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Fix reading order in a PDF document using Adobe Acrobat Pro

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When a computer reads the text of a PDF aloud, the sequence that it reads the text is determined by the PDF's "reading order." If the reading order needs to be adjusted, Adobe Acrobat Pro's Reading Order tool allows you change the reading order.

Before proceeding to the instructions below, make sure your PDF document has been tagged (refer to instructions here).

1. In your PDF document, click Tools.

2. Scroll down the Tools page, and select Accessibility.

Save the document (or a copy of it) before you use the Reading Order tool as undo-redo is not supported for all operations.

3. A navigation tab will appear to the right of the PDF file. Click Reading Order.

4. A pop-up window with a list of possible styles will appear.

5. Each page contains overlay highlighted regions, the number indicates the region’s placement in the page’s reading order.

6. Either click on the boxed region or highlight the region, then click one of the buttons in the Reading Order pop-up menu to select the appropriate style.

Click to learn more about each of the styles.
  • Text/Paragraph: Tags the selection as text.
  • Figure: Tags the selection as a figure. Text contained within a figure tag is defined as part of the image and screen readers dont read it.
  • Form Field: Tags the selection as a form field.
  • Figure/Caption: Tags a selected figure and caption as a single tag. Any text contained in the tag is defined as a caption. Useful for tagging photos and captions and preventing caption text from being incorrectly added to adjacent text blocks. Figures may require alternate text.
  • Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, Heading 4, Heading 5, Heading 6: Tags the selection as a first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth level heading tag. You can convert heading tags to bookmarks to help users navigate the document.
  • Table: Tags the selection as a table after the selection is analyzed to determine the location of headings, columns, and rows.
  • Cell: Tags the selection as a table or header cell. Use this option to merge cells that are incorrectly split.
  • Formula: Tags the selection as a formula. Because speech software may handle formula tags differently from normal text, you may want to add a description using alternate text.
  • Note: Tags the selection as a note.
  • Reference: Tags the selection as a reference.
  • Background/Artifact: Tags the selection as a background element, or artifact, removing the item from the tag tree. That way, it doesn't appear in the re-flowed document and screen readers don't read it.

7. A panel will appear on the left of the document.  

8. Click Show Order Panel.

9. To reorder highlighted content, click the expand > button.

9.1. Drag and drop the numbered region to rearrange the reading order.

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