Creating Accessible PDF Forms Using Adobe Acrobat Pro

A traditional print form that is intended to be filled out by hand is inaccessible to people who are not able to see it and to people who don’t have the manual dexterity to fill in the form fields with a writing utensil.

While the best form for accessibility is one that is interactive and can be completed using the computer. Users with disabilities can complete these forms using assistive technologies such as screen readers, Braille devices, speech recognition systems, alternative keyboards, and other assitive technologies.

Keep in mind that not all electronic forms are not automatically accessible. Key considerations when creating an electronic interactive form are:

  1. Labels and prompts must be explicitly associated with the fields they represent.
  2. The tab order must be logical. As users navigate through a form using the keyboard, they typically press tab to jump to the next field. 

Checking Accessibility on an Existing PDF Form Using Adobe Acrobat Pro

  1. Is form interactive?
    • If No, continue to read the following steps of Checking Accessibility on an Exisiting PDF Form using Adobe Acrobat Pro
  2. Is tab order intuitive?
    • If No, correct it (Tools > Forms > Edit, play with Tab Order; select “Close Form Editing” when finished)
  3. Are all text fields appropriately labeled? How to tell:
    • Tools > Forms > Edit; look in Properties for ToolTip of each field, or
    • Tab through form using Read Out Loud (View > Read Out Loud > Activate Read Out Loud)
  4. To fix labels on text fields:
    • Right click on field; select Properties
    • Enter a detailed, easy-to-understand prompt as Tooltip
  5. Are radio buttons appropriately grouped and labeled?
    • All radio buttons in a set should have the same name
    • Tooltip is the overall prompt for the set (similar to legend in HTML)
    • Labels for individual radio buttons within the set are defined using the Button Value field in the Options tab
  6. Are checkboxes appropriately labeled?
    • Checkboxes can’t be grouped like radio buttons. The workaround is to be sure the prompt for the overall set of checkboxes is clear within the tooltip for each option (for example, “Favorite Food: Tofu”, “Favorite Food: Steak”, “Favorite Food: Pizza”, etc.)
  7. Finishing touches
    • Tools > Document Processing > Create Links from URLs
    • Tools > Accessibility > Add Tags To Document
    • Repair tags as needed
    • Tools > Accessibility > Full Check