In situations where an HTML web form is not available or cannot be used, you may consider creating a fillable PDF form. The main advantage of using a fillable PDF form is that they work well on computers, devices with larger displays, and are designed in a way that is familiar and predictable for sighted individuals. When designing fillable PDF forms for accessibility however, some additional considerations and steps need to be taken before they can be easily navigated and completed by those with accessibility needs.
This guide is designed for those with some level of familiarity creating or remediating accessible PDFs and are working with a source document that with the exception of the fillable form section, is considered to be accessible. If you are unfamiliar with accessible static PDFs, please visit the DSI CLEAR PDF Accessibility Guide or the WebAIM Creating Accessible Forms Guide for additional information.
Before work can begin on creating an accessible PDF form, the following prerequisites are required:
Open source document in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.
Go to the (1) Tools tab and in the Forms & Signatures section, click on (2) Prepare Form.
After clicking on the Prepare Form button in the previous step, Acrobat should automatically take you back to the main document view. In the main document view, the Prepare Form tools menu should visible. If not, you may need to click on the (1) expand button. The expand button can also be used to hide the Prepare Form tools menu if you need a wider view when not working on creating a form. Notice that Acrobat will automatically detect form fields based on the visual design of the source document.
As with all automated tools, a manual check of the results will be required. Verify the following:
After the overall structure and layout of the fillable PDF is complete, form field tab order and tags should be the only remaining items to address for accessibility if done correctly. For reference, here is the example source document after completing the form fields but before the new accessibility issues have been addressed.
To view and modify the field tab order, click on (1) hamburger menu (three tapered horizontal lines) in the Fields submenu of the Prepare Form tools menu and select Show Tab Numbers.
The tab number order will reflect the order listed in the Fields submenu (and little numbers should appear in the top left corner of each field). The numbers in the top left corner of each field should match the visual reading. If anything is out out of order, you may reorder the items in the Fields submenu by dragging and dropping the item into the correct place. If a new tag is created, it will be placed at the bottom of the reading order list (last) and it will need to be reordered accordingly.
At this point, updating tags will follow the normal procedures listed in the DSI-CLEAR PDF Accessibility Guide and will vary according to your own document. In the case of the example source document, remediating the two outstanding issues will require the use of the (1) Find tool in the Tags Menu.
In the example source document, the Find tool will be used to fix the Tagged Annotations and Tagged Form Fields problem. In the tags menu, select find as shown above and the Find Element window will appear. In the drop down menu, select Unmarked Annotations and then click Find. Any elements that are unmarked will be highlighted and for each element highlighted select Tag Element. The Tag Element Window will then allow you to tag any unmarked annotations using a variety of different choices, but for this example the unmarked annotations should be tagged as Forms.
Congratulations! Your fillable form is now accessible!