Making PDFs Accessible

We optimize Portable Document Format (PDF) files for accessibility to comply with Section 508 standards, a requirement for federal websites.

Note that we are not able to post PDFs of scanned images. Scanned PDFs, in which the entire content of the PDF is an image, cannot be read by screen readers. If you wish to post a scanned PDF, you must include a text version.

Step 1. Open the PDF.

Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Step 2. Add Metadata.

Go to File > Properties (or Control + D), and fill out these fields:

  • Title: Enter the full title of the document.
  • Subject: Provide a 150–160 character summary of the file's content.

Learn how to write metadata to optimize PDFs for search engines.

Step 3. Set the Initial View.

Under File > Properties, go to the "Initial View" tab. Select the following from these drop-down menus:

  • Page layout: Single Page
  • Magnification: Fit Width
  • Show: Document Title.

For PDFs with 15 or fewer pages, select “Pages Panel and Page” from the Navigation tab drop-down menu. 

For PDFs with more than 15 pages, select "Bookmarks Panel and Page" from the Navigation tab drop-down menu.

Step 4. Set the Language.

Under File > Properties, go to the "Advanced" tab. Under "Reading Options," change the "Language" drop-down menu to "English."

Step 5. Embed Page Thumbnails or Add Bookmarks.

The number of pages determines whether you embed page thumbnails or add bookmarks to a PDF.

Embed Page Thumbnails: 15 or Fewer Pages

Select the "Page Thumbnails" icon in the left panel.

If a thumbnail image of every page doesn’t appear, from the options icon drop-down, select “Embed all Page Thumbnails.”

Add Bookmarks: More than 15 Pages

Decide which sections of the PDF should be bookmarked.

Select the “Bookmarks” icon in the left panel.

To add a bookmark, navigate to the page. With your cursor, highlight the page or section heading, and then do Control + B or click on the “New Bookmark” icon.

Step 6. Add Accessibility Tags.

If “Accessibility” doesn’t appear in the tools pane on the right, select “More Tools” or click on the “Tools” tab. Then, click on “Accessibility.” Or you can add it your tools pane by selecting “Add Shortcut” from the drop-down menu; then click on it in the tools pane.

In the tools pane on the right, click on “Autotag Document.” 

Step 7. “Save As” To Optimize.

Go to File > Save As or Shift + Control + S. 

If uploading the PDF to, save as in all-lowercase letters, with hyphens to separate words.

Note: Simply saving the file will not optimize it.

Step 8. Check Optimization.

Go to File > Properties. If the PDF is optimized, “Yes” will appear next to both “Tagged PDF” and “Fast Web View.”

If the PDF has not been tagged, see Step 6. Add Accessibility Tags. If the PDF has not been optimized for fast web view, see Step 7. “Save As” To Optimize.


If you have questions about optimizing PDFs for accessibility, contact Shauna Fjeld.