ASSETS'22 logo

Guidelines & Policies

October 23-26, 2022

Creating Accessible PDFs

ACM publications are read (and reviewed) by many people. Making your paper accessible will help to promote the equal participation of people with disabilities in science and engineering. This note describes how to check if your PDF is accessible, and how to fix the most common accessibility problems. For more information please refer to Adobe's accessibility resource center.

How do I test if my PDF is accessible?

  • The document should be tagged. In Adobe Acrobat Pro: Go to the 'File' menu. 'Document properties'. 'Description' tab. Look for 'Tagged PDF: Yes' among the set of advanced properties. If you do not have access to Adobe Acrobat, try selecting some text in the PDF and pasting it into a text editor. If you can't do this, or the text looks wrong, chances are your document is not readable with a screen reader.
  • Check the accessibility. In Adobe Acrobat Pro: Go to the 'Advanced' menu. 'Accessibility'. 'Full Check'. The checker will report accessibility problems.
  • Fonts should be embedded, or your PDF will need to be regenerated, and you may lose accessibility that you have added. In Adobe Acrobat Pro: Go to the 'File' menu. 'Document properties'. 'Fonts 'tab. All of the fonts should have the word 'embedded' in parentheses after the font name (unless they are not visible in the final document).

How do I fix accessibility problems?

Word users should correct as many problems as possible in the Word source file rather than the pdf, as described in the next section. On a PC, the Adobe plugin for Word can export accessibility features from the Word document into the pdf.

On a Mac, this is not the case. Those using Word on a Mac, and all LaTeX users will need to edit the PDF directly using Adobe Acrobat. A better basic PDF may be produced by using latex2pdf as opposed to ps2pdf. See also the WebAim PDF Accessibility primer which provides information for OpenOffice users.

The accessibility checker in Adobe Acrobat Pro provides help with fixing many accessibility problems. The following steps are for Adobe Acrobat Pro 9. More detailed instructions for Adobe Acrobat Pro XI, and a video, are also available. Please see Adobe's best practices for instructions covering more versions of Adobe Acrobat.

  • Add tags. Go to the 'Advanced' menu. Select 'Accessibility', then 'Add tags to document'.
  • Add alternative text for figures. Context-click the Figure, select 'Properties', and fill in 'Alternate Text'. If no 'Properties' option appears, go to the 'Advanced' menu, select 'Touch Up Reading Order', and then try context-clicking on the figures again, looking for an 'Edit alternate text' option.
  • Specify the document language. Go to the 'File' menu. Select 'Properties', then the 'Advanced' tab, 'Language' field. In some versions of Acrobat, the 'Properties' option is called 'Document Properties'. In some versions the 'Language' field is in a 'Reading Options' tab.
  • Define tab order.
    • Go to the 'View' menu. Select 'Navigation tabs', then 'Pages'.
    • Click on any page, then type Ctrl-A (or Command-A on a Mac) to select all the pages.
    • Go to the 'Options' menu in the top right of the dialog box (icon showing two cogs), and select 'Page Properties'.
    • In the 'Tab Order' tab, select 'Use document structure'.
  • Make sure tables have headings.
    • Go to the 'View' menu. Select 'Navigation tabs', then 'Tags'.
    • Select the 'Tags' tab. This panel shows the document structure as a tree.
    • Navigate to the table cells that should be headers.
    • Check they have the type <TH>. If not, then right click on the header cell, select 'properties', select the 'Tag' tab, and change the value for 'Type' to 'Table Header Cell'.

Creating an accessible PDF directly from Word

The following link provides step-by-step instructions for adding basic accessibility information to a Word document on a PC, then exporting it to a PDF document intended for ACM: Create an accessible ACM submission using Microsoft Word.

Making Accessible Figures and Tables

  • Do not add your figures as a pdf. The tagging of figures that are in pdf can sometimes lead to undesired effects on the visual presentation. Instead, insert the image, for example, as png or svg.
  • Do not add your tables as images.
  • Give your tables lines/borders.This can facilitate the tagging of the document.

Creating Accessible Video Figures and Video Presentations

Video figures and video presentations, like papers, must be accessible. For videos to be accessible, include both audio narration (so that the contents of the video can be understood by someone with a visual impairment) as well as text captions (so that the video can be understood by someone who is deaf or hard of hearing). Please do NOT burn text captions directly into your video presentations. Instead, you will upload a separate closed-captioning files with your video presentation.

You can create closed-captioning files manually with a text editor, or use an online tool like Flixier or Rev. If you have access to Adobe Premiere, it can auto-add captions based on speech-to-text, which you can then modify and export as .srt or .vtt. You can also download auto-generated captions from Zoom or YouTube and then manually modify the content, or auto-sync your script with YouTube and then download the .srt or .vtt file.

This guide on language mechanics for captioning from the Described and Captioned Media Program can also be a helpful resource.

Making Accessible Presentations

Presenters are responsible for making their presentations accessible to the diverse attendees at the conference. For instance, there will be ASL interpreters during the conference for people who use sign language, and there will be attendees in the audience who are blind or who have low vision.

As a resource to our community, Kyle Rector has prepared a wonderful and concise guide about how to make your presentation accessible, along with a video: Accessible Presentation Guide. Please ensure that your presentation incorporates the recommendations from this guide.