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Whiteout squares appear in Acrobat but not other PDF applications

New Here ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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I've been redacting some PDFs to post online, which leaves black rectangles where the redacted portions were.  The black rectangles are visually distracting, so I've been using the "Comment > Add shape > Rectangle" tool to put white rectangles with white borders over the black rectangles.  After saving and closing the document, I see that the white rectangles appear as desired when I open the PDF in Acrobat, but when I open it from another application the white rectangles appear as transparent black-bordered rectangles, through which the black redaction rectangles are visible.  These documents are for public viewing and I wiould like for the rectangles to be whited out regardless of what PDF program the viewers uses.  Any help is apprec 

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correct answers 1 Correct answer

Adobe Community Professional , Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021
Other PDF reader do not always honor  PDF comments made in Acrobat. Instead of adding white rectangles on top or the redaction, change the color of your redaction from black to white. It's not readily apparent how to do it. But you'll need to bring up the Properties toolbar (Cmd / Ctrl + E). Change the color, then make your redactions. Then apply them.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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Other PDF reader do not always honor  PDF comments made in Acrobat. Instead of adding white rectangles on top or the redaction, change the color of your redaction from black to white.

 

It's not readily apparent how to do it. But you'll need to bring up the Properties toolbar (Cmd / Ctrl + E). Change the color, then make your redactions. Then apply them.

 

Screen Shot 2021-08-16 at 10.53.57 AM.png

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New Here ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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That was just the ticket.  Thanks so much for this helpful information! 🙂

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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I just asked my wife who's a retired attorney about this. I asked if there was any issue if a redacted word(s) were any other shade or color other than black. 

 

Her response was that black has always been used since in the days before computers, one would take a black marker or ink and cover over the necessary words. With computers, black pixels cover the necessary words. Black is used now because it's the standard. 

 

As such using white, might be confusing to some because it's not what's "expected." One possible way around this is instead of white use some level of gray. [The world does not have to be black or white. ;>)]

 

Also, this might be just you. You might want to ask maybe a dozen folks or more if the solid black for redacted words makes it a challenge to read or not. In addition, ask them if the redacted word is white or gray, would that confuse them?

 

On the other hand, courts may have a different take on all this and some courts in some jurisdictions may have black as a requirement. Or it might be a requirement in some legal firms (the firm my wife used to work in REQUIRED two spaces after a period, there's no law for that, it was just what was required. So you might also wish to investigate the needs/demands of the recipient of the document what they prefer and/or demand. They very well may say "pink is fine."

 

Good luck!

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New Here ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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Thanks, Gary!  This is an excellent point about redaction in general.  In my case, my redactions are not for legal reasons; I just want to modify a set of written-out math problem solutions for a class I've taught before and will teach again this fall.  The solutions have semester-specific information at the tops of some of the pages ("test this Friday", etc.) which I want to remove for this semester to avoid confusion.  Replacing these with white spaces will be a lot less distracting than having big black rectangles over part of the page every couple of pages.  But I see how the white spaces could be more confusing in a more conventional redaction situation, where names  were removed from the middle of sentences and so forth.   So, it's a good point which others might want to consider.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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Yes, your needs are radically different than what most people redact for and white is a very appropriate shade for your needs. 

 

And yes, sometimes people get ideas to change things without considering the consequenses of whom the recipient it. [It always bugged the bleep out of me when I looked at my wife's documents, but that's what the firm wanted and at that point the conversation was over.]

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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Oh, and one more:

PDF comments are not accessible to those using screen readers and other text-to-speech software (such as dyslexia and reading tools). 

 

So the original comment boxes above will not be accessible. There are a lot of messy layers of issues in this project!

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs |
Books & Classes | PubCom

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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If your class is held in a US or Canadian school (K – post-graduate), then it's required to be fully accessible per federal laws.

(In the US, that's Sec. 508 for accessible digital material, as well as our "equal access to education" laws such as Title IX, Sec. 504, Title II, ESSA, IDEA, etc.)

 

Redacting is not accessible, and we don't recommend that method regardless of the color because it does not fully convey the status of the information that's being hidden: that is, x number of characters are redacted. And in what you describe, your students will ask, why is this text being redacted?

 

We have 2 solutions, both of which will keep you and your school out of legal hot water:

  1. Use Acrobat's Edit PDF tools and literally delete the content you don't want in there ("test this Friday"). Save the file as a new PDF. And then remediate the new version to comply with the PDF/UA-1 accessibility standard. This will meet your Sec. 508 accessibility requirements.
  2. Open the PDF in Acrobat, and File / Export To / Word.DOCX.  You can now open the exported content in MS Word and edit it as you need. Make this new Word version accessible and you can distribute the Word version directly to your students. Or you can export it to PDF (with the export settings for accessible tagged PDF) and give students the accessible PDF version.

 

Check with your school about making educational materials accessible. They usually have online guides for faculty to use.

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs |
Books & Classes | PubCom

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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Wow, thanks Bevi. 

 

You mentioned Federal laws, my wife was an attorney mostly doing insurance issues which are all state controlled. Do states have to follow the federal low here? Or is this only pertinant to Federal Courts? And I gather there are Federal laws governing States for schools?

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New Here ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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Hi Bevi,

I'm glad you pointed this out.  I'm not sure what to do now.  My notes are all handwritten, so I don't think either of the suggestions you mentioned will work for what I'm trying to do.  I am also not sure whether redacting the PDFs is going to make them less accessible in any meaningful way, since a text reader probably couldn't have read them even before I redacted them.  (But there may be some other sense in which redacting the PDFs would make them less accessible.  Perhaps I should contact someone at my university to enquire about it.  For what it's worth, I teach at a large state university in the USA.)

There is obviously a larger issue here about handwritten notes not being as accessible as typed ones.  I am not sure what to do about that - these are notes I wrote in class in a previous semester, on a document camera instead of writing on the blackboard.  The students really liked them, so I thought I'd provide them as an extra resource this time, while going back to writing on the blackboard in class, since writing on the document camera exacerbates my chronic pain issues.

Any further advice is appreciated, but this may be something I ought to look into further on my own.

 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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LATEST
quote

For what it's worth, I teach at a large state university in the USA.)

By @Erica271828

 

Oh Erica, you are SO covered by this requirement! <grin>

I consult with many state university systems and they are scrambling to catch up. Check with your university's office of accessibility services — they are required to assist students in getting accessible materials, and also help faculty make accessible materials. They'll help you figure out what to do and how to do it.

 

quote

There is obviously a larger issue here about handwritten notes not being as accessible as typed ones.  I am not sure what to do about that - these are notes I wrote in class in a previous semester, on a document camera instead of writing on the blackboard.  The students really liked them, so I thought I'd provide them as an extra resource this time, while going back to writing on the blackboard in class, since writing on the document camera exacerbates my chronic pain issues.

By @Erica271828

 

So the document camera captured what you wrote and saved it as either graphic files or PDFs, correct?

 

If you're just providing these files "as is" to your students, those who are blind, have low-vision, or have reading disorders can't fully read them. It's well documented that people with LDs have a difficulties reading handwritten material, and you might not know a student has a reading difficiency. (Says a former adjust faculty member for 15+ years.)

 

You could, however, put Alt-text on those camera graphics that spells out what your handwriting says, as well as any other conceptual information that you convey in the graphic.

 

Without seeing your handout, I might suggest the following:

  • Export your current PDF's content into Word where you can work on building a better, more accessible version as well as put all the pieces together (and remove the stuff that you don't want).
  • Once in Word, edit the content as needed.
  • Import your document camera graphics into your Word document and either:
    • Write detailed Alt-text describing what's in each graphics, or
    • Add a caption below the graphic that fully describes what's written in each graphic.
  • Either distribute the Word document as is (of course, by this time you've learned the simple techniques to make a Word document accessible...check with the University).
  • Or export a new PDF that's accessible and tagged. (More learning, but not too tough!)

 

It's not tough to do, and it doesn't take a lot of training to do this in MS Word.

 

The benefits:

You'll not only meet the needs of all your students, but you'll also have a nice Word version you can update next semester with new information and graphics from the document camera. Easy and fast!

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs |
Books & Classes | PubCom

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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In the US, accessibility is a combo of federal and state regulations, as well as education entitlements.

 

Access to ICT (information communitions technology, aka, any digital file that conveys information) is now considered a civil right by most nations, especially in the US, Canada, the British Commonwealth, and the EU. So view accessibility in the same light as any ADA issue: Access to buildings and facilities, access to mass transit, access to health care technology, access to jobs, etc. See www.Access-Board.gov for more info.

 

Sec. 508 is the main federal regulation for accessible digital content /ICT and it specifically covers only information created by federal government agencies, or by contractors on behalf of federal agencies. https://www.access-board.gov/ict.html

 

Everything that is publicly available by a federal agency must be fully compliant per the law — Their website, everything on their website, everything linked to via their website, everything downloadable from their website. Plus anything that's distributed digitally (on a flash drive, for example) or via email and social media. And the agency's HR-related information for use by its employees is also covered (like health insurance claims forms).

 

Corporations and private individuals are not covered by the law, and neither are states. However, our states and territories are in the process of voluntarily adopting to follow the federal regulation (Sec. 508) as a pro-active measure and about 2 dozen have done so (in some way or another) at this time. See https://section508.gov/manage/laws-and-policies/state (which is not an up-to-date list).

 

Additionally, some industries have voluntarily adopted to follow the law, too:  legal, health care, and finance. You can imagine the legal implications of that material not being accessible to those who are blind or have other disabilities.

 

But in education, schools/colleges/universities are technically not covered at all by Sec. 508 — instead their requirements come under various federal laws and programs requiring equal access to education as I mentioned above. However, Sec. 508's regulations are used to guage how well a school meets the accessibility requirements. So in a long round-about way, academia is covered by Sec. 508, too.

 

However, if a college/university receives a federal research grant, they're now required to provide their research information in a fully accessible format because it comes under the wing of one or more federal agencies. Same with any nonprofits that receive federal grants for research or outreach programs.

 

Bet you didn't expect to get such a long, lengthy explanation, eh? <grin>

 

Given that 1/3 of the population has a disability or impairment that prevents their full use of a computer or digital device, we have a great need for legal minds to help!  If you're wife is interested in a sweet, fulfilling post-career challenge, have her get in touch with me!

 

And Gary and other ACPs, would love to have y'all in my classes! We need to spread the word and ensure all our design work is accessible and available to everyone. I give discounts to my colleagues. Just ask!

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs |
Books & Classes | PubCom

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New Here ,
Aug 16, 2021 Aug 16, 2021

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Hi Bevi - I really appreciate all this context.  It helps me understand the issues better, and some of where my situation falls within those issues.  I will consult my institution and keep educating myself on how to make my materials accessible, both in the letter and the spirit of those laws.  Thanks for your time and help and I'm glad this came up.

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