Accessible PDF

PDF Form – Yes, Yes, Time Screen Reader users can now fill up forms independently!

Filling up PDF form using screen reader – no longer a hurdle!

In the last week, Jenifer a friend of mine filled up a job application form available in PDF format independently! She was so thrilled about it and she shared her experience with me that her screen reader identified each form control for her and read out all the instructions as well as she could interact with the form with a keyboard!

You’ll might be wondering what’s the big deal in that? We’ll can do that!!

Yes, we can fill up PDF forms independently with minimum fuss! However, this is not the case for screen reader users. Jenifer has Retinitis Pigmentosa and uses a screen reader to work on a computer.

In the past accessing PDF forms with a screen reader was like climbing a mountain with a very little odds to succeed!

This prompted me to find out more about what made this possible and how exactly does a screen reader interact with PDF forms?

PDF forms that have accessibility baked in have changed the scenario for users with visual impairments who use a screen reader!

Over the years PDF forms have been floating on the web and often screen reader users came across PDF forms with several accessibility challenges, such as:

  • Form controls not identified
  • Labels and instructions not associated with form controls
  • Illogical tabbing and reading order etc…

So screen reader users considered PDF forms as a no-no affair!

Accessible PDF has changed this to a certain extent. So I decided to write this post describing in brief about how to make a PDF form accessible and how does a screen reader interact with a PDF form!

Let’s start with finding out how PDF forms can be made accessible using Acrobat Professional.

What goes in making a PDF form accessible?

Here are key considerations for making a PDF form accessible using Adobe Acrobat Professional:

  • Name: Assign descriptive label to each form control and make sure that the labels are programmatically associated with the form controls via tooltip property.
  • Role: Ensure that forms are tagged using appropriate form controls such as text input fields, radio buttons, checkboxes, etc.
  • Group form controls: Make sure that the instruction is programmatically associated with the form controls such as radio buttons and check boxes via tooltip and name properties.
  • Form Instructions: Include the instruction indicating the input format with the label of the form field if a form field requires a specific input format.
  • Logical Tabbing and reading order: Ensure that the tabbing and reading order of the form is meaningfulSo now let’s go ahead and find out how a screen reader renders a PDF form for their users!.

So now let’s go ahead and find out how a screen reader renders a PDF form for their users!

Filling up job application PDF form using screen reader


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By Namrata Salian

Senior Quality Analyst