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Humanizing the Adobe Accessibility Checker

If you’ve ever tried to make a PDF document accessible, you may be familiar with the accessibility checker in Adobe Acrobat. While this checker is helpful in making PDF documents more accessible simply having passed all checks doesn’t necessarily mean your document is accessible for all. So what can you do to ensure your PDF documents are accessible for all?

Idaho Digital Accessibility Consortium Training Series

In collaboration with the Idaho Digital Accessibility Consortium, Boise State’s Web Accessibility Analyst Carolyn Quintero co-presented a training series on Humanizing the Adobe Accessibility Checker.

In the book, A Web for Everyone by Whitney Quesenbery, readers are introduced to eight user personas for accessible user experience. During this training series, participants are introduced to seven of these accessible user personas to humanize the experience of making documents accessible.

We make documents accessible not simply by working to resolve accessibility errors in the accessibility checker. No, we make documents accessible by designing them for other humans. This sometimes requires you to go beyond the accessibility checker results and analyze the document from the perspective of a person with a disability who may use assistive technology to read and interact with the document in ways different from you.

Series Objectives

  • Understand how the Adobe checker relates to the human experience implications
  • Understand Adobe accessibility checker language
  • Understand the use of personas in the evaluation of accessible documents
  • Analyze an accessible document in terms of design, content, and structure
  • Understand the purpose of tags and how they create an experience for People With Disabilities

Six Sessions Available

  1. Humanizing the Adobe Accessibility Checker with Vishnu and Emily
  2. Descriptions for Everyone with Jacob and Lea
  3. Tackling Tables with Trevor
  4. Lifting Lists with Emily and Vishnu
  5. Perfecting Page Content with Steven and Maria
  6. Moving Beyond the Checker with Vishnu and Emily

Get a sneak peek of the first series and Meet Emily. To access all series recordings, you can self-enroll in the Canvas IDAC Training Site.

Sneak Peek — Meet Emily

In the first session, we meet Emily, a college student who works in a community center and has cerebral palsy. Emily uses a computer for communication and uses a scooter for mobility. She has minimal use of her hands.

Watch this demo video of how an accessible document can make things easier for her while using an iPad.

Play Demo of PDF Document on iPad with Adobe Acrobat Reader App

Closed captions are available in the video. Access video transcript after the video player.

Video Transcript

Hi everyone this is Carolyn Quintero and in this video, I’m going to demonstrate how an iPad and the Adobe Reader app can make for a more accessible reading experience for people with mobility challenges like our friend Emily who has cerebral palsy. She uses an iPad and she can’t move or type very well so having some of these features available in her documents can make her life just much easier.

In this example, I want to show you both an inaccessible document and an accessible document. Since Emily is in college, I want to show you a syllabus. This is a document that Emily may encounter in any of her classes and it’s a very important document for students.

A lot of the time inaccessible PDFs are just scans of regular documents, of regular printed documents. In this case, if a syllabus is scanned in a digital format it’s essentially a picture. So now this document doesn’t have any live text on the page. So, if Emily needed to copy and paste anything from this document she can’t. So, moving is really hard for her so copying and pasting content if she needs it can be a real good shortcut for her.

However, in this scanned document whenever you tap on the page you can’t copy the text. A dialog box comes up that says “add note add text draw or sign.” If needed Emily also couldn’t search this document by text because there is no live text in this document. So now this document is not very flexible, if she needed to make it larger it can kind of get very grainy it’s not a very flexible document in this format. So, this is a huge barrier for people reading documents in a digital format.

So now let’s look at what an accessible document might look like. This document is exactly the same content-wise as the scanned version but since there’s live text the content can be copied and pasted into other formats so that can be really helpful if Emily needs to copy content and maybe paste it into an email or paste it into a document for something she’s working on. So that just makes it a little easier for her to do that with fewer movements. The other thing Emily can do is search for content.

So, remember she has cerebral palsy and moving can be really difficult for her, typing can be really difficult for her, but if she needed to do that she can. So, you can search for the live text in this document much easier than you could the scanned version. The other thing that is really important for an accessible document is it allows the content to be reformatted in ways that are easier to read on a screen.

So for example in the Adobe Reader app, specifically on mobile devices like the iPad, there is an option called Liquid Ink and when you turn this feature on the document becomes much more readable. It essentially has more of a web page format. So now these heading tags can be expanded and collapsed so that can make it very easy to read through a lengthy document.

It also reflows, the text resizes to the page, so it’s much easier to scan so this can make reading the document very easy with very minimal effort. The other option that’s available now is tap to show outline and so Emily can scroll through all the different headings available and find the one that she needs.

So that’s limiting the movement that she has to do to be successful on this iPad with this app. And then she can get to the links that she needs and she doesn’t have to move very much to be able to read successfully. The other thing that Emily can do is she can adjust the size with these reading settings. So, she can make the text bigger she can make the text smaller she can increase the line spacing or increase the margins.

So, all of this makes for a very customizable reading experience for Emily so that she can read without a ton of effort and energy to go into it. The other nice thing is when this document is accessible for Emily it’s also going to be accessible for a wide variety of abilities. And we’re going to meet more of these personas throughout the series, this was just one persona, but keep this in mind as you go through, as we go through the series and meet other people, other personas with different abilities, they also benefit from these accessible features.

Thank you for joining me for this quick demonstration of reading a PDF on an iPad with Adobe Acrobat Reader.