college PDF accessibility. Today, we focus on Fullerton Community College’s document “Points of Interest and Clarification Architecture.”

Video Guide

In case you missed them, here are Episode 1Episode 2,  Episode 3Episode 4 and Episode 5 in our PDF Accessibility Community College Series.

Start with a quick review of the tags panel. The PDF had several blank tags and an unclear tag structure. Poor tagging provides inaccurate information to screen readers which disrupts accessibility.

In this case, the issues found suggested the document was converted from a Microsoft Word document, without proper accessibility checks.

Key Issues from This Episode

Run the auto tag feature to improve the PDFs accessibility:
  • The auto-tagger did a great job of organizing the content into proper tags like paragraphs (p tags) and headings (h1, h2, h3 tags). Lists were also formatted correctly.
  • Auto-tagger isn’t a perfect process, so we manually adjusted a few tags after running it. For example, h2 tags were changed to paragraph tags and the inconsistent headings for the Fall and Spring sections were changed to h3 for uniformity.
  • Finally, for better identification and searchability, update the PDF’s metadata, like the title and author.
A well organized PDF tags panel after running the auto-tagger.
After completing these initial fixes, the accessibility checker identified more PDF accessibility challenges:
  • Identify and manually correct misused tags. We found a figure tag that was meant to be a paragraph tag and corrected it.
  • Page numbers were not tagged so we manually selected each page number and tagged them as paragraphs.
Manually tagging page numbers in a PDF.
Multiple runs of the PAC checker also revealed several errors:
  • The structure tree showed several inappropriate uses of span tags which is a common error plaguing our PDF College Series!
  • Identify and correct role mapping problems by removing non-standard types, which show errors in the PAC checker. For example, our PDF contained ‘style spans’ which were not standard so we manually searched the tags panel and changed each to a regular span tag to eliminate the errors.
Changing Style Span tags to Span tags to eliminate errors

Troubleshooting these issues is a trial-and-error process. Remember to keep saving your PDF. Repeating tasks requiring absolute accuracy takes serious mental effort and is not fool proof.

PRO-TIP: To change multiple tags at once, hold down the control key and select your tags for editing. Next, open up the document properties, and change the ‘type’. Be careful! A single mis-click can deselect all your chosen tags, which then requires the process to be repeated.

Changing multiple PDF tag types at once.

This PDF had several accessibility issues. We used both automated and manual interventions including ensuring proper tagging, updating metadata, embedding fonts, and correcting ‘span’ styles in order to make it accessible

Remember, I can be your accessibility expert. For more detailed insights, tutorials, and in-depth discussions on accessibility and related topics, don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel: The Accessibility Guy on YouTube. Subscribe for regular updates!

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