How do I know if my document is tagged correctly?

It’s one of the most common questions we are asked on a daily basis. Whether it’s verifying our work or looking at a document online, it can be difficult for those who don’t spend a lot of time with accessibility to know whether something is actually accessible.

In the same way that giving an answer doesn’t automatically make it correct, simply having tags in a document does not mean that it has been tagged correctly. We regularly see documents that have been ‘tagged’ which are blatantly wrong, and barely pass any of the accessibility criteria. As such, here are a couple of things to keep in mind when looking at your tagged document.

The name of the game is simplicity

TreeEverything about accessible documents is to make the document simpler and easier to understand. If you are looking at the title of your document and it takes 7 child tags to get to the content, chances are it is not correct.

The example here is part of a heading, however it has been identified as: a span of words > inside a paragraph > inside a table data cell > inside a table row > inside a table > inside a paragraph > which is in a section > of the artwork > of the document.
Of course there are times where lists inside tables get a little complicated, but the tag tree should represent the complexity of the piece of information.

Is everything tagged?

Missed headingIt seems simple, but if every important piece of information is not included in a tag – that document is not tagged correctly.

By going into the ‘Tags’ section of Adobe Acrobat, you can simply click on the <Document> tag and it will highlight all sections of the document that have associated tags.

The image to the left depicts an incorrectly tagged version of the Tagged PDF price list, with the heading for Word tagging prices missing. This becomes confusing when the word prices are read out still under the PDF heading, and does not accurately display the information.

Even if all of the other information was tagged correctly, the document would not provide all of the information that a sighted person would receive. Many times, the ‘automatic tagging’ process will miss or incorrectly tag certain elements, meaning that your documents are not up to standard or usable by all.

Does it work with a screen reader?

Screen reader previewWhile this is a little more complex a step than the previous two, it is ultimately the check. Would someone who is using a screen reader be able to understand this document. If the answer is no, then it is not tagged correctly.

There are free screen readers such as NV Access’ NVDA available for PC and Mac that allow for anyone to test the accuracy of their documents. Alternatively, in-depth testing programs such as the PAC 3 test provide a visual representation (as seen to the left) of what a screen reader would read out for a document.

So, is it accessible yet?

Ultimately, there is a lot more to accessibility than just these minor things. However, these are some of the most simple ways of knowing whether your document is on the right track. Or, more importantly, how to easily identify that a document is NOT accessible.



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