Creating Accessible Acrobat PDF Documents

Creating Accessible PDF's from Office  (3 minute video)

Creating PDF's from Word Documents

To create a PDF from a Word Document, first make sure that the Word document is 100% accessible, therefore all the work already done in Word will transfer when Acrobat creates the PDF. Examples are headings, alt text, and table properties.

How to: The easiest way to do this is to select File, Save As, PDF. When saving, make sure the box "Document structure tags for accessibility"  is checked under the options menu.

Options Menu for saving a word document as a pdf

Another option to use is the "Create PDF" under the Acrobat toolbar as seen below.

 How to Create a PDF using Microsoft Word

Checking Accessibility in Acrobat

Although it is much simpler to check accessibility in Word first before transferring to Adobe Acrobat, there is a PDF accessibility checker in Adobe Acrobat 8+ as well.

How to: Select Tools, Accessibility, then Full Check, Start Checking.

Accessibility Icon Symbol in Adobe Acrobat Pro

Here the accessibility checker will give a detailed report of a document and its inaccessibility properties. There is no "How To" directly on this page, but there is an "Explain" selection by right clicking on the item in the panel. Here, the Adobe Acrobat Help Center will give clear instructions and guidance on how to fix these issues.

Most normal accessibility issues shown in the checker are easy to fix with the automatic "Fix" selection by right clicking on the item in the panel, but some require a little more work. By the end, a document will have all green check marks, meaning that the document is now accessible. However, just because there is an option  to "Fix" some inaccessibility instances, this does not mean that the issue is automatically fixed: For example: Flyers/Handouts. Although useful, this method is not to be relied on to make a document accessible.

Accessibility Checker Panel in Adobe Acrobat

It is important to remember that the issues with a question mark need a manual check every time. This is the reading order and color contrast:

Reading Order

Reading Order checks how a document is read. For Screeen Readers, a document is read left to right, and up to down. When content or a figure is out of place, it can become confusing to the user as to what the document is trying to say, and therefore, the user might not get the needed information. Reading Order must be checked with tables and figures too. Remember that the alt text of these examples is read in the reading order. 

How to: Reading Order can be checked by using the Reading Order panel under accessibility. The document will appear with every article of content as a specified number. In the Order Panel, the easiest way to fix this is to drag and drop all the numbered items to correct any misplacements or misunderstood content.  Then, use the Read Out-Loud selection from the drop down menu in "View." This will allow the document to be read in the order that the order panel lists, and is a useful tool to double check the reading order.

Reading Order Panel in Adobe Acrobat, used to check accessibility of a document

Color Contrast

Font color and  background color must have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text (12pt.) and 3:1 for large text (14pt.) so that a person with visual impairments will be able to differentiate between two colors. Color should not be the only differentiating factor to convey meaning.

How to: To check color contrast, download a Color Contrast Analyzer onto a computer. The University of Nevada, Reno's requirement is to pass all A and AA Standards from the WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards.

Color Contrast Checker Explanation (WEBAIM)

Color Contrast Analyzer  (The Paciello Group)

 Action Wizard

The action wizard is a tool used in Adobe Acrobat Pro that allows a user to go through a document and edit it to meet certain accessibility criteria like title and headings. This tool can be useful, however, a user should not just rely on this method to make PDF's accessible.

How to: Select Tools>Action Wizard>Make Accessible>Start

Action Wizard in Adobe Acrobat

Additional Resources

An Overview of PDF Inaccessibility (The Paciello Group) 

PDF Document Accessibility (Portland Community College)

Cheat sheets for Word, Excel, Acrobat, InDesign, Youtube and more. (NCDAE)