ACCESSIBLE PDFs: How to Prevent Security Settings from Interfering with Screen Readers

Five PDF icons in a row

When creating a PDF file using Adobe Acrobat DC Pro, a document author can specify that no part of an accessible PDF is to be copied, printed, extracted, commented on, or edited.

Problem is this security setting can interfere with a screen reader’s ability to read the document, because screen readers must be able to copy or extract the document’s text to convert it to speech.

How to fix accessibility permissions manually

1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat DC Pro
2. Choose File > Properties > Security.
3. Choose No Security from the Security Method drop-down list.
4. Click OK and close the Document Properties dialog box.

Is your screen reader a Trusted Agent?

From Adobe: “If your assistive technology product is registered with Adobe as a Trusted Agent, you can read PDFs that might be inaccessible to another assistive technology product. Acrobat recognizes when a screen reader or other product is a Trusted Agent and overrides security settings that would typically limit access to the content for accessibility purposes. However, the security settings remain in effect for all other purposes, such as to prevent printing, copying, extracting, commenting, or editing text.”



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ACCESSIBLE IMAGES: How to Handle ALT Text Acronyms

How to code ALT text acroymns

IMG ALT text with acronyms can cause problems when read by screenreaders.

FAIL: <img src=”mit-it-logo.jpg” alt=”ITS at MIT” />
(read by a screen reader as “It’s at Mit”).

SOLUTION: Include spaces in between acronym letters in the IMG ALT attribute

PASS: <img src=”mit-it-logo.jpg” alt=”I T S at M I T” />
(read by a screen reader as “ITS at EM EYE TEE”).


WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY TESTING & REMEDIATION SERVICES: Mary Gillen is an experienced Website Accessibility Compliance Auditor and Remediator. She can test your website to determine if it meets accessibility standards:

WCAG 2.1: 312 checkpoints covering A, AA and AAA W3 accessibility guidelines
Section 508: 15 US federal guidelines covered by 59 accessibility checkpoints

Find out more about Mary Gillen’s Accessibility Testing & Remediation Services: Websites, PDFs, Office Docs & Videos