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Introduction to PDF Accessibility

PDF Tag Types

Tags allow users with screen readers to identify a document's structure by assigning content types to the document. Below are the various tag elements that documents can have in Adobe Acrobat Pro:


Container elements are the highest level of element and provide hierarchical grouping for other block-level elements: 


Tag Description
<Part> Part element is a large division of a document; it can be used to group smaller units of content together, such as division elements, article elements, or section elements.
<Div> Division element is a generic block-level element or group of block-level elements.
<Art> Article element is a self-contained body of text considered to be a single narrative.
<Sect> Section element is a general container element type, comparable to Division (DIV Class= “Sect” in HTML, which is usually a component of a part element or an article element.


Heading and paragraph elements are paragraph-like, block-level elements that include specific level heading and generic paragraph tags. A heading (H) element should appear as the first child of any higher-level division. Six levels of headings (H1 to H6) are available for applications that don’t hierarchically nest sections:


Tag Description
<H> Header (Not recommended for use in structured PDF documents)
<H1> Heading level 1
<H2> Heading level 2
<H3> Heading level 3
<H4> Heading level 4
<H5> Heading level 5
<H6> Heading level 6
<P> Paragraph


Label and list elements are elements for structuring lists:


Tag Description
<L> List element is any sequence of items of similar meaning or other relevance; immediate child elements should be list item elements.
<LI> List item element is any one member of a list; may have a label element (optional) and a list body element as a child.
<Lbl> Label element is a bullet, name, or number that identifies and distinguishes an element from others in the same list.
<Lbody> List item body element is the descriptive content of a list item.


Special text elements identify text that isn’t used as a generic paragraph:


Tag Description
<BlockQuote> Block quote element is one or more paragraphs of text attributed to someone other than the author of the immediate surrounding text.
<Caption> Caption element is a brief portion of text that describes a table or a figure.
<Index> Index element is a sequence of entries that contain identifying text and reference elements that point out the occurrence of the text in the main body of the document.
<TOC> Table of contents element is an element that contains a structured list of items and labels identifying those items; has its own discrete hierarchy.
<TOCI> Table of contents item element is an item contained in a list associated with a table of contents element.


Table elements are special elements for structuring tables:


Tag Description
<Table> Table element is a two-dimensional arrangement of data or text cells that contains table row elements as child elements and may have a caption element as its first or last child element.
<TR> Table row element is one row of headings or data in a table; may contain table header cell elements and table data cell elements.
<TH> Table header cell element is a table cell that contains header text or data describing one or more rows or columns of a table.
<TD> Table data cell element is a table cell that contains non-header data.


Inline-level elements identify a span of text that has specific formatting or behavior. They are differentiated from block-level elements. Inline-level elements may be contained in or contain block-level elements:


Tag Description
<BibEntry> Bibliography entry element is a description of where some cited information may be found.
<Quote> Quote entry element is an inline portion of text that is attributed to someone other than the author of the text surrounding it; different from a block quote, which is a whole paragraph or multiple paragraphs, as opposed to inline text.
<Span> Span entry element is any inline segment of text; commonly used to delimit text that is associated with a set of styling properties.


Special inline-level elements describe an inline portion of text that has special formatting or behavior:


Tag Description
<Code> Code entry element is computer program text embedded within a document.
<Figure> Figure entry element is a graphic or graphic representation associated with text.
<Form> Form entry element is a PDF form annotation that can be or has been filled out.
<Formula> Formula entry element is a mathematical formula.
<Link> Link entry element is a hyperlink that is embedded within a document. The target can be in the same document, in another PDF document, or on a website.
<Note> Note entry element is explanatory text or documentation, such as a footnote or endnote that is referred to in the main body of text.
<Reference> Reference entry element is a citation to text or data that is found elsewhere in the document.


Source: PDF Testing and Remediation Guide (March 2019) by the Accessible Electronic Document Community of Practice (Section 508).

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