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How to ensure accessibility compliance with fillable PDF forms

Posted by: Adam Spencer
on 25, Nov 2020
from Oakville, Ontario

Creating accessible PDF forms can be intimidating at first but like everything else, it becomes much easier after doing it once or twice.

Learning how to create forms that are accessible by persons with disabilities is not only necessary under the AODA but it ensures that every user has an easier time filling out the forms. Many people with disabilities use adaptive technologies (AT), that are unable to access and complete forms if they are not accessible with their screen readers and refreshable Braille displays.

What is a fillable PDF form?

Making an accessible PDF is a multi-step process, but understanding first, what is a fillable PDF form will help make the process easier.

  • A fillable PDF form is digital document that allows a person to enter and save or submit requested information electronically.
  • Fillable forms consist of various types of form fields used to enter information, visible field descriptions, and tooltips that are read only by adaptive technology.

How does an AT user access fillable forms?

A user of adaptive technology accesses fillable forms in two separate ways:

1. The first is Reading Mode, which reads all visible information on the form (including the field descriptions), same way anyone would read a text document.

  • AT uses the information attached to the text to explain what the field requires.
    For example, AT can read the field description that says, “First Name.”

2. The second is Edit Mode, which allows the AT user to fill in the fields, and to read the digital tooltips associated with those fields.

  • In Editing Mode, it will not read the information; it will only read the tooltips associated with that form filed.
  • AT users can only fill in fields in this second mode, and without tooltips, they wouldn’t know what information goes where.

What elements make a fillable form accessible?

In order for an AT user to successfully read and complete a form, it needs to be fillable and include:

  • Tags and tooltips – If you remember, Editing Mode uses tooltips to tell AT users what information goes in a field. Tooltips need to be very specific and include any unique format requirements. Example: mm/dd/yyyy for a birth date field.
  • Field description – is the “visible” label of the field when the AT user accesses the form in Reading Mode. Field descriptions must be tagged as text so adaptive technology can recognize them.
  • Additional elements on the page or surrounding document, like images, lists, tables, and headings, also need to be accessible.

How does AbleDocs support accessible fillable forms without the fuss?

AbleDocs makes creating accessible fillable PDF forms easy.

  • We take a fillable form that allows the remediator to quickly and easily, input tooltips for each form field while keeping the existing look and feel of the design.
  • Being able to set the reading order and add tooltips from the same screen as the other accessibility features means fewer steps and less time spent remediating the document.

Are you ready to make your fillable PDF forms accessible?

Contact AbleDocs to learn more about ADForms. They are the only team capable of assisting clients with the four major types of digital forms:

  1. AcroForm
  2. XFA-LiveCycle
  3. AEM
  4. HTML

AbleDocs has experience in simple forms as well as highly complex scripted dynamic forms that ensure a user with a print disability is able to independently comprehend and complete your forms.

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Since its founding in 2019, AbleDocs has become a world leader in digital accessibility with offices in nine countries. AbleDocs offers products and services to organizations that help to ensure high volume document accessibility compliance, document accessibility testing, accessibility training, and web accessibility compliance.

AbleDocs is the only company in the world to guarantee the compliance of every document they produce and back it with a $10,000,000 liability guarantee. Current offerings include ADService, ADGateway, ADScan, ADStream, ADLegacy, ADForms, ADTraining, ADWeb, axesWord and axesPDF.