Join Chad Chelius for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding layout considerations, part of Creating Accessible PDFs (2014).
When creating content in Microsoft Word, there are some techniques that lend themselves to a good, accessible PDF file. And there are some things that create problems when creating an accessible PDF file as well. Understanding what works and what doesn't in a layout is key. So I've opened up several Word files as well as the corresponding PDF files that were generated from these Word files. To show you what happens in certain situations. So, I currently have a document open. It's the Cycle California Word document.
And you can see that this is a pretty nice layout that was created. We took advantage here of using the text boxes to kind of position the text in different areas. Now, as nice as this looks, I want to show you a couple of techniques that we can use to identify things that could potentially be a problem. So in Word, I'm going to go to the View tab. And currently we're looking at the print layout which kind of shows us exactly how this document is going to print and what the PDF will look like.
However, a really great feature is this button here. Which takes us into Draft mode. Now, when I click that button, you're going to notice that virtually everything disappears. And this is because Word is kind of showing you everything that is currently in the document flow. And that document flow directly correlates to the tagged PDF file that we want to create for accessibility purposes. Now, that's not to say this content is not going to output.
It's just not going to understand the organization or the order of objects. Let me show you what I mean. I'll switch back to print layout view here. And I'm going to go to the corresponding PDF that I've already created. So I'm going to go to the Cycle California PDF file. And again, this looks really good. But let's open up the tags panel and take a look at what happens here. So, I'm going to hold down Ctrl and Click on this plus sign on Windows. Or you could hold down the Opt key on Mac and click the disclosure triangle.
And if we take a look at this, you're going to notice that if you understand you know, what's required for accessibility. You're going to notice this is pretty messy. So, let's just take a look at this. We're going to click on the Option button here. And we're going to make sure that Highlight Content is checked. And once that is, I'm going to click on the first tag that shows up. Now, you can see, I'm just going to use the down arrow key to start cycling through this. Now, remember, this is tagged as a figure and so is this and so is this and so on and so forth.
So, you know, you can look at what it's tagging as a figure and again, here's like a blank figure that is in there. So, first and foremost, everything that starts this document is just tagged as a figure, there's no content at all. So, we're going through this document. Still, everything is a figure. Now we get back to the table, and the table here is now actually tagged as content, which is good. But from an accessibility standpoint, all of those figures need to be removed or re-mediated for accessibility.
Now, here we are getting into some normal tags here. So again, you can see that a lot of the stuff that we're going to at this point, here's the link at the bottom of the page, that's essentially the first content that shows up. And I'm going to keep going down. And we've got some empty tags here, here's the URL. And then, now we get into some text here in the upper right corner. So this is the first content that is read. So I'm going to stop right here, and I just want you to understand that not only is it tagging a lot of content that is irrelevant, but the order of objects is completely messed up.
Completely not going to help us from an accessibility perspective. So, I'm going to close this document. We'll go back to Word. And I'm going to close this document as well. But before I do, I just want to show you too the way this was designed, these are two completely separate text boxes. And they're not even linked together. So we'll go ahead and close this. And now, I'm going to go to the next document, which is the Cycle California better. And I'll just change this view so we're fitting to one page here.
And this is a little bit better. It's still a bunch of text boxes, but at the very least, what I've done here, is I've linked these frames together. So, this frame is linking to these frames and so on and so forth. So that's at least a good start, okay. At least we have the ability to maintain somewhat of a flow relationship here. Now, I'm going to switch back to the PDF. Go to the better PDF. And again, we'll open up the Tags panel, Opt or Ctrl+Click here.
Now again, because they're text boxes, still a bunch of figures here. And really not in any logical order from a remediation standpoint. We would need to artifact or background them to remove them from the tags panel, altogether. But, at least now, you'll notice that we have somewhat of a flow going on here. It's still not perfect, but we have a little bit more logic here. Notice how it goes from here to here. And then down to here. We have a little bit more intelligence built into it, but again, you know, still a lot of cleanup required, from a remediation standpoint.
So we need to remove all these figures, because they have no relevance whatsoever. So again, I'm going to close this, and we'll go back to Word. We're going to close this document as well. Now we're going to go over to the Cycle California flow Word document. And I'll just go ahead and change the view here to fit the page. Now, truth be told, this document is, is not as visually appealing as the original versions that we looked at.
But let's take a look at something here. In the view tab, I'm going to click on the Draft view, and take a look at that. Notice, how all of the content is still showing up in Draft view. And that is because I maintained the flow of the document, which is essentially how Word behaves, if you will, you know, there's a natural vertical flow in the document and the order that you put that text content is going to translate to the accessible PDF file.
So let's take a look at that, we'll go to the PDF, and I'm going to go to the tags panel once again. Ctrl or Opt+Click on that. And now, as I start going down through here, we're going to go to the figure. Now the figure shows up first. And that's to be expected. We can always move that in the logical structure of the document. But looking at the tags overall, you can see that now all of this content has a logical structure. Within the document the table is tagged, which it was before, but now its in context with the rest of the text.
Now we get into another sub head if you will. We keep moving down here. We go to the paragraph content, another subhead. So, it's very logical in nature and this is going to require a lot less cleanup on our part. Now, from the figure standpoint, I'm just going to Ctrl or Opt+Click to collapse everything. And then I'll just click on this, because I just want to open up a couple of these areas. So, when we're looking at the tags here, you might say, well, I don't want that figure to appear first.
Well, what we can do to remedy that is, I can click on this tag, and I can literally drag this down below the last tag in the document. And so now, from a structure standpoint, and from a screen reading device standpoint, it's going to read that figure as the last item. So, as you can see, just because you can do something in Word doesn't mean you should. So, keep these factors in mind when designing a product that you intend to output to an accessible PDF file, as the decisions you make will affect the overall amount of time and work required to re-mediate that final file.
- What is accessibility?
- Understanding the experience of users with visual impairments
- How to know if a PDF is accessible
- Creating a PDF with PDFMaker
- Adding metadata, bookmarks, and links
- Inserting alternative text
- Controlling tab and reading order from InDesign
- Creating cross-references in InDesign
- Adding tags, bookmarks, and alt text in Acrobat
- Using the Make Accessible Wizard