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PDFs Screen reader compatibility

Last updated: October 16, 2021

Screen reader compatibility for PDF accessibility features. Built-in browser PDF engines are used where possible. For IE11, the Acrobat Reader plugin is used.

The results include two types of test:

Reliability by user agent

The solid area in the graph shows percentage of tests that pass in all tested interaction modes. The cross hatched area shows partial passes that only work in some interaction modes. An example of a partial pass is when form labels are read when tabbing, but ignored in browse mode.

ComboVersionsReliabilityTest Changes
JAWS ChromeJAWS 2021.2107.12 with Chrome 9413%
JAWS EdgeJAWS 2021.2107.12 with Edge 9425%
JAWS FirefoxJAWS 2021.2107.12 with FF9138%1 better
JAWS IEJAWS 2019.1912.1 with IE1188%2 better
NVDA ChromeNVDA 2021.2 with Chrome 9413%
NVDA EdgeNVDA 2021.2 with Edge 9425%
NVDA FirefoxNVDA 2021.2 with FF9138%1 better
NVDA IENVDA 2019.2 with IE1188%
VoiceOver MacVoiceOver macOS 11.5 with Safari 15.050%2 worse
VoiceOver iOSVoiceOver iOS 14.7 with Safari iOS 14.775%
WindowEyes IEWindowEyes 9.2 with IE11 
Dolphin IEDolphin SR 15.05 with IE11 
SaToGo IESaToGo 3.4.96.0 with IE11 
Average Including older versions 42%

The average includes all versions, but some browser/AT combinations have tests for multiple versions (NVDA / JAWS / VoiceOver), while others only have tests for a single version (SaToGo and Dolphin).

Reliability trend

100%80%60%40%20%0%201520162017201838%201950%202034%202134%

Expected to work

These tests use conformant HTML or WCAG sufficient techniques and might be expected to work in screen readers. This doesn't always happen.

Screen ReaderNVDAJAWSVoiceOver
BrowserIEFFCrIEFFCrMaciOS
Should work. Fails in 26% - 50% PDF1 Image with alt textGoodBadBadGoodBadBadGoodGood
Should work. Fails in 76% - 100% PDF16 Document default language set to FrenchGoodBadBadBetterBadBadBadBad
Should work. Fails in 26% - 50% PDF18 Document with doc titleBadGoodGoodBadGoodGoodBadBad
Should work. Fails in 51% - 75% PDF19 Phrase language set to GermanGoodBadBadBetterBadBadGoodGood
Should work. Fails in 26% - 50% PDF4 Decorative image marked as artifactGoodGoodBadGoodGoodBadGoodGood
Should work. Fails in 51% - 75% PDF6 Table with header markupGoodBadBadGoodBadBadWorseGood
Should work. Fails in 51% - 75% PDF6 Table with header markup and alt textGoodBadBadGoodBadBadWorseGood
Should work. Fails in 51% - 75% PDF9 Document with headingsGoodBetterBadGoodBetterBadGoodGood

Expected to fail

These tests use non-conformant HTML or WCAG failures and are expected to fail in screen readers.

Screen ReaderNVDAJAWSVoiceOver
BrowserIEFFCrIEFFCrMaciOS
Should fail. Fails in 76% - 100% PDF image with blank (single space) alt textBadBadBadBadBadBadBadBad
Should fail. Fails in 76% - 100% PDF image without alt textBadBadBadBadBadBadBadBad
Should fail. Fails in 76% - 100% PDF no headingsBadBadBadBadBadBadBadBad
Should fail. Fails in 76% - 100% PDF table without header markupBadBadBadBadBadBadBadBad
Should fail. Fails in 76% - 100% PDF untaggedBadBadBadBadBadBadBadBad
Should fail. Fails in 51% - 75% PDF with doc securityBadGoodBadBadGoodBadGoodBetter
Should fail. Fails in 76% - 100% PDF with no doc titleBadBadBadBadBadBadBadBad

Key

Tests expected to fail (due to authoring errors) are marked with Expected to Fail.

Test notes

All tests were carried out with screen reader factory settings. JAWS in particular has a wide variety of settings controlling exactly what gets spoken.

Screen readers allow users to interact in different modes, and can produce very different results in each mode. The modes used in these tests are:

In the "What the user hears" column: