[Skip navigation links]
Login

PDFs Screen reader compatibility

Last updated: September 11, 2022

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 2022.2207.25 with Chrome 10513%
JAWS EdgeJAWS 2022.2207.25 with Edge 10525%
JAWS FirefoxJAWS 2022.2207.25 with FF10238%2 better 1 worse
JAWS IEJAWS 2019.1912.1 with IE1188%2 better
NVDA ChromeNVDA 2022.2 with Chrome 10513%
NVDA EdgeNVDA 2022.2 with Edge 10525%
NVDA FirefoxNVDA 2022.2 with FF10250%2 better
NVDA IENVDA 2019.2 with IE1188%
VoiceOver MacVoiceOver macOS 12.5 with Safari 15.675%2 better
VoiceOver iOSVoiceOver iOS 15.6 with Safari iOS 15.675%
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%202239%

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
BrowserEdgeFFCrEdgeFFCrMaciOS
Should work. Fails in 26% - 50% PDF1 Image with alt textGoodBadBadGoodBadBadGoodGood
Should work. Fails in 76% - 100% PDF16 Document default language set to FrenchBadBetterBadBadBetterBadBadBad
Should work. Fails in 26% - 50% PDF18 Document with doc titleGoodGoodGoodGoodGoodGoodBadBad
Should work. Fails in 51% - 75% PDF19 Phrase language set to GermanBadBadBadBadBadBadGoodGood
Should work. Fails in 26% - 50% PDF4 Decorative image marked as artifactBadGoodBadBadWorseBadGoodGood
Should work. Fails in 51% - 75% PDF6 Table with header markupBadBadBadBadBadBadBetterGood
Should work. Fails in 51% - 75% PDF6 Table with header markup and alt textBadBadBadBadBadBadBetterGood
Should work. Fails in 51% - 75% PDF9 Document with headingsBadBetterBadBadBetterBadGoodGood

Expected to fail

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

Screen ReaderNVDAJAWSVoiceOver
BrowserEdgeFFCrEdgeFFCrMaciOS
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: