• Media Type Adobe Acrobat PDF > Reading Order
  • State Active
  • Advisory No

Tagged documents provide a structure for the PDF document and ensure that it can readily be browsed and read in assistive technology. Tagged documents can be produced either directly, when the PDF is initially created, or via the "Add Tags to Document" option within Acrobat. Once the tags are added to the document, authors are responsible for ensuring the document structure is properly identified within the tag tree.

Compliant Example

A document that contains tags that were created by using the "add tags to
document" accessibility option or by creating the document from a source such as
Microsoft Word and instructing it to include tags.

A tagged document might look something like
// pseudo-code //
<Document>
 <Sect> Page 1</Sect>
  <H1></H1>
  <P> </P>
  <H2></H2>
  <P> </P>
 <Sect> Page 2</Sect>
  <H1></H1>
  <P>
...
</Document>

Non-Compliant Example

A document that does not contain any tags either because it was scanned, created from an
application that doesn't support tagging, or because tags were removed.

The tags tree states:
No Tags

If the tag structure is not present, authors can either (i) regenerate the document with a tag structure or (ii) manually add the tag structure using PDF.

Generally, the best option is to utilize the structure available in the native document format to generate the initial tag structure of the document. In this approach, the native document (e.g. an MS Word document) provides styles and structure which is mapped to the tag structure of the PDF document. In the Microsoft Word example, text that is defined with the Heading1 style would be converted into the H1 tag in Acrobat. This approach tends to be the easiest to implement and maintain over multiple document production cycles.

The second "fall back" approach is to manually add tags into the PDF document using the Adobe Acrobat "Add Tags..." feature under the "Advanced - Accessibility" menu item in Acrobat. This approach requires that Acrobat review the document content and formatting and "guess" at the appropriate document tag structure. This generally results in a document with some transcription errors that must then be manually addressed within the document.

Once tags have been added authors must ensure the tag structure is appropriate and accurately reflects the document content. To ensure this authors should utilize the Accessibility "Full Check" feature in Acrobat with manual and assistive technology inspection. These tests will validate that the document contains proper accessibility information.

Note - WCAG 2.0 checkpoints 1.4.4 Resize Text and 1.4.8 Visual Presentation are mapped to this best practice because the re-flow of text can not be performed unless a document is tagged.

Organization Standards

  • § 508-1194.22 Web Sites and Applications
    • (a) Text equivalent of non-text items
  • Section 508 and 255 (Revised 2017)
    • Chapter 3: Functional Performance Criteria
      • 302.2 With Limited Vision
      • 302.1 Without Vision
      • 302.7 With Limited Manipulation
      • 302.8 With Limited Reach and Strength
  • WCAG 2.0 Level A
    • 1.1.1 Provide text alternatives for all non-text content
    • 4.1.2 Name, Role, Value
    • 1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence
  • WCAG 2.0 Level AA
    • 1.4.4 Resize Text
  • WCAG 2.1 Level A
    • 1.1.1 Non-text Content
    • 1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence
    • 4.1.2 Name, Role, Value
  • WCAG 2.1 Level AA
    • 1.4.4 Resize text

Other Mapped Standards

  • § 508-1194.21 Software Applications and Operating Systems
    • (f) Textual information shall be provided through operating system functions
  • § 508-1194.22 VA Testing Checklist - Web Sites and Applications
    • (a) A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element content).
      • (a.3) Are text equivalents provided for background, animated and interactive content?
        • (a.3.i) Are electronic files (such as .pdf, .doc, and .ppt) accessible or do they have text equivalents?
  • § 508-1194.31 VA Testing Checklist - Web Functional performance criteria
    • (a) At least one mode of operation and information retrieval that does not require user vision shall be provided, or support for assistive technology used by people who are blind or visually impaired shall be provided.
      • (a.1) For file types that support it (such as PDF or .doc) are tags used to structure documents, including for overall reading order, columns and form controls?
  • § 508-1194.31 Functional performance criteria
    • (a) Ensure access for blind and visually impaired
    • (b) Ensure access for low vision users
    • (f) Ensure users with mobility impairments can use application
  • HHS PDF 508 Checklist
    • 1.0 Document Layout and Formatting Requirements
      • (11) Have Acrobat Accessibility Tags been added to the document?
  • HHS PDF 508 Checklist (2014)
    • 3.0 Accessibility Tagging and Reading Order
      • (3.1) Have PDF tags been added to the document?
    • 5.0 Lists and PDF Tables
      • (5.1) Have lists been tagged completely, making use of all four of the following tags: L, LI, Lbl, and LBody tags?
  • WCAG 1.0 Priority 1
    • 01.1 Lack of textual equivalents for non-text elements.
  • WCAG 2.0 Level AAA
    • 1.4.8 Visual Presentation
  • WCAG 2.1 Level AAA
    • 1.4.8 Visual Presentation
  • Severity10
    in range of 1 to 10
  • Noticeability7
    in range of 1 to 10
  • Tractability9
    in range of 1 to 10