Accessible PDF Forms

General Information

This guide has tips that you can use to create accessible fill-able PDF (portable document format) forms.  If you’d like a downloadable or printable copy of the guide, please see the Tips for Creating Accessible PDF Forms handout.  If you’d like a quick reference sheet when you’re working on your own documents, please see the Accessibility Checklist for PDF Forms.

To create an accessible PDF form from a Word document or a scanned document, you’ll need Adobe Acrobat Pro. A license for this program will need to be purchased for you by your office or department. Adobe Acrobat Reader has some accessibility features but not the ones needed to create accessible PDF documents.

Before you begin checking the form for accessibility in Adobe Acrobat, there are steps that will save time that can be done to the file in Word before it has been converted to a PDF. You can:

  • Use heading tags
  • Add alternate (alt) text for images and links
  • Use built-in features like Lists and Tables
  • Use the Accessibility Checkers in the Word program

Please see the guides for creating accessible documents in the Technology Tools and Knowledge Bites Accessibility section for assistance making the forms as accessible as possible before converting them to a PDF.

Other suggestions that will save time when you’re creating the form fields in Word:

  • Don’t use the space bar or Enter keys on your keyboard to give additional white space between lines and paragraphs; use the Line and Paragraph Spacing options instead.
  • Don’t use the underline key on your keyboard, the underline formatting tool, or tables to create the lines for users’ responses when creating the form; use the line shape to create users’ response spaces instead.
  • Don’t use tables to add information in a specific location; use columns instead.
  • Don’t add text and then tab to the next location you want to add more text to; use columns and column breaks instead.
  • Don’t try to keep everything on one page; use a larger font size and line spacing instead. This will make it easier for you to create the form fields in Adobe Acrobat and easier for your users to read and fill out later.

The steps in this guide are for creating fill-able forms, please see the Tips for Creating Accessible PDF Files Using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC guide on the Technology Tools and Knowledge Bites website for basic information on creating accessible PDFs after you’ve completed these steps.

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Saving Your Changes

As you go through the Accessibility Tools, Action Wizard, and Prepare Form features in Acrobat, make sure you save your document often because you can’t always undo changes made during the processes. You’ll have to go back to a previous version of the document or start over if you haven’t saved regularly. When you’re adding the form fields and tags, you’ll want to save more regularly. If you haven’t saved your changes in a while, you’ll have to go back to a previous version of the document or start over.

Its recommended that you use the “Save As” to save different versions of the document as you move through the stages listed in this guide. For example, if you’re using one of the features and it makes a change you don’t want, you might not be able to use Edit – Undo or Control Z on your keyboard to go back to the previous stage. You’d have to open a previously saved version or reopen the document again without saving it to start the process from the beginning.

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Working with Scanned Forms

If you’re trying to make a scanned form accessible, make sure it has been scanned using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software and has actual text. If the PDF is an image of the scanned form, you might be able to use the Action Wizard tool in Acrobat to convert it to an accessible document depending on the quality of the scan. Note: If you can get an electronic copy of the original (source) document, it might be easier to fix some of the other accessibility issues like incorrect form field recognition, color contrast or font size, from there instead. Please see the Action Wizard section in the Tips for Creating Accessible PDF Files Using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC guide on the Technology Tools and Knowledge Bites website for basic information on creating accessible PDFs.

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Adding the Accessibility, Action Wizard, and Prepare Form Tools

Depending on how your Adobe Acrobat is set up, you may need to add tools to the workspace area in the right column before you can begin checking for accessibility issues.

To do this:

Screenshot of Acrobat Pro with arrows pointing to selecting the Tools tab, selecting Prepare Form, and scrolling down to the Protect and Standardize section

  1. Select the Tools tab in the upper left corner of Adobe Acrobat program.
  2. Select the Add button for the Prepare Form tool. Note: If the tool shows Open instead of Add, it has already been added to your tool workspace area.
  3. Scroll down the list of tools until you see the Protect & Standardize section. Note: You could use the Search tools option under the Tool tab instead of scrolling.

Screenshot of Tools tab with arrows pointing to selecting Accessibility, selecting Action Wizard, and the tools appearing in the Workspace area

  1. Click the Add button for the Accessibility tool.
  2. In the Customize section just below the Protect & Standardize, click the Add button for the Action Wizard tool.
  3. The Prepare Form, Accessibility, and Action Wizard tools will appear in the tool workspace area on the right side of the screen. Note: If the tool workspace area has been collapsed, select the arrow icon midway down on the right side of your screen to open it.

Repeat these steps for any other tools you’d like to add to the workspace area.

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Using the Navigation Panes

Screenshot of the Acrobat Navigation icons mentioned in A through G below

On the left side of the Adobe Acrobat program is a row of the navigation icons, each one will open a new pane next to it:

  • Page Thumbnails (A) allows you to move throughout the document, insert new pages, replace, delete, and crop pages.
  • Bookmarks (B) shows you all the bookmarks within the document, allows you to add new ones, and remove incorrect ones.
  • Destinations (C) shows where you can view, add, and edit the destinations in this document.
  • Attachments (D) shows you all the attached files and allows you to add new attachments.
  • Content (E) shows you all the containers in the document, allows you to add new ones, and cut, paste, or delete containers. Note: Containers have the elements (tags, text, form fields, etc.) within them which adds structure to the document.
  • Order View (F) shows the reading order of the elements in the document, allows you to retag structured items, move them into the correct order, and delete ones that shouldn’t be there.
  • Tags (G) shows the tags (heading, paragraph, figure, table, background, etc.) structure for the document, allows you to change, add, and delete tags.

These are the panes you’ll need to use to manually check and fix any form field issues in the document. If any of these are missing, you can add them to the navigation list. To do this:

Screenshot of Acrobat Pro with arrows pointing to selecting the View menu and selecting the Hide / Show slide option

  1. Select the View menu.
  2. Select Show/Hide item.

Screenshot of the Hide Show menu with an arrow pointing to selecting the Navigation Panes and the Navigation Panes options menu highlighted

The Show/Hide menu will expand, select Navigation Panes from the list.

The Navigation Panes menu will expand with additional navigation options listed, select the items you would like add to the navigation.

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Creating a Fill-able Form

There is an order to creating an accessible fill-able PDF form, you’ll need to remove the existing tags, create the fill-able form fields, and then make the form accessible.

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Removing the Document’s Tags

Once you’ve opened the form you want to work on in Acrobat, it’s recommended that you remove the existing tags because you’ll want to create the fill-able form fields before you begin making the general accessibility changes. It’s usually easier to remove the existing tags and start over than to try to fix the incorrectly labeled tags, especially if you have a lengthy form. To see if your document has tags, select the Tags navigation icon in the left column.

Screenshot of Acrobat with a section of the Tags navigation pane highlighted and an arrow pointing to the form title that was incorrectly tagged as a paragraph

In this example, Word or Acrobat tagged the form title as a paragraph instead of Heading 1. The figure/image is nested within the paragraph tag as well.

To remove the tags:

Three screenshots showing the tags removal steps. The first has an arrow pointing to right clicking the Tags item, the second has an arrow pointing to the Delete Tag item on the options menu, and the third has the Tags pane without any tags showing

  1. Right click on the first tag in the pane, in most cases it will be called Tags.
  2. Select the Delete Tag option.
  3. All the tags will be removed, and a No Tags available message will appear in the Tags pane.

Save your changes to the form and close the Tags pane.

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Using the Prepare Form Feature

The Prepare Form feature will automatically create form fields for your document and allow you to add or remove them as needed. To use this:

Screenshot of Acrobat with a PDF open and an arrow pointing to the Prepare Form tool in the workspace area

Select the Prepare Form tool in the workspace area on the right.

  1. On the To begin select a file, scan a document or start from scratch screen, the PDF you’re working on should be listed as the one to create the form from, select that file. If it’s not, use the Change File link to select the correct file.
  2. Make sure the Form field auto detection shows it’s on, otherwise Acrobat won’t create the form fields automatically for you. Click the Start button.

Screenshot of the Adobe Acrobat save changes before beginning window with an arrow pointing to the Save button

If you haven’t saved your document recently, a window may open, and Adobe Acrobat will recommend saving any changes you’ve made before beginning the process. Click the Save button.

Acrobat will process the document and take you to the Prepare Forms screen. You’ll see:

Screenshot of the Prepare Form screen with the tool bar, alignment and fields settings, a section of the form with fields automatically created and a section of the form without fields automatically created highlighted

  • The Prepare Forms tool bar (A) that has different types of form fields that you can use to create new ones. Some of available form fields – text fields, check boxes, radio buttons, lists of choices, etc.
  • The Alignment settings and a list of fields (B) that Acrobat found that you can use to adjust the document. Note: The Fields section has the tab order of the form fields.
  • The form fields (C) that Acrobat automatically created for you that you can edit or remove as needed.
  • The form fields that Acrobat couldn’t automatically create for you or created incorrectly (D) that you can use the Prepare Forms tool bar to add the missing form fields. For this example, the text fields in this section should be radio buttons.

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Creating Accessible Form Fields

The form fields that are automatically created in the Prepare Form process will use the surrounding text as the field name and tooltip text. It’s important that you:

  • Review the form field names to include any additional information or remove incorrect text
  • Add new fields
  • Adjust the fields into the correct position or width
  • Delete unnecessary fields.

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Checking Form Fields and Adding Additional Information

To have an accessible form, each form field on the document needs to have a unique name and tooltip title otherwise the information entered for one form field will be duplicated into any other form field with the same name. People using screen readers will hear the information in the tooltip text box, so any additional information that would be a visual clue on how to fill in the form field should be added in the tooltip text box. To check and adjust the form fields name and tooltip:

  1. Right click the first form field. Note: You can also double click on the form field to open the Properties window.
  2. Select Properties from the menu.

The Properties window will open. Note: The Properties window name will also include the type of form field you’re reviewing. For this example, it’s the Text Field Properties window.

Screenshot of the Text Field Properties window with the Name and Tool Tip text boxes highlighted

On the General tab, make sure what’s shown in the Name and Tooltip fields match what is visibly listed on the document for that form field. Note: The text in the name and tooltip fields should be the same unless you need to add additional information to the tooltip for accessibility purposes.

Repeat these steps for all the form fields on the document. Note: If the Properties window is open, you can skip steps 1 and 2 by just selecting another form field. Acrobat will display the newly selected field name and tooltip information.

Screenshot of the updated Former Name and New Name form field names and tooltip information highlighted

Remember to use a unique name and tooltip title so the information entered for one form field won’t be duplicated into any other form fields with the same name. For this example, we added “Former Name” to the Last name, First name, and MI fields for the first set of naming information and “New NAME” to the Last name, First name, and MI fields for the second set of naming information. Note: For the middle initial form fields, we also changed the Tooltip from “MI” to “Middle Initial” so someone using a screen reader would hear exactly what information was needed for that field.

If a form field requires the response in a certain format, that information should be noted in the tooltip text box as well. For example, if a specific date format like month, day, year is required, someone using a screen reader wouldn’t know that unless it’s included in the tooltip text box after the form field label like “Date (mm/dd/yyyy)”. Another example is if a field is marked as required on the Properties window, someone using a screen reader wouldn’t know that unless the tooltip text box had “Required” next to the form field label.

To check for or add formatting information in the Properties window:

Screenshot showing the Properties window with an arrow pointing to the Format tab. The Format category and Options are highlighted.

  1. Select the Format tab.
  2. If the Select format category has None selected, you can move to the next form field. If you want to add a format category, select the Select format category drop down menu. Next, select the type of format category you would like to use. For this example, we selected Date.
  3. In the Date Options area, select the format type that fits your needs. For this example, we selected mm/dd/yyyy.

After adding formatting to a field:

Screenshot showing the Properties window with an arrow pointing to the General tab. The Tooltip text box with the additional accessibility information highlighted.

  1. Select the General tab.
  2. Select the Tooltip text box after the existing text and type the formatting type information. For this example, we typed (mm/dd/yyyy) after the Date text.

Repeat these steps for all the form fields on the document that require additional accessibility information like times, phone numbers, zip codes, etc.

To remove Information from the form fields:

  1. Open the Properties window.
  2. Delete any information that is not needed in the Name or Tooltip text boxes on the General tab.
  3. Select “None” in the Select format category drop down menu to remove unnecessary formatting on the Format tab.
  4. Close the Properties window.

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Adjusting Form Fields

If a form field is too small or too large for the information you’re requesting, you can use the handles on the field box to resize it. For example, the Last name field box is too large, but the First name field is too small, so we’ll need to adjust them to better fit the required information. To do this:

Screenshot of adjusting the size for the form field that is too large for the user response line

Select the handle of the field text box that needs to be shortened and drag the mouse until the text box is the correct size. For this example, we selected the handle on the right side of the New Name Last form field and dragged it to the left until it was the size we wanted it to be. Note: If you select the middle handle of the side you plan to move, that will keep the form field’s height but decrease or increase its width.

Screenshot of adjusting the size for the form field that is too small for the user response line

Select the handle of the field text box that needs to be expanded and drag the mouse until the form field is the right size. For this example, we selected the handle on the left side of the New Name First form field and dragged it to the left until it was the size we wanted it to be.

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Deleting a Form Field

There are several reasons why you may need to delete a form field:

  • If Acrobat created form fields that aren’t needed, like if a portion of the form is for office use and needs to be filled out after the form is returned.
  • If Acrobat created the wrong form field type, like a text input field that should be a check box or radio button, you can remove it from the document and create the correct form field type.
  • If Acrobat didn’t group radio buttons or check boxes together like they should, it’s easier to remove them to start over than to try to fix them.

To do this:

Screenshot with arrows pointing to right clicking on a form field and selecting Delete from the menu

  1. Right click the form field that should be removed. Note: You can select multiple form fields by holding the shift key down on your keyboard and select all the form fields that need to be deleted.
  2. Select Delete. Note: You can also use the Delete key on your keyboard to remove them.
  3. Repeat these steps for all the fields that aren’t needed or are an incorrect format type on the document.

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Adding Additional Form Fields

When Acrobat automatically creates the form fields, it can sometimes miss adding check boxes and radio buttons, so you’ll need to manually add them to the document. Note: Check boxes are used if the person should select more than one option; radio buttons are used if the person should only select one option.

It may also create the wrong type of form field, like a text input field when it should be a check box or radio button. Unfortunately, Acrobat doesn’t allow you to change field types once they’ve been created, you’ll need to create a new form field.

To do this:

Screenshot of the Acrobat form with arrows pointing to the Check Box form field and placing the mouse cursor has changed to create a check box where the check box should go.

  1. Select the form field tool you’d like to use in the Prepare Form tool bar. For this example, we selected the Check box icon.
  2. When the mouse cursor changes to create the check box, click and drag the field box to the size you need on your form. Note: If you added form boxes and lines as visual placeholders when you created the form in Word, they may be too small for the fill-able form field to be usable by the person filling out the form and you’ll have to make the form field box larger than the placeholder box.

Screenshot of the Field Name window with an arrow pointing to the All Properties link

The Field Name window will open once you’ve created the form field. The Field Name has a generic name, like Check Box 1, that needs to be changed to something unique and the Tooltip information added. Select the All Properties link to open the full Properties window.

Select the generic text in the Field Name text box and type the new text to replace it. For this example, we typed Student Records in the text box.

Screenshot of the form with the Check Box Properties window open and an arrow pointing from the form's check box group to the Tool tip text with the same information

Copy the name text in to the Tooltip text box. Note: Because Acrobat can’t group check boxes together, you’ll need to include the purpose of the check boxes as well as the selection option in the tooltip field. The other check boxes in this selection group will need that same information included in their tooltips text as well. For this example, we typed “Office Routing” before the Student Records so a screen reader would read “Office Routing Student Records”, then we added “Office Routing” to the Imaging, Student Email, and Financial Aid options before moving on to the next form field.

Repeat these steps for all the new form fields that need to be added to the document. Note: If there are several similar form fields that you need to create, you can copy and paste them by right clicking the selected form field and copy it to your computer’s clipboard. You can paste it as many times as you need to, just remember to change the name and tooltip information for each one.

If you’re adding radio buttons, you’ll need to make them part of a group where they’ll have the same name and same tooltip value, but will have different Radio Button Choices. To do this:

Screenshot of the Acrobat form with arrows pointing to the Radio Button form field and placing the mouse cursor has changed to create a radio button where the radio button should go

  1. Select the Radio Button form field tool in the Prepare Form tool bar.
  2. When the mouse cursor changes to create the radio button, click and drag the button to the size you need on your form.  Note: If you’ve added form boxes and lines as visual placeholders when you created the form in Word, they may be too small for the fill-able form field to be usable by the person filling out the form and you’ll have to make the form field larger than the placeholder box.

The Radio Button Field Name window will open.  You’ll need to:

Screenshot of the Radio Button window with arrows pointing to the Radio Button Choice text box, the Group Name text box, and the Add Another Button link

  1. Type the new Radio Button Choice text. Note: This field needs to have a unique name for each of the radio buttons in this grouping. For this example, we typed “Current Driver’s License”. The second radio button in this grouping will have the choice of “Government Issued ID”.
  2. Type the new Group Name text. Note: This field name will be the same for all the radio buttons in this grouping. For this example, we typed “A Photo Id:” because this is the first column of requirements the person needs to include with the form.
  3. Select the Add Another Button link to create another radio button for this group. The mouse cursor will change to create a new radio button, select the area you want to place it in on the form. Note: The Group Name should be listed, you’ll just need to type the Radio Button Choice name for the new button. For this example, we typed “Government Issued ID”.
  4. Repeat these steps for the rest of the radio button options in this grouping.

You’ll need to add the tooltip information for all the radio buttons by opening the Properties window and copying the Name into the Tooltip text area.

Depending on if you had a button shape already on your document, you may want to change the radio button shape from circle to fit the one used on the form.

To do this:

Screenshot showing the Radio Button Properties window with an arrow pointing to the Options tab. The Button Style drop down menu and the Radio Button Choice text area are highlighted.

  1. In the Radio Button Properties window, select the Options tab.
  2. Select the Button Style drop down menu and select the style that matches the shape already on the document. For this example, we selected Square.
  3. The Radio Button Choice text box should show the text you typed in for the selection value. Note: You’ll need to check the settings for all the radio button options including Tooltip and Button Style.

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Fixing Form Field Tab Order

Once you’ve finished adding fields and adjusting the labels, you’ll need to check the tab order of the form. The tab order is how someone can navigate through the form fields using the Tab key on their keyboard. There are two main reasons why the field order may not be correct in your form.

Screenshot of a form with two separate sections of fields side by side and the tab order showing top to bottom, left to right

The first is because the default order in Acrobat is set to follow the document’s structure left to right. So, if you have two sections of fields side-by-side, the tab order would go across both sections instead of going through the first section and then moving to the second section. The other reason is if the fields were added after Acrobat automatically created the ones it could on the form. For example, if you created any check boxes and radio buttons, they’d be placed at the end of the Fields tab order list and need to be move up, so they match the visible order of the document.

In the Prepare Form right panel, the Fields area will allow you to move the form fields into the correct tab order as they are visually on the document. An easy way to see the tab order of the document is to use the “Show Tab Numbers”. This will display the tab order number in the upper left corner of the form field. To do this:

Screenshot of the Prepare Form feature with arrows pointing to selecting the Fields drop down menu and selecting the Show Tab Numbers item. The numbered form fields in the document are highlighted.

  1. In the Prepare Form panel, select the Fields drop down menu.
  2. Select the Show Tab Numbers item.
  3. Numbered boxes will appear in the upper left corner of the form fields within the document. Note: If you have more than one page, the form field numbers will restart at the beginning of each page.

Now you’ll be able to make sure the tab order matches how the form fields are displayed visible on the document. If radio buttons have been grouped properly, they’ll have the same tab number for all the selection options. If they have different numbers, you’ll need to delete the existing radio buttons and recreate them in a group. If the form fields aren’t in the correct order, you’ll need to move them by either dragging and dropping or cutting and pasting them into place. To do this:

Screenshot of the Prepare Form Fields area showing the form fields that need to be moved with an arrow pointing to where to move them into the correct order

  1. In the Prepare Forms Fields area, find the form fields that need to be moved to the correct visible order on the document. Once a form field has been selected in the Fields area, it will be highlighted in the form itself. Note: If you need to move multiple form fields, like radio buttons, at once, use the Shift key on your keyboard and select all the form fields to be moved together.
  2. Hold and drag the form field from where it original was in the list to its new location. Note: If it’s a long document with a lot of form fields, you may need to drop the form field midway through the list and select it again to move it the rest of the way.
  3. As you drag the form field, a gray bar will appear between the other form fields as a placement guide for where it’ll be moved to. When you reach the correct location, release your mouse button and drop the form field into place. This will change the tab numbers for the rest of the form fields on the document.

Continue these steps until all the form fields match their visible order in the document.

Preview your form fields to make sure any formatting changes (date mm/dd/yyyy, phone number, or zip code) and the tab order are correct before beginning to make the form fields accessible. You can preview your document and enter sample information into the form fields. To do this:

Screenshot of the Prepare Forms tool bar with an arrow pointing to selecting the Preview button

Select the Preview button on the right side of the Prepare Form tool bar. Put your cursor in the first form field and type some text. Use the Tab key on your keyboard to move to the next form field. While you’re testing your form fields and the tab order, keep in mind that radio buttons use the up and down arrows on the keyboard to select a response and check boxes use the Enter key to select a response.

Screenshot of the form preview with fields filled in and an arrow pointing to selecting the Edit button

When you have finished previewing the document, click the Edit button not the Close button.

You’ll need to clear the data from the form fields and fix any issues before moving on to the next step. To do this:

Screenshot of the Prepare Form feature with arrows pointing to selecting the More drop down menu, and selecting the Clear Form item

  1. In the Prepare Form panel, select the More drop down menu.
  2. Select the Clear Form option.

After the document has been cleared and any issues fixed, click the Close button to leave the Prepare Form tool.

Remember to save your work. You could use Save As to create a form field version of your file.

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Adding Tags to the Fill-able Form

Next, you’ll be adding tags to the form fields to make sure your document is functional and accessible. Note: Before starting this step, review the form fields and tab order to make sure they’ve been set up properly. Going back into Prepare Form mode after the tags have been added to change form fields or the tab order may cause the form field information to overwrite the tag information.

Before you begin adding tags to the form, you’ll need to make sure there is a space between the text and the lines for the users’ responses. You can do this by using the Edit Form option in the panel on the right side.

There are two ways to have Acrobat automatically add tags to your document:

Screenshot with arrows pointing to selecting the Auto tag document option in the Accessibility panel and right clicking the No Tags available option to select the Add Tags to Document item in the Tags pane

  • Autotag Document feature in the Accessibility panel on the right side (A).
  • Open the Tags pane then right click the No Tags Available message and select Add Tags to Document on the left side (B).

Screenshot of the Tags pane with an arrow pointing from a paragraph tag in the pane to where it appears in the document.

When a tag is selected in the Tags pane, it should highlight the corresponding information within the document.

If you select a tag and it doesn’t highlight the corresponding information in the document, you may need to:

Screenshot with arrows pointing to right clicking the paragraph tag in the Tags pane and selecting Highlight Content from the menu to turn on the highlighting feature in the document

  1. Right click one of the tags.
  2. Select Highlight Content from the menu.

This will turn the highlighting on for this document.

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Reviewing the Document Tags

During this step, you’ll need to start looking at the form’s accessibility and tag order. Acrobat may incorrectly label the tags or put them in the wrong order, so you’ll need to go through and make sure they are listed properly.

Screenshot of the several items highlighted in the document with arrows pointing to all of them being in the same figure tag in the Tags pane instead of being in separarate tags

For example, Acrobat may label the form’s title as a <p> (paragraph) tag instead of <H1> (Heading 1). It may have an item lower in the tag list than it is visibly in the document. Or has additional tags that don’t need to be there. You may also have a tag with two items, like an image and a list, that shouldn’t be together that you must separate into two different tags.

If you can’t find an item from the document in the Tags pane:

Screenshot with arrows pointing to selecting text in the document, right clicking the Tags tag in the Tags pane, and selecting the Find Tag from Selection option

  1. Select the visible text in the document.
  2. Right click on the Tags tag in the pane.
  3. Select Find from Selection from the menu. The tag will be highlighted in the Tags pane.

If you find a majorly mislabeled tag, like a table tag when there isn’t a table in your document, you can use the Reading Order option in the Accessibility tool to change the tag type. To do this:

Open the Reading Order window.

Select the Page content order radio button and uncheck the Display like elements in a single block box.

Screenshot with arrows pointing to highlighting the incorrectly labeled text in the document and selecting Heading 1 button in the Reading Order windown

  1. In the document, select the incorrectly labeled tag type by clicking your mouse button on the outer edge of the text and dragging it to the other side of the text. Note: You’ll need to place your mouse cursor outside the text and make sure each part of the incorrectly labeled tag is in the selection box. You may have to try to do this several times before everything is within the selection. For this example, we selected the text and form fields that Acrobat labeled as a figure.
  2. In the Reading Order window, select the correct tag type. For this example, we clicked the Heading 1 button.

Please see the Reading Order, Fixing Tag Order and Tag Labels sections in the Tips for Creating Accessible PDF Files Using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC guide on the Technology Tools and Knowledge Bites website for basic information on how to change the tag order and tag labels for your fill-able PDF form.

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Fixing Form Field Tags

After you’ve updated the tag order, you’ll need to make sure that the form field tags have the necessary components to function and be accessible.

Each form field in the document should have:

Screenshot with an arrow pointing from the form field in the document to the Tags pane with a form field tag set mentioned in instructions A through D

  • The <p> (paragraph) tag (A) that holds the rest of the tags.
  • The visible label of the form field (B) that matches the field name in the form.
  • The <Form> tag (C) as a peer at the same level as the visible label within the <p> tag.
  • The field name – OBJR (object) tag (D) nested within the form tag.

It’s important that each form field in the document have a separate <p> (paragraph) tag with a visible label tag and <Form> tag with the OBJR (object) tag within it.

Screenshot with an arrow pointing from a form field tag set that has several form object tags within the same paragraph tag to the form field in the document

If several form tags and object tags are within a single paragraph tag or several visible label tags for the form field names are grouped into one, you’ll need to create a new set for each form field. Note: Depending how the form was designed, you may have the visible labels for a row of form fields in a paragraph tag separate from the form tags and object tags.

For this guide, we’ve included the steps on how to fix the most common things you’ll need to adjust to have a functioning and an accessible form.

Creating New Paragraph Tags

To create new paragraph (and other) tags for the individual form fields:

Screenshot with arrows pointing to right clicking a paragraph tag and selecting New Tag from the menu

Right click the tag just above where you want the new tag to be listed and select New Tag… from the menu.

The New Tag window will open:

Screenshot of the New Tag window with arrows pointing to selecting the Type drop down menu and selecting Paragraph type

  1. Select the Type drop down menu.
  2. Select the Paragraph option. Note: This is also where you’d create new Form, List, etc. tags.
  3. Click the OK button to create the new tag.

Repeat these steps for all the <p> tags you’ll need for the form fields that were incorrectly grouped together. Note: Acrobat will remember the last tag type you selected from the list, so you may want to create all the new paragraph tags you’ll need at once.

Screenshot with an arrow pointing from the visible label tag in the Tags pane to the line of text field in the document

If you have a line of text in the document that isn’t part of a form field, you’ll need to create a paragraph tag and a visible label tag for the text.

It’s recommended that you save your work after you fix each paragraph tag in case you make a mistake and must go back to a previous version of the document.

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Creating New Visible Label Tags

When you create new paragraph tags, they’ll be empty, and you’ll need to create visible labels for each one. To do this:

Screenshot with the Select tool highlighted and an arrow pointing to the empty paragraph tag in the Tags pane

After making sure the Select tool is active in the Acrobat tool bar, select the first empty <p> tag you created.

Screenshot with arrows pointing to selecting the form field in the document, right clicking the empty paragraph tag in the Tags pane, and selecting Create Tag from Selection from the menu

  1. Select the form field name in the document. For this example, we selected Student ID.
  2. Right click the empty <p> tag in the Tags pane.
  3. Select the Create Tag from Selection option.

Screenshot with the new visible label highlighted

The form field name will now be a visible label nested in the paragraph tag. For this example, the Student ID visible label is within the <p> tag.  Repeat these steps for all the empty <p> tags you just created. Note: You’ll need to do this for all the form fields that are missing the visible label or were grouped in one form tag.  It’s recommended that you fix these issues in smaller sections to make sure you don’t miss any and to save often.

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Creating New Form Tags

If there are several OBJR (object) tags in the same <Form> tag, you’ll need to create new form tags for each one in the paragraph tags you just added the visible labels in. To do this:

Screenshot with arrows pointing to right clicking a visible label tag and selecting New Tag from the menu

  1. Right click the visible label tag within the paragraph tag you want to add the new form tag to. Note: This will place the new form tag as a peer of the visible label tag and you won’t have to move it into the paragraph tag.
  2. Select the New Tag… option.

The New Tag window will open:

Screenshot of the New Tag window with arrows pointing to selecting the Type drop down menu and selecting Form type

  1. Select the Type drop down menu.
  2. Select the Form option.
  3. Click the OK button to create the new tag.

Repeat these steps for all the <p> tags you created.

Screenshot of the paragraph tags that were created with visible label tags and form tags within them

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Moving Object Tags into Form Tags

After the <Form> tags have been added to the <p> tags you created, you’ll need to move the OBJR (object) tag into the corresponding form tag. To do this:

Screenshot with arrows pointing to right clicking an object tag and selecting Cut from the menu

  1. Right click the OBJR tag you want to move.
  2. Select the Cut option.

Screenshot with arrows pointing to right clicking a form tag and selecting Paste Child from the menu

  1. Right click the <Form> tag you want to add the OBJR tag to.
  2. Select the Paste Child option.  Note: You can also drag the OBJR tag into the <Form> tag, but cutting and pasting is the best way to make sure it goes into the correct tag.

Repeat these steps for all the OBJR tags that were incorrectly grouped together.

Screenshot of the paragraph tags that were created with visible label tags, form tags, and object tags within them

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Deleting Incorrectly Tagged Form Fields

Screenshot with an arrow pointing from a table tag set in the Tags pane to the form fields in the document

If you decide to delete an incorrectly tagged form field and manually recreated it, make sure you recreate the new tags before you delete it. When you delete a tag, everything nested in it is deleted as well, including the OBJR (object) tags that are needed.

To do this:

  1. Right click the tag you want to delete. For this example, we selected the <Table> tag.
  2. Select the Delete Tag option. Note: You can also use the Delete key on your keyboard to remove the tag.
  3. The tag will be removed from the Tags pane.

Repeat these steps for all the tags you want to delete.

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Additional Information and Resources

If you would like to learn more about creating accessible PDF forms, please see:

This handout was created using tips from the WebAIM PDF Accessibility: Forms, the Minnesota IT Services Office of Accessibility guides, the Adobe Acrobat Help website, and the University of Alabama (UA) recordings.

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