Creating Accessible PDFs in Word (Windows) 

The best way to create an accessible PDF is to create a fully accessible Word document (using properly formatted headings, alt text, links, and lists) and "Save As" a PDF. The "Save As" function carries over the accessible features of your document.

Note: Do not Print to PDF. This method of creating a PDF does not preserve the document's accessibility features.

Word 2007 and Word 2003

Exporting to an accessible PDF in Word 2007 and 2003 requires a plug-in such as Adobe PDFMaker, included with Adobe Acrobat Pro. With this plug-in installed, use the Adobe toolbar or the Adobe menu item to Save As PDF.

Word for Mac

As of Word 2011, it is not yet possible to export to accessible PDF from a Mac. Please look at some tips for creating an accessible PDF from a Mac from Portland Community College.

ATS in IT will convert Word files made with Microsoft Office for Mac.  Please send an email to ats@umontana.edu with the files attached and any instructions.  Call 243-HELP (4357) with questions.

Fixing Inaccessible PDFs

Convert Doc

If you have an inaccessible PDF and do not have Adobe Acrobat Pro or access to the original word-processing file for the document, your PDF can be converted into an text-based PDF with UM's OCR document converter.

  1. Send the inaccessible image-based PDF as an email attachment to convertdoc@umontana.edu.
  2. ConvertDoc will convert the file from image to text using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software and will send you an email in return with two attachments.
  3. Edit the RTF (rich text format) document attached to the return email.
  4. Add accessibility features such as headings and alternative text explanations for images.
  5. Save the document as a PDF.

Adobe Acrobat Pro

If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro installed on your computer, you can convert an inaccessible PDF into an accessible PDF by following these steps:

  1. Convert to text - in Tools > Text Recognition. This is the most important step in making your document readable.
  2. Add tags to indicate heading structure - in Tools > Accessibility > Add Tags to Document. This is important for navigating long and complex documents, such as textbooks.
  3. Add alt text to images - in Tools > Accessibility > Set Alternate Text. If your document contains information that is conveyed visually, add alt text to describe that content.
  4. Set reading order - in Tools > Accessibility > Touch Up Reading Order. This step is important for forms or other documents with complex layouts.
  5. Set language - in File > Properties > Advanced > Reading Options. This setting helps screen readers switch to the correct language.

These steps are explained further at WebAIM's page on PDF Accessibility.

Further information

Creating and Verifying PDF Accessibility
Best Practices for PDF Accessibility
PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.0