LiveCycle Designer

Accessible Forms using LiveCycle Designer

From an accessibility perspective, LiveCycle Designer provides form authors with the ability to designate content headings, add the appropriate information necessary to support assistive computer technologies, and control the logical reading order/tab order of the form.  One advantage to LiveCycle Designer is that the accessibility information can be added during form creation without requiring the author to use a separate application to add the necessary accessibility information.  This allows forms that require periodic updating to be changed without returning to the original form document, making the content changes, converting to PDF, and then adding the form fields again.

Accessibility Panel

The Accessibility panel allows form authors to add the appropriate accessibility information to document content and form fields in order to improve PDF form accessibility.  The Accessibility panel can be accessed by selecting Window from the menu bar, and then choosing Accessibility (hotkey = Shift + F6).  The Accessibility panel will vary its editable regions depending on the text element or form field selected in the page layout window.

For most form fields, there is a Tool Tip option, Screen-Reader Precedence option, and Custom Screen-Reader Text option that can be used in different combinations.  The Screen-Reader Precedence option and the Custom Screen-Reader Text region can be used when you wish to specify custom information to individuals using screen-reader technology.  The current situation is that if accessibility information is entered into the Tool Tip region, the Custom Screen-Reader Text region, and the Screen-Reader Precedence are set to Custom Text, only the information in the Custom Screen-Reader region will be used to communicate with assistive computer technologies.  However, the text in the Custom Screen-Reader Text region will also be shown visually on the PDF form when the user hovers the mouse in that specific form field, not the information in the Tool Tip text region.

Screen-readers will currently check for accessibility content in the following order: Custom Text > Tool Tip > Form Caption > Form Name > None.  As soon as information is available, the screen-reader will communicate this information to the user and stop checking for additional accessibility content.  Thus, by entering information into the Tool Tip field, it is not necessary to adjust the Screen-Reader Precedence option for each input field.  To develop forms that are usable by all individuals, the recommendation is to add the appropriate accessibility information into the Tool Tip region with the understanding this will also be visually discernible on the PDF form.


Headings can be used to identify sections and provide structure to the document content.  The advantage of headings from an accessibility perspective is that some assistive computer technologies can identify headings in a document, and allow the user to navigate from heading element to heading element.  This provides a mechanism to "jump" through the content without having to read each passage of text.

  1. To add a heading role to text content, drag a text block to the page (this element is the letter 'T" with a plus sign).
  2. Add the appropriate text information into this text block.
  3. Choose Window from the menu bar, and then Accessibility.
  4. Under the Accessibility tab, select the Role drop-down menu and choose the correct heading level.

Only set appropriate content as a heading.  For instance, a paragraph of text would not necessarily be a heading in a document, but the name of a section could be a heading.

Form Field Settings and Properties

When creating form fields, use the following to ensure that your form elements are accessible.

Text Field

From the Accessibility panel (Window > Accessibility),

  1. Set Tooltip to question Accessibility panel.  A Tool tip has been added, and Screen Reader Preferences set to "Custom Text."
    1. Example: "Enter your last name."
    2. Example: "Any comments or suggestions?"
  2. Set Screen Reader Preference to Custom Text (Default)
  3. Leave Custom Screen Reader Text blank.


Radio Button

  1. Drag a "Text" element from the Library; this will serve as visual instruction.
  2. Drag "Radio Button" from Library.Accessibility Panel.  Tooltip has been added and the Screen Reader Preference set to Custom Text.
  3. Drop Radio buttons next to one another to form a group.
  4. Select only the perimeter of radio button group.
  5. Tool Tip: write out the question.
  6. Screen Reader Preference: Custom Text.
  7. Custom Screen Reader Text: leave blank.
  8. Leave perimeter of radio button group selected.
  9. Go to Object > Binding.
  10. Uncheck Specify Item Values (cause AT to read what is on the screen).

    Accessibility panel, Object panel. Specify Item Values box is unchecked.


Check Box

  1. Create "Text" area as visual instruction.
  2. Drag "Check Box" elements from Library.
  3. Position as desired.
  4. Select perimeter of a check box.Accessibility panel.  Tool tip has been added and Screen Reader Precedence set to Custom Text.
  5. Go to Accessibility tab.
  6. Tool Tip: include question and answer.
    1. Likely will require re-phrasing the statement.
  7. Screen Reader Precedence: Custom Text.
  8. Custom Screen Reader Text: leave blank
  9. Repeat for each checkbox.


List or Combo Box

  1. Drag "Drop Down List" or "List Box" from Library.Accessibility panel.  Tool Tip has been added and Screen Reader Precedence has been set to "Custom Text."
  2. Go to Object > Field tab.
  3. Add items using List Items.
  4. Go to Accessibility panel.
  5. Tool Tip: write out the question.
  6. Screen Reader Preference: Custom Text.
  7. Custom Screen Reader Text: leave blank
  8. Object > Binding sub tab.
  9. Uncheck Specify Item Values.
    1. Enables AT to speak displayed values.
    Object panel.  Binding sub tab has been selected.  Specify Item Values is unchecked.


Button Controls

  1. Accessibilty panel.  Tool Tip has been added and Screen Reader Precedence has been set to "Custom Text."Select button.
  2. Go to Accessibility panel.
  3. Tool Tip: write out the button text.
  4. Screen Reader Preference: Custom Text.
  5. Custom Screen Reader Text: leave blank.






Text (Provides form instructions or related information)

  1. Accessibility panel.  "Heading" is selected as the Role.Insert, edit, and then select the text box.
  2. Go to Window > Accessibility.
  3. Set Role to Heading if text is a heading.
  4. Set Role to none if text is paragraph text.

Tab Order

In LiveCycle Designer, the Tab Order does more than just specify how a user would navigate through a PDF form with the keyboard.  The Tab Order allows the form author to control the logical reading order of the document, including all text regions and form input fields.  When setting the tab order in a LiveCycle Designer form, it is important to take note of the various text elements on the page and include those elements along with the form input fields in order to ensure a logical document reading order.

To establish a tab order,

  1. Choose Window on the menu bar and Tab Order.
  2. On the left side of the screen, click the Custom radio button to change the order of the elements.
  3. Use the arrow buttons to move the desired elements higher or lower in the elemtn hierarchy (you may also drag-and-drop an element to its appropriate position).
  4. When you have completed ordering the document elements, close the panel or choose Window > Tab Order to complete the process.

In Adobe Acrobat, confirm the reading order by saving the document as a text file, using assistive computer technology, or using the Read Out Loud function on the PDF form.  If you find any problems with the reading order, return to the Adobe LiveCycle Designer interface and alter the reading order as necessary.

Video Tutorial - How to Use LiveCycle Designer to Create an Accessible Form (14:47)


  • This training has been funded in part by the EnACT (Ensuring Access through Collaboration and Technology) grant. 
  • Written and developed by Sacramento State Online Learning professionals, Monica Range and Cryssel Vera and technical crew, Ivan Vajar, Ken Young, and Jennifer Wicks with guidance from the CSU Professional Development Work Group.


If you have difficulty accessing any material on this site or need an alternate format, or you just have questions and want to give feedback, contact the Accessible Technology Initiative.

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