Adobe Acrobat Pro: Properly Tagging Page Content & Setting Alternate Text for Figures

Accessibility management tools in Adobe Acrobat Pro allow for images, figures, and other objects such as text blocks to be selected in both a manual and automated manner. Appropriately marking page content types and correct reading order is important for making document content fully accessible to users of text-to-speech tools such as screen readers. Not doing so can make navigating the document using these tools incredibly cumbersome and may render content playback incomprehensible to users. For those who do not have access to Adobe Acrobat Pro on their own computer, this software can be accessed through computers in the DiSCO.

Additionally, figures and images without alternative text for those utilizing text-to-speech tools are not considered accessible and heavily impact the overall accessibility of a document. Acrobat Pro allows users to insert alternate text for these figures and images as well.

Documents that would most benefit from this process, of tagging content and entering alternate text for figures, include scanned documents, particularly photo scanned ones, documents with any images, or cosmetic irregularities, and documents with irregular read order.

Table of Contents

  1. Marking Decorative/Cosmetic Objects
  2. Generally Marking Object Types and Reading Order
  3. Checking & Correcting Object Types and Reading Order
  4. Setting Alternate Text for Figures

Marking Page Object Types & Reading Order

To properly tag document objects and mark their reading order:

  1. Open the file in Acrobat Pro.

  2. OCR your file.

  3. Select the “Accessibility” shortcut in the features and tools navigation column, on the right hand side of your window. Expanded options will appear. If the shortcut is not present:

    1. Select the “More Tools” option at the bottom of the navigation column or the “Tools” tab on the navigation bar of your window. 
    2. Under the Protect & Standardize section of tools, select the “Add” button below the “Accessibility” feature icon. The feature will now have a shortcut in the features and tools navigation column.
  4. Select the “Reading Order” option from the expanded tool options. A popup window will appear and page content tags will become visible to you. 

  5. If the page tags and read order are clearly erroneous and/or disorganized, select the “Clear Page Structure…” button on the bottom of the popup window for each page of your file that this is the case.

Cosmetic/Decorative Content 
  1. Identify cosmetic page objects. If they cannot be removed using the Edit PDF feature, or you do not want to remove them, highlight them using your mouse - click and drag until the content is fully in the rectangular selection box. Your selection will then be highlighted in purple. Select the “Background/Artifact” option in your popup window. Do this for all the page objects/features you deem cosmetic.

    • Cosmetic objects interfere with and hamper the playback of text-to-speech applications unless they are properly marked as such. 
    • Cosmetic objects can include headers, footers, page numbers, residual marks or page imperfections from scanning, page decorations, etc… If it is visible on the screen but does not impact understanding of the page content it is cosmetic.
    General Content
  2. Review the remaining page content, and in the order that the content is to be read highlight the remaining content in appropriate blocks, making sure everything you wanted to select is highlighted, and select the corresponding content type for each block.

    • Content based/important images should be marked as “Figures”

Checking & Correcting Content Type and Page Reading Order
  1. Toggle between the “Page content order” and “Structure types” options, in the “Show page content groups” selection in the lower half of the “Reading Order” popup window, to make sure everything on the page is appropriately marked and in the correct order.

    1. If the content groups are not in the appropriate reading order: 

      1. Select the “Show Order Panel” button on the bottom of the popup window. The panel will appear on the left side of your window, in your tool specific navigation panel. 
      2. Expand the selection of the document, and then the page, that you are currently working on. From there you can drag the content groups into the order that you would like them to be read.
    2. If the structure type of a content group needs to be corrected:

      1. Select, right-click, the indication of the structure type (its label). The content group indicator will turn blue.
      2. Left click the same content group and select the appropriate “Tag as [structure type]” option.
  2. Repeat steps 6-8 for every page in the file. It is recommended that you move between pages using the options available in the toolbar at the top of the window. 

  3. Select the “Close” button in the “Reading Order” popup window when you have finished, or at any point to exit out of the feature.

Inserting Alternate Text for Figures

To set alternate text for figures throughout your file:

  1. Have the file open in Adobe Acrobat Pro.

  2. Properly tag object types across your file.

  3. Select the “Accessibility” shortcut in the features and tools navigation column on the right hand side of your window. If the shortcut is not present, follow the step 3 instructions above.

  4. Select the “Set Alternate Text” option from the expanded tool options, and in the following popup notification window, select “OK.”

  5. Toggle between the figures in your document and enter alternative text for each figure. If a figure is decorative (unimportant towards understanding the page or file content) mark it as such by selecting the “Decorative figure” option when prompted to enter alternate text for it.

  6. Select “Save & Close” when done or at any point to save your edits.


Article courtesy of Carleton College IT Support
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Article ID: 148718
Thu 1/19/23 2:27 PM
Thu 1/19/23 2:27 PM