PDF Tags that Make Documents Accessible

If you’re trying to make a PDF accessible, you have to understand tags. To be brief, tags are the objects that tell assistive technology how to present your information to people who cannot see it. Each tag identifies the type of content and what information is stored inside. There are hierarchical tags that build structure and their are content tags that hold… content. Tags are also the key to navigation in a PDF and provide a blueprint for people who cannot visually discern what’s in the document. The following is a short list of the various types of Tags and how they are used in PDF.

Hierarchical Tags

Tag NameTagUseParent Tag
Document<Document>Holds a complete document, should only be used once in a PDFn/a
Part<Part>Major subdivision of a documentDocument
Article<Art>Group of ContentDocument, Part
Section<Sect>Section of ContentDocument, Part, Art
Div<Div>Grouping element often used to indicate a common language for a group of tags, etcetera.Document, Part, Art, Sect
Blockquote<Blockquote>One or more paragraphs quoted from another source.Document, Part, Art, Sect

Table of Contents and Index

Tag NameTagUseParent Tag
Table of Contents<TOC>Holds the Table of Contents in a documentDocument, Part, Art, Sect
Table of Contents Entry<TOCI>Each entry in the Table of Contents should have its own TOCI tag.<TOC>
Index<Index>The subject matter index.Document, Part, Art, Sect

Block Level Content

Tag NameTagUseParent Tag
Paragraph<P>Any text content.Document, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, Caption, TOCI
Heading 1<H1>Heading Level 1Document, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote
Heading 2<H2>Heading Level 2Document, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote
Heading 3<H3>Heading Level 3Document, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote
Heading 4<H4>Heading Level 4Document, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote
Heading 5<H5>Heading Level 5Document, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote
Heading 6<H6>Heading Level 6Document, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote


Tag NameTagUseParent Tag
List<L>Holds a list or group of listsDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, Index
List Item<LI>One List Entry.List
Label<Lbl>Contains the bullet or the number in a numbered list. Can be optionalList Item
List Body<LBody>The content of the list item, can contain child lists.List Item


Tag NameTagUseParent Tag
Table<Table>Parent container for a table.Document, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote
Table Head<THead>Optional grouping of rows of header content in a Table.Table
Table Body<TBody>Optional grouping of rows of body content in a Table.Table
Table Footer<TFoot>Optional grouping of rows of footer content in a Table.Table
Table Row<TR>A table rowTable, THead, TBody, TFoot
Table Header<TH>A cell of table header data.TR
Table Data<TD>A cell of table data.TR

Inline Content

Tag NameTagUseParent
Span<Span>just about any kind of content that needs to be kept separate, either because of formatting, language or for alternate text.P, H1 – H6, LBody, TD, Quote, Note
Quote<Quote>Similar to BlockQuoteP, H1 – H6, LBody, TD
Note<Note>Used for Footnotes and EndNotes. (This is for the actual content of the note, NOT the reference indicator.)P, H1 – H6, LBody, TD
Reference<Reference>Container that refers to another location, most often used with footnotes and endnotesP, H1 – H6, LBody, TD
Code<Code>Computer programming language.P, H1 – H6, LBody, TD
Link<Link>Any hyperlink. Contains the LinkOBJR plus the text to be read.P, H1 – H6, LBody, TD
Annotation<Anot>Annotations that aren’t a link.P, H1 – H6, LBody, TD

Non-Text Content

Tag NameTagUseParent
Figure<Figure>Any graphic or illustration.P, H1 – H6, LBody, TD
Formula<Formula>Mathematical formulaP, H1 – H6, LBody, TD
Form<Form>Form elementP, H1 – H6, LBody, TD