Creating Accessible PDF's

Creating Accessible PDF's can be challenging. The best way to get an accessible PDF is to start from an accessible Word document. One thing to note, math and science equations can't be made accessible in a PDF document. Therefore, it is essential to keep the original document that was created in Word using MathType.

From a Word Document

  • Start with an accessible Word document, created following all of the instructions on the accessible Microsoft Word Document page.
  • Click the File tab and select Save as. In the Save as type field, select PDF (*.pdf).
  • Enter a file name in the File name field.
  • Click on the Options button and make sure the Document structure tags for accessibility and Create bookmarks using Headingscheckboxes are checked.
  • Click OK and Save. This will tag all of the text formatting, so page headings and lists are correctly interpreted by a screen reader.

Note: KEEP the original Word document in addition to the PDF document. It is easier to make changes and updates to the original Word document and if a student has accessibility issues with the PDF, the Word document can be provided instead.

Note: Word for Mac cannot create accessible PDF's

Scanned PDF Content

Scanned PDF documents function like a picture not like text. These steps will convert the picture of letters into actual text. This will not provide a fully accessible document. Even after the text is recognized the documents will not have headings, images will not have alt text, tables will not format correctly, color contrast may be inadequate and even the basic text flow may be organized incorrectly. This tool is best used to extract text from a PDF, then bring the text into Word or eLearn and complete the accessibility using the techniques on this website.

  1. Open the scanned PDF file in Adobe Acrobat Professional (Acrobat DC).
  2. Open the Tools panel (click Tools in the top right) and click on Enhance Scans.
  3. On the Enhance Scans toolbar select Recognize Text > In This File.
  4. Below the Recognize Text button, set the language to English. Open the Settings, set the output to Editable Text and Images and Downsample To 600 dpi.
  5. Click OK, then click the Recognize Text button. 

Accessibility Checker

The accessibility check in Adobe Acrobat Professional can help you determine what accessibility issues are found in your document. It is possible to fix some issues using the tools in Acrobat Pro but it is best to fix the source document and then re-convert it to PDF.

  1. Click the Tools tab to open the Accessibility panel on the right-hand side.
    • If you don't see it, click the View menu and select Tools > Accessibility.
  2. Under Accessibility, select the Full Check button.
  3. The Accessibility Checker Window will open.
    • Under the Report Options, check on the Create Accessibility Report.
    • Under the Checking Options section:
      • Category: Document and check all the items.
  4. Click the Start Checking button.
  5. The Accessibility Checker Report will display on the left pane.


Article ID: 60428
Wed 8/15/18 9:48 AM
Mon 8/20/18 2:30 PM