“This document isn’t tagged.” or “This document needs tags.” These are two common phrases you may hear when someone reviews a PDF for accessibility.
So, what are tags?
Tags are computer code that is added to a PDF to provide screen readers, such as JAWS or NVDA, the information they need to accurately read a PDF. This includes things like the order in which the text is written, alternate text for images, identifying headings, identifying lists, labeling column and row headers in tables, and identifying form fields. People who can visually see a document can make assumptions about these things. Screen readers need the extra context to be provided by the author so they may provide this information to the person consuming the information verbally.
I’m not going to lie; learning to add tags to a PDF is not easy. It takes training and practice, practice, practice! Once you learn the ins-and-outs of tagging a PDF you can decide if PDF is the right format for your content or if another format, such as a web page or the tools within the Learning Management System, are a better use of your time.