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Simple accessible forms in Word and PDF

Jean Alcock

 

 

 

 

Here at SAIF we’ve been getting quite a few queries about accessible forms, so I thought I should try and find out more about forms:

  • how to construct them, and
  • how to make them as accessible as possible.

This blog documents my learning curve.

So far, I’ve been using Word 2007 and have concentrated on using the Legacy Tools which allow you to create:

  • Text fields
  • Check boxes
  • Drop down lists

This seems to be the simplest way of creating an accessible interactive form (AIF) that works in Word Documents 97-2003 and above.

An example of a simple accessible interactive form in Word and a step by step guide can be download from our Electronic accessibility webpage.

I’ve also been experimenting with converting an AIF in Word into a PDF. This is much more complicated.

What I’ve discovered so far:

  • There is a glitch in Adobe Acrobat which can be corrected but not without time and effort (See http://webaim.org/techniques/acrobat/forms for more information)
  • If you create an AIF in Word in table format and convert it to a PDF the Form Fields (except for tick boxes) don’t show up and the document passes the full accessibility check. However, if you then use Form Wizard to identify Form Fields or add them manually the PDF no longer passes the Accessibility Checker.
  • If you create an AIF in Word not in table format, the document passes the Accessibility Check but none of the form fields are recognised ( except for tick boxes). These will make the document inaccessible.

I’ve decided that for the moment the best thing to do is:

  • to design the layout of the form in Word – not using a table format and not adding Form Fields
  • convert it to PDF
  • check it for accessibility
  • manually add the form fields in the PDF.

This seems to work and create an AIF in PDF.

An example of a simple accessible interactive form in PDF and a step by step guide can be download from our Electronic accessibility webpage.

As time goes on I will no doubt find different ways of creating forms, especially as I’m shortly going to be upgrading to MS Office 2013. Meanwhile I’ll be happy for any advice or comments from readers.

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