Document Accessibility

Information on the web is made of of many different types of content, including but not limited to hypertext (HTML), images, videos, documents (Word, PowerPoint, etc.) and PDFs (Portable Document Format).

Below are resources curated by the University's Deputy ADA Coordinator for creating accessible Word documents and PDFs.

Tips for creating accessible Word documents

Run the accessibility checker

The Microsoft (MS) Word Accessibility Checker (Tools > Check Accessibility) will check the document for common accessibility issues.

The Accessibility Checker provides suggestions about how to fix any issues found in your document.

Use heading styles

Heading styles make it easier for assistive technology (AT) users to navigate your documents.

Each heading style represents a different level in the content hierarchy and communicates the structure of your document to AT users.

Use table headers

A table header allows users of assistive technology to understand the relationships between cells in your table.

An AT user will hear the header cell before the data cell, and thus understand to which column the data refers.

Use the color contrast analyzer

Sufficient color contrast makes text more accessible to individuals with color blindness.

Ensure that the contrast ratio between the foreground and background colors meets the
contrast requirements of WCAG 2.0  

Tutorials for accessible MS Office documents

Ensure Accessibility with Accessibility Checker

The Best of Word Tips Weekly from LinkedIn Learning. Duration: 4 min 22 sec.

The modules below were created by a multi-agency team of accessibility professionals with the state of Texas.

Using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software

Does document have text? Not all PDFs actually contain text in them. If your PDF is a text-based or a searchable PDF, you will be able to select text in the document.

If you cannot select text in your document, you have an image-based PDF and must use OCR tools to recognize the text in your PDF.

If the original MS Word document is not available, you will need to use a scanner or software program that includes optical character recognition (OCR).

You can convert a scanned PDF into an editable text document using Adobe Acrobat by following the steps below.

1. Open a PDF file containing a scanned image in Acrobat for Mac or PC

2. Click on the “Edit PDF” tool in the right pane

Acrobat automatically applies optical character recognition (OCR) to your document and converts it to a fully editable copy of your PDF.

3. Click the text element you wish to edit and start typing

New text matches the look of the original fonts in your scanned image.

4. Choose “File > Save As” and enter a name for your editable document

Checking accessibility of PDFs in Adobe Acrobat Pro

Create and verify PDF accessibility (Acrobat Pro)

To check the accessibility of your PDF document, we recommend using the following tools/steps available in Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Note: These steps pertain to features found in Adobe Acrobat DC, not Adobe Reader.

1. Choose "Tools > Action Wizard"

2. From the Actions List, click "Make Accessible"

3. Select the files that you want to apply the Make Accessible action to

4. Click "Start"

5. Follow the prompts to complete the Make Accessible action

Tips for creating accessible PDF documents

Use a Document Title

The document title is important so that users of assistive technology can hear the name of the document when opening the file and when switching between multiple tabs within a PDF program.

Set the Document Language

The document language determines which speech synthesizer is used by assistive technology programs.

Add Alternate Text for Images

  • Any images or figures that convey important information in your document must have alternate text.
  • Alternate text is a short description of the image that will be read out loud to assistive technology users.
  • Keep your alternate text to 1-2 sentences long.

Add a Tag Structure

Is the document tagged? Accessible PDFs must have tags.

  • Paragraphs must have paragraph tags, lists must have list tags, images must have image tags, tables must have table tags etc.
  • Tag the content by choosing Tools > Accessibility > Reading Order.
  • Select the content, and then apply tags as necessary.

Use Table Headers

To ensure that tabular data are read logically by assistive technologies, use table header tags for column headers, row headers, or both.

Check the Reading Order

  • You will need to manually check that the content in your PDF follows a logical reading order.
  • To check the reading order, open the tags panel and arrow down.
  • Move items up or down in the tags panel to correct problems with the reading order.

Use the color contrast analyzer

  • You will need to manually check that your PDF document has sufficient color contrast.
  • We recommend using the free Color Contrast Analyzer tool, which is available for MacOS and PC.

NOTE: Any color contrast issues that are found will likely need be addressed in the source document (e.g., Microsoft Word).

  • If you find color contrast issues in a PDF, and re-export the PDF, you will need to re-do all the tagging and reading order work from the above tips.

Tips for creating PDFs as forms

Recognizing Form Fields in PDFs

If your PDF will be used as a form, make sure all of the form fields are recognized and are given an appropriate tooltip.

Adding a Tooltip to Form Fields in PDFs

A tooltip provides a description of the form field and is read out loud by AT users.

Tagging Form Fields in PDFs

Form fields also should have a form tag and appear in the correct order within the tags panel.

Tutorials for accessible PDFs

Creating Accessible PDFs

Content from LinkedIn Learning.

Advanced Accessible PDFs

Content from LinkedIn Learning.

PDF Accessibility

Content from WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind)