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Encouraged Fixes for PDF Files

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ASPA-DCD classifies accessibility errors into two categories as shown below:

  • Required Fixes (RFs): violations that must be corrected and have direct mappings to either Section 508 or HHS accessibility guidelines.
  • Encouraged Fixes (EFs): issues that should be corrected in order to meet best-practice accessibility standards but are not required for conformance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act or HHS accessibility guidelines.

Should you have questions or recommendations for revisions to the below list, please contact ASPA-DCD at http://wcdapps.hhs.gov/AccessibilityAssistance/. We welcome any and all feedback about these common-issues lists.

Back to Making Files Accessible

PDF Properties and General Checks

Issue Title

Issue Description

Remediation Suggestion

Inconsistent Page Numbering

Page numbers displayed in the Adobe PDF viewer does not correlate to the page numbers in the body of the document. For example, navigating to page 10 in the viewer takes the user to a page numbered 8 in the document.

Edit the PDF page numbering so that it matches the displayed page numbers in the document. For further assistance see:

W3 PDF technique #17

Signatures are Present

The document contains an actual signature.

Replace signature with the S-signature to avoid identity theft. For further assistance see:

HHS Standard for signatures

Abbreviations are Undefined

An abbreviation was used in the document, however it was either never defined, or it has multiple meanings within the document.

On first use, completely spell out the content followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. Alternatively, put each instance of the abbreviation in a span tag and set the ‘Actual Text’ to the full meaning. For further assistance see:

WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 3.1.4

Page Contains an Accessible Alternative for Inaccessible Content

The document contains an alternate version for a piece of content that can be made accessible on its own. When implementing a separate but equal version, the disabled are treated as if they’re not as important as abled individuals.

Make original content fully accessible and remove alternate version. For further assistance see:

Webaim Text Only Versions

Navigational Direction is Device Dependent

For instructional commands, only mouse device instructions such as click or hover are given.

Use device independent navigation such as select, navigate, and activate.

Non hyperlinked text is underlined

Underlines typically indicate that text is hyperlinked. Underlining text that is not linked can cause confusion for users.

Remove underlines from all text that is not linked.

Issue Title

Issue Description

Remediation Suggestion

Links are Tagged Incorrectly

The nesting of the Link tag, linked text, and Link-OBJR tag is incorrect. This issue is a violation of Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 1.3.1.

Modify the tag structure so that the <Link> tag contains the appropriate visual link text and a Link-OBJR tag. For further assistance, see:

W3 PDF Technique #11

Generic Link Text is Present

Generic link text such as ‘Click Here’, ‘Read More’, etc. is used, and there are no clues to link destination or function in the text immediately surrounding the link. This issue is a violation of WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 2.4.4

Modify generic link text such as ‘Click Here’, ‘Read More’, etc. to a value so a user can understand the destination out of context and/or ensure that the text surrounding the link provides context for the link's functionality and destination.

For further assistance see:

W3C General Technique #53
W3C General Technique #91

Links are Only Identified Visually by Color

Links have no visual indication from surrounding text other than color, and the contrast difference between the colors is not at least 3:1. This issue is a violation of WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 1.4.1.

Modify links so they have a visual indicator other than color (i.e. underline) or adjust the color so there is sufficient contrast. For assistance see:

W3C General Technique #183
Free contrast analyzer tool

Links are not Distinguishable out of Context

Generic link text was used and is only understandable when in context with the surrounding content. Assistive Technology users also navigate pages by bringing up a list of all the links on the page. Having link text that is understandable out of context helps users navigate by this method.

Modify the link text so that the purpose of the link is understandable when read on its own. For further assistance see:

WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 2.4.9

Images

Issue Title

Issue Description

Remediation Suggestion

Verbose or Redundant Alternative Text is Present

Alternative text repeats adjacent text or contains extraneous wording such as “image of...”, “this image shows...”, etc.

Revise alternative text to eliminate extraneous wording. For further assistance see:

Webaim Alt text

Tag Structure

Issue Title

Issue Description

Remediation Suggestion

Alternate Tag Structure would enhance usability

Although the current tagging of a piece of content meets WCAG 2.0 guidelines, the tagging may confuse users who rely on screen readers. An alternate tagging would enhance understandability.

Retag the content as described in the Location column.

Empty Tags are Present

The document contains at least one tag that is empty (has no content), and no value is in the Actual Text or Alternate Text fields.

Remove all empty tags from the document.

Excessive Sectional Tags are Present

There are excessive sectional/division tags in the tree structure that are not necessary and give the impression of an incorrectly tagged document.

Remove unnecessary sectional tags from the document.

Background Content is Tagged

Empty background content has been tagged and appears in the tag structure.

Mark all background content as artifacts. For further assistance see:

W3 PDF Technique #4

Repetitive content in the header/footer is tagged

Content from running headers or footers in the document has been tagged. This can be annoying to users of assistive technology and disrupt the flow of the document.

Tag all repetitive content in the header/footer as background (including pagination). For further assistance see:

W3 PDF Technique #4
W3 PDF Technique #14

Tables

Issue Title

Issue Description

Remediation Suggestion

Repeated Headers are not Tagged as Background

A data table spans more than one page and the repeated header row on each page is tagged instead of being marked as background.

Tag all repeated headers as background and remove TR tags from tag tree.

A Complex Table is Able to be Reformatted into a Series of Simple Tables

There is a complex data table (one with multiple column or row headers) on the page. Even when properly coded, complex tables can be difficult for Assistive Technology users to understand. In most cases, complex tables can be broken up into a series of simple tables.

Modify the complex data table into a series of simple data tables.

Data Cells Split Across Pages

A data table cell spans more than one page. This can be an issue for individuals with cognitive disabilities in understanding the content when a cell starts on one page and ends on another.

Recreate table in source file with "Allow row to split across pages" unchecked.

Header Row not Repeated Across Pages

A data table spans more than one page but the header row is not repeated. This can be an issue for individuals with cognitive disabilities in understanding the content when a table starts on one page and ends on another.

Recreate table in source file with "Repeat Header Rows" enabled. If implemented, also recommend setting repeated headers as background for assistive technology users.

A Table Title is Contained in the Table Body

The title of the table is contained in the body of the table, causing the table to be considered complex. Data table bodies should only contain the header cells and the subsequent data cells.

Remove the title of the table from the body and place it in a caption tag or above the table in a logical heading tag.

Lists

Issue Title

Issue Description

Remediation Suggestion

List Structure is Missing a Label

List bullets or other identifiers are contained in the <Lbody> tag instead of a separate <Lbl> tag.

Add missing label tags. Each list item <LI> tag should contain a label <lbl> tag that includes the number or bullet.

For further assistance, see:

W3 PDF Technique #21

List items may be better understandable as headings

Content was tagged as a list because of the inclusion of a numerical sequence, however, because of the amount of content in between each list item, headings may be more understandable.

Convert list items into headings with the appropriate heading level.

Headings

Issue Title

Issue Description

Remediation Suggestion

Headings Contain Too Much Information

Headings are too verbose and should be condensed.

A Heading should be a short, descriptive title of a section or category.

Forms

Issue Title

Issue Description

Remediation Suggestion

Indication of Field Format Requirements not Included

A form field has automatic validation to make sure the content is in a particular format, but there is no indication to the user of the format prior to receiving the error.

Provide the desired format requirements in the visual text prior to the field. For further assistance see:

W3 PDF Technique #22

Content created by Digital Communications Division (DCD)
Content last reviewed on May 23, 2018