Accessible Documents Accessible PDF

PAC checker a nifty tool for testing PDF files for Accessibility

Do PDF documents have to be made Accessible?

Yes Document Accessibility is pretty much a requirement just like Web Accessibility!

PDF documents are today on the web for all sorts of information; marketing brochures, product documentations, utility bills, annual reports, taxation forms, student notes etc. Be it government organizations or private sector companies all of them have some or other PDF document uploaded on their websites.

PDF documents need to be made accessible and two standards that largely drive this are:

The above standards include guidance on how PDF documents can be made accessible. Once the PDF documents are made accessible, they should be checked for accessibility implementation. A PDF document can be evaluated for accessibility using:

  • Automated testing tool
  • Manual testing

Tip: Use a combination of automated and manual testing for checking a PDF document!

Manual testing by Accessibility Consultants and users with disabilities is a must to confirm that a PDF document is accessible. However, in this post we’ll be focusing on an automated tool “PAC Checker that evaluates a PDF file for accessibility.

What is PAC?

PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC) is a free Desktop based tool to check PDF documents for conformance with PDF/UA standards. PAC 3.0 is a Windows based tool developed by Swiss Not for Profit Organization Access for All that checks the PDF for:

  • PDF/UA conformance
  • Logical tag Structure
  • Screen reader Preview

Let’s now move ahead and figure out how to use PAC to evaluate accessibility of a PDF document!

Test a PDF Document using PAC

Once you have downloaded and installed PAC, perform the following steps to start testing a PDF document:

  1. Launch PAC 3.
  2. Click on Select PDF file button.

Screenshot of PAC 3.0 tool with select PDF button highlighted.


  1. Choose a file that needs to be evaluated.
  2. Basic information about the file will be displayed, such as:
    • Title
    • Filename
    • Language
    • Tags
    • Pages
    • Size
    • Summary Report

Screenshot of summary report for the tested file.


Summary Report

The Summary Report displays PDF/UA conformance output along with the test results based on different checkpoints, such as:

  • PDF Syntax
  • Fonts
  • Contents
  • Embedded Files
  • Natural Language
  • Structure Elements
  • Structure Tree
  • Role Mapping
  • Alternate Description
  • Metadata
  • Document Settings

Results for each checkpoint are categorized in to:

  • Passed
  • Warned
  • Failed

Screenshot displaying Passed,Warned and Failed for each checkpoint.

Tip: PAC provides with an option to generate the Summary Report as a PDF file.

Want to view the detailed results?

Yes there is an option to do so, click on Results in Detail button to view the detailed report!

What does the Detailed Report comprise of?

The detailed report comprise of type of errors and warnings for each checkpoint along with:

  • Number of errors and warnings for each type.
  • Snapshot of page on which the error or warning is found.

Screenshot showing the detailed report of the tested file,

Isn’t that cool?

PAC checker not only helps to quickly test a PDF file for conformance with PDF/UA standards but is also a smart tool that displays the tag structure of the file on the click of a button!

So let’s find out how to evaluate a file’s tag structure.

Logical Structure

Logical structure option of PAC checker displays the tag structure of the file in the form of a tree node. The following steps outline how to evaluate the tag structure:

  1. Click on Logical Structure button.
  2. Click on any tag displayed in a tree node on the left to view its Properties on the right.

Screenshot of the logical structure window with H1 tag highlighted.

In the Logical Structure window, Properties tab is selected by default and one can click on Page View and Rolemap tabs to:

  • Page View: Check the snapshot of the page on which the selected tag is found.

Screenshot of the logical structure window displaying page view for the H1 tag.

  • Rolemap: Analyze the associated rolemap information, such as Structure Type and Role for the selected tag.

Screenshot of the logical structure window displaying role map for the H1 tag.

So now let’s move ahead and check out the most exciting feature of PAC – Screen Reader Preview!!

Screen Reader Preview

The Screen Reader Preview displays the entire file contents as it would be rendered by a screen reader. The Screen Reader Preview window displays:

  • Tags used for each element.
  • Tags are color coded for easy identification.
  • Element tag is displayed on the left with its contents on the right.
  • File content is displayed in the order as it will be read out to a screen reader user.

Screenshot showing the screenreader preview window.

Note: The Screen Reader Preview is an automated representation of how a PDF file will be read out by a screen reader and it must not be considered as a replacement for testing PDF documents by end users with visual disabilities.

Tip: Use the Screen Reader Preview alongside the actual document to check the reading order of a PDF file!

To sum things up: use PAC to evaluate accessibility of any PDF document. Fix the errors and make your PDF documents PDF/UA compliant!



By Priti Rohra

Chief Accessibility Officer

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