Testing PDF documents for accessibility

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Determining whether a PDF document is accessible is rife with judgment calls. One of the best tests is to listen to the document in its entirety using a screen reader. If all the information and intent that is conveyed visually is available when the document is read aloud, it can be considered to be a basically accessible document.

However, listening to a document in its entirety is not always feasible when dealing with very large documents or very large quantities of documents. There are also additional features which can increase accessibility, such as document navigation and a small file size, that are not readily apparent when testing through listening alone.

Some of the basic tests and techniques which follow will do a fair job of determining basic accessibility without the tester having to listen to the entire document.


  • Many of these tests are visual in nature—an accessible alternative would be to listen to the document.
  • Keep in mind that it is not necessary to pass every test in order for a document to be considered accessible-that’s where the judgment calls come in.
  • Instructions are for use with Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.

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About the Author: Angy Brooks

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