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Creating a 508-compliant Visio file

Posted on 2008-10-15
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-15
I need to create a 508-compliant PDF file from a Visio 2003 document.  In Word, I can use specific settings when I format the document.  Plus, I can add tags when creating the PDF (using Acrobat 9 Pro).

I'm a Visio novice.  I can't find anywhere to include 508 accessibility features (for example, alternate text) on Visio objects.  And when I try to create the PDF, there's no tagging option.

Has anyone run into this?  I'm working on files that are posted on Federal government websites.  The documents must be 508-compliant.  This does NOT relate to the website itself; it's about the actual document.  Making the website 508-compliant is easy.  Making 508-compliant documents is a lot harder.  I've had good success with Word files that become PDFs.  Excel is about 50/50.  PowerPoint is impossible.  And now they've asked for Visio.

Question by:LisaWhite
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Expert Comment

ID: 22723516
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Accepted Solution

Scott Helmers earned 1000 total points
ID: 22736483
I'm not completely familiar with 508 requirements but think that Glenna's suggestion of using Save as Web Page to create a mini-website from your Visio drawing could give you a good head start.

However, before you publish the web, or if you decide to publish to PDF, there are a few things you may want to experiment with:
  • You can add tooltip text to a Visio shape by selecting Insert/Shape ScreenTip from the Visio main menu. Unfortunately the toolip you create this way doesn't work on saved web pages or if you publish to PDF. I don't know whether there's a workaround for PDFs but there is for web pages. It's a bit more tedious but it's documented here:
    One more caveat about web page tooltips: they will work when you save from Visio 2003, which you indicated that you have, but there's currently a bug in Visio 2007 that prevents tooltips created this way from working in all cases.
  • You can use hyperlinking for a wide variety of purposes, e.g., you can add a link to a shape so a user can click to connect to:
  • a previously saved graphic containing an enlarged version of the shape
  • a video clip
  • an audio clip
  • a document, web page, PDF or other text description of the shape.
  • And then, of course, you could write some utility macros that do things like the following when someone clicks on a shape:
    • zoom in to 200% -- or any percentage zoom you'd like
    • create and display an enlarged graphic of the shape on fly
Note: using macros assumes that people view your drawing in Visio, not on the web or in PDF form.

I don't know whether any of this is useful but let me know if you'd like more information about any of these ideas.
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Expert Comment

by:Scott Helmers
ID: 22948995
Lisa -- just curious -- were any of our suggestions useful?
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Assisted Solution

GlennaShaw earned 1000 total points
ID: 22949435
You might find these resources helpful for this item and the future:
And if you're going the PDF route:

BTW, I should've sent you this link earlier:
I wrote this tutorial to make it easy for folks to understand how to make PowerPoint 508 Compliant.
LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:Scott Helmers
ID: 22950122
Good info, Glenna, thanks.

BTW, on my system the link to the PDF about accessible PDFs only works with an http:// URL -- it doesn't work with https://


Author Comment

ID: 22956931
Well, I created a PDF directly out of Visio.  Then, in Acrobat, I added tags.  Each of the Visio pages became one big image, to which I added alternate text.  It's not truly 508-compliant because a screen reader will only read my very brief alternate text.  I'll have to wait and see if the government client accepts it.

I tried publishing to a web page.  Then I tried using JAWS reader on the page...it was horrible.

The client has an internal web site where they post documents relating to a particular government system.  They require that all the documents posted on the site (which users will download) be 508 compliant.  To date, I've been able to take all the Word files and make 508-compliant PDF files.  At least, I think they're 508 compliant because they pass the Acrobat full 508 check.  Native Word documents are hit and miss.  Excel files seem to be okay.

Glenna, thanks for the link to your PowerPoint tutorial.  I'll try the stuff you mention to see if I can get a native PowerPoint file to pass muster.

Microsoft's accessibility training just discussed the meaning of "accessibility" but doesn't have any information on HOW to make accessible documents.
LVL 21

Expert Comment

ID: 22960444
Making Word documents 508 compliant is all about using the appropriate styles:
http://www.shaunakelly.com/word/styles/TipsOnStyles.html and adding ALT-Text to images.

Under the law, federal agencies are supposed to make a reasonable effort to make files accessible to persons using assistive technology.  People frequently make it a lot harder than it has to be.

For example, if you save your viso page as a single image and use Alt-Text to adequately describe what the Visio Diagram is protraying, then you've met the requirement.

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