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(7 Posts)
Esri Contributor

If you are attending the 2020 Esri User Conference this year and want to know more about Accessibility, attend these sessions:

User Conference On-Demand Session:

Understanding Accessibility: Learn How to Design, Test and Develop Accessible Apps

Learn the basics of inclusive design and why accessibility matters. We will share tips on how we design with accessibility in mind, and then demo how we test to see if an application is accessible. Finally, we’ll cover techniques on how developers can ensure their maps and apps meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Link to on-demand session available starting July 13 to attendees with full registration.

Live Session:

Esri Accessibility Special Interest Group (SIG) link to agenda

Thursday, July 16, 9:15 am - 10:15 am PDT

User Conference‌ esri user conference 2020‌

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Esri Contributor

“At Esri, our goal is to make GIS accessible to everyone,” said Dirk Gorter, Esri’s director of product management. “To that end, we design and implement our GIS products to be accessible to people regardless of their abilities.”

Read the full article in the ArcNews Fall 2019 edition.

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New Contributor III

Link to the slides: Accessible Web Mapping Apps 

GitHub repo for the slides

I'll share the recording when it is available.

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New Contributor III

Wednesday, January 23, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. (PST)

This webinar introduces the basics of web accessibility and its benefits to GIS professionals. We will provide an overview of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the target standards for Section 508 compliance. We will highlight important WCAG criteria from the mindset of GIS professionals and how to incorporate them into the daily work. We will demonstrate the web accessibility support in ArcGIS. We will also discuss best practices and the latest development in creating accessible web maps. Finally, we will introduce a structured testing process for identifying and fixing web accessibility issues.

Webinar Takeaways

  • Utilize WCAG and other references as a guide to better understand web accessibility with ArcGIS.
  • Understand accessibility support in ArcGIS Online and building web apps with ArcGIS.
  • Apply best practices to produce accessible web content.
  • Evaluate websites and web apps for conformance with WCAG and fix common accessibility issues.

Register for this webinar

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Esri Contributor

Update: David Watkins from ArcMap tells me that ArcMap does allow you to author maps/basemaps and choose, colors, fonts, sizes, etc., which provides the tools needed to make a high contrast map and avoid color combinations that would be trouble for someone with color blindness. He also suggests using Color Brewer http://colorbrewer2.org/#type=sequential&scheme=YlGnBu&n=7 to find options that are safe for audiences that are colorblind. So while it is possible to use Acrobat to solve these issues from inside the PDF, it may be easier to do it correctly from inside ArcMap before you export.

A month or so ago, we got a question from a customer on how to make an exported ArcMap map PDF accessible. In this post, I am going to cover how to make a PDF accessible using Adobe Acrobat Pro. There are many tools that assist in making PDFs accessible; however, I will be focusing on Acrobat because it is the tool I have personally used the most often.

Full Disclaimer: I have never used ArcMap. But I have made some 500+ PDFs accessible and a colleague has kindly provided me with a simple map PDF to use as a walk-through for purpose of this post. I will touch upon more complex map PDFs at the end.

Now before I begin, I want to lay out a few idiosyncrasies with Acrobat: 

1) There is no undo option - If you screw something up, your best course of action is to exit the file without saving changes and reopen it. This means that you must save frequently as you correct issues. This is especially important when you are tagging a document and setting reading order.

2) In my experience, Acrobat is likely to crash while doing Reading Order on large files. Therefore, if your document is larger than 5 pages, I'd recommend dividing it into 5 page sections, doing accessibility on each section, and then merging them all together at the end, before setting a title.

Turning on Accessibility Tools

  1. Open your PDF file in Acrobat and check to see if you have the Accessibility option in your sidebar. If you don’t see it, go to Tools and search for “Accessibility," then click Add.

    Acrobat search filtered to accessibility tooling

  2. Select Accessibility from the sidebar menu.

    Acrobat with map PDF and accessibility tooling pane open
  3. You should now be in the Accessibility tools interface.
  4. Select Full Check from the Accessibility Tooling Pane, then select Start Checking from the modal.
  5. The Accessibility Checker will produce a list of issues that can be expanded within it’s side panel. It may be tempting to right-click an issue and select Fix, and this can be safely done for things like title or language, but should be avoided for issues involving tag structure. (If you don’t know how Acrobat “fixed” the issue behind the scenes, then don’t use the automatic option.)
    Acrobat accessibility checker showing list of errors

Fixing Document Issues

Skip anything that says Tagged PDF - Failed and/or Reading Order for now and start with the Primary Language - Failed and Title - Failed issues.

  1. For Language, right-click, and select Fix. Acrobat will launch a dropdown menu that you can use to make a selection, then select OK.
    Acrobat popup window for entering title
  2. For Title, right-click, and select Fix. Acrobat will launch a modal, and you may need to unselect the Leave As Is checkbox in order to type a title into the title input field. Then select OK.
  3. Save
  4. For issues that say Needs manual check, you will have to apply accessibility guidelines by your own knowledge as Acrobat cannot validate them automatically. For example, if I were to check for appropriate contrast of the red symbols on my light green neighborhood map, I would do the following:

    • Screenshot a bit of the image, open the screenshot in a browser, use a browser extension called Colorzilla to pull the colors out of the image (available for Chrome and Firefox), and then paste those two colors into WebAIM’s color contrast checker.
      WebAIM color contrast checker showing failed ratio
    • WebAIM shows that the red used for the hospital marker is not sufficient contrast against the map background. However, the black text and purple metro lines are fine.
    • While a bit tedious, it is possible to correct the red hospital markers from inside Acrobat. Select a marker on the map, use your cursor to highlight it, then go to Tools > Edit PDF. This will open the Format sidebar, wherein you may select a more appropriate color.

      Acrobat with content panel open for changing marker colors
  5. Once finished, right-click the “Needs Manual Check” item and select Pass to indicate that you’ve reviewed the item and if necessary, made changes. Now Save.

...Anddd Acrobat froze. Good thing I just saved everything. (If this happens to you, you’ll have to rerun the Full Check to open up the Accessibility Checker report panel.)

Fixing Page Content Issues

For Tagged Content - Failed issues, you’ll need to do some manual tagging to resolve them. 

  1. If you don’t have an icon for the Content pane visible in your Accessibility Checker, then select Autotag Document from the Accessibility Tooling Pane. This will produce a report, and add the Content icon to the opposite side.
  2. Under Content, right-click an artifact and select Show in Tags option.
  3. This should add an icon for the Tags pane.

Now that you have all the components you need in your workspace, I’d actually recommend you delete all the tags in the Tags pane that got added during the Autotag Document step. With the Reading Order pane open, right-click your PDF, and select Clear Page Structure. Autotagging is a bit like alphabet soup - it’s hard to comprehend and takes a longer time to fix than doing it from scratch. Once you’ve deleted your tags, you’re read to begin.


  1. Open the Reading Order tool. This will open a modal with a lot of disabled buttons.
  2. Under the Show Page Content Groups checkbox, select the Structure Types radio button. This will indicate what type you have tagged certain groups of elements.
  3. With the Reading Order modal open, draw a rectangle around the title text.
    Acrobat title selected with reading order pane open
  4. Select the Text/Paragraph button.
  5. Repeat with other text elements on the PDF. For image elements, tag Figure
  6. Right-click a Figure tag to select Edit Alternative Text.Acrobat dialog showing alt text entry
  7. In the dialog that opens, describe the information conveyed by the figure, and select OK.

Highlighted rectangle around blank spaceWeird Mysteries

What should you do when you draw a rectangle around some element to tag, and Acrobat highlights a block of what looks like empty space? Do not tag it to make it go away. The correct action is to delete the empty artifact.
  1. Open the Content pane. Navigate through the container artifacts, until the offending one becomes highlighted.
  2. Drill down into the artifact to the root issue, in this case, a text element containing nothing.

    Empty text artifact with menu open to delete
  3. Right-click the Text element and select Delete.
  4. Save

Fixing Alternative Text Issues

Now honestly, you’ll have probably fixed most of these issues while doing manual tagging. Run Full Check again or right-click the Alternative Text accordion from the report and select Check Again. I have one figure left that I tagged, but forgot to add alternative text.

  1. In the Accessibility Checker report, select any errors to see them highlighted on the page.
  2. Then in Accessibility Tooling Pane, selection Set Alternative Text. Acrobat will scan the PDF for all images that it thinks need alt text.
  3. For each figure missing alt text, Acrobat will highlight it, and prompt you for a description. You can use the arrows in a dialog to move through all figures with alt text. Then Save & Close.

Corrected reading order in content paneFixing Reading Order Issues

Finally, you come to reading order. This is the least fun part of the whole process, but probably the most important. Yay you! What you want to do here is order all the artifacts in the Content Pane, top to bottom, the way you want a screen-reader to encounter them in terms of reading order - almost as if they were a numerical list.

  1. Open the Content pane.
  2. Save everything you’ve done up unto this point.
  3. Drag and Drop each element container to the correct position.

Wrapping Up

Do one last Full Check, delete any empty tags, and you’re done! What does deleting empty tags look like? If you click on an element under Page Content > Tagged Content - Failed, and it highlights part of the PDF that is empty, right-click the element and select Show in Content Panel. Once there, find the empty element and delete it. Then rerun Full Check

Empty tagged element highlighted

One Last Note...

If you have a PDF that is very complicated visually, uses lines instead of points, or has multiple layers of complex data, and you’re finding it difficult to tag, I attended a Section 508 panel where Rob Haverty from Adobe shared a best practice on making complex visual PDFs accessible. He recommended using the Reading Order pane to divide the map into Figures, which can then utilize Alternative Text to describe what is occurring visually at a high level.

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Frequent Contributor II

Welcome and thanks for joining the Accessibility group on GeoNet!  To get started we invite you to first review the group features on the overview page and familiarize yourself with the group info, admins and GeoNet 101 information in the left column. 

As you explore the group, you'll also find tools to connect and collaborate so we encourage you to use them to share files, create blogs, ask/answer questions and read the latest blog posts and join discussions. 

Next, we invite you to post a comment below to say "hello" and introduce yourself and share why creating accessible apps is important to you. 

If you are new to accessibility check out the Esri Developer Summit presentation on accessibility  in the helpful link section on the right for an overview. 

We're excited to connect and collaborate with all of you and we look forward to seeing your contributions. 

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Occasional Contributor

A significant percentage of map users have impairments in distinguishing color.

I would like to highlight an excellent article on colorblind friendly cartography:

Color Design for the Color Vision Impaired.1

Jenny Bernhard and Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, 2007

The presented techniques help the cartographer produce maps that are easy to read for those with color vision impairments and can still look good for those with normal color vision.

The authors also developed a handy colorblind emulation tool: Color Oracle.

Color Oracle is a free color blindness simulator for Window, Mac and Linux. It takes the guesswork out of designing for color blindness by showing you in real time what people with common color vision impairments will see.

Additional Tools

ColorBrewer: Color Advice for Maps

No doubt many of you have heard of Cynthia Brewer's excellent tool for choropleth maps.  Note that a a "colorblind safe" filter is included.

Reddit has a subforum forum for colorblindness.

Though not dedicated to mapping, this subredditt includes resources and examples of both good and truly inaccessible designs.  Useful for getting feedback on drafts and seeing general color styles to avoid

1) Color Design for the Color Vision Impaired. (2007). Cartographic Perspectives, 58, 61-67. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://colororacle.org/resources/2007_JennyKelso_ColorDesign_lores.pdf

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