Part 1: working in Microsoft Word
Styles and Formatting
Always use structural formatting for headings, body text, bulleted lists,
numbered lists etc. These are applied using the Styles and Formatting panel
Styles and Formatting). It is important to note that text simply
set in bold, for example, is not a heading. Such formatting is purely
presentational and not structural. Structural elements, which are vital for
accessibility, can only be added via the Styles and Formatting panel.
Table of Contents
Nearly all users will benefit from a properly formatted Table of Contents
(TOC) providing active links to the various sections of a document. It is
particularly important in large documents to include a TOC. To do so, select
Index and Tables. Select the Table of Contents tab.
Click OK to create a TOC, based on the document’s heading structure.
Never justify text. Always left-align when working in languages that
are read left to right.
Avoid using blocks of italicised text.
Do not underline text that is not a link.
Avoid double spaces between sentences.
Always add “Alt text” to describe
content-bearing (as opposed to
purely decorative) images. To do so,
click the image to select it, right-
click and select Format Picture.
Select the Web tab and type or paste
the required text (see figure).
Important: for scanned documents,
charts and graphs etc, it is essential
to provide a comprehensive text
alternative that fully conveys all of
the information contained within or conveyed by the image.
Use sufficiently contrasting foreground and background colours and never
rely on colour alone to convey information or meaning. Non-technical
document producers may find the following tool useful for understanding
colour contrasts as perceived by those with different forms of colour
with an understanding of hexadecimal colour codes may also find the
following useful http://www.snook.ca/technical/colour_contrast/colour.html
Note: if you create a text box in Word (for example for a pull-out quote) do
not give it a background colour. It is common for people with vision
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impairments to change the colour scheme of a PDF for higher contrast.
However, although PDF readers are able to change the foreground colour of
text, they are unable to change the background colour. This can lead to some
poor foreground/background colour combinations.
Footnotes should be used sparingly, if at all. As a general rule, effective web
copy is short, snappy and to the point; footnotes are the opposite – they
provide fine detail. Also, repairing PDFs so that footnotes appear in the right
place in the reading order is essential for the content to make sense to a
screen reader user. However, it is very time consuming to do. Lastly, be
aware of the rapid growth in demand for access to web content via mobile
phones. Footnotes work even less well on mobile phone screens than they do
on PCs, for obvious reasons. They should be used with caution outside the
environment for which they were designed: the printed page.
Columns to lay out text in columns. Never use tables to
simulate multicolumn text.
Tables should be used only for the purpose of setting out tabular data and
not for general page layout. They should always have meaningful column
headings. If you do use them:
Avoid tables that break across pages. If you cannot, then ensure that
column headings repeat at the top of each page — select Table
Table Properties and under the
Rows tab check Repeat As H
Row At The Top Of Each Page.
Never allow rows to break across
pages. To prevent them from
doing so, select Table
Properties, and under the Rows
tab, uncheck Allow Row To Break
Across Pages option for that row
Avoid using complex tables.
Complex tables include those
more than one level of heading
These are very difficult to ma
accessible. Consider breaking
complex tables into a number
To create a new paragraph, press the Return key once and once only.
Do not use the Return key to add extra space between paragraphs or
to otherwise position copy on a page. Instead, use the "Spacing
Before" and "Spacing After" paragraph properties, defined in the Styles
and Formatting panel. Examples in this document are: the heading on
the title page which uses Spacing Before of 198pt; and the space
between paragraphs which is set with Space After of 6pt on Body Text.
Similarly, the Tab key or the space bar should never be used to
position copy on a page. Doing so is liable to render your copy as
gobbledygook when read with a screen reader or when converted to
plain text format.
Include live hyperlinks in the original document. These will convert well into
live links in the finished PDF and are useful navigational aids.
Converting from Word to a tagged PDF
Tagging is at the heart of PDF accessibility. During the conversion process
from Word to PDF, Acrobat will add a tag tree to the PDF that reflects the
structure of the source document (see example on page 9). It is this
structure that allows screen reader users and others to navigate the
document. Incidentally, it also enables search engines to index the document
To convert a document to a tagged PDF, select Adobe PDF
Convert to PDF
or select the Convert to PDF button on the toolbar (in Word).
Generating the tag tree during the conversion of the document to PDF, rather
than afterwards, almost always produces the best results.
Do not print the document to PDF using Adobe PDF Printer as this produces
an untagged document. A possible exception is when you know you are
dealing with a corrupted source document which Acrobat might struggle to
tag properly. In such a case tagging after conversion may be the better (or
Before generating a tagged PDF for the first time, in Word, select Adobe PDF
Change Conversion Settings. Select the Settings tab and ensure that the
following check boxes are checked:
Add Bookmarks to Adobe PDF.
Add Links to Adobe PDF.
Enable Accessibility and Reflow With Tagged PDF.
Once set, these settings will persist.
Part 2: working in Acrobat Professional 8
The amount of editing a document will require after conversion to PDF will
depend to a large extent on how closely the techniques outlined above have
been followed in its creation. If they have been followed closely, very little
editing is likely to be required. If the document has not been authored along
the lines described above it is likely to need extensive manual repair work
using the techniques set out in the remainder of this document.
As stated previously, this document is intended to be a quick guide only. For
more details on all of the following topics, as well as on PDF accessibility
issues not covered by this guide (such as those relating to PDF forms and
multimedia), see Adobe’s (108-page) Create Accessible PDF Documents with
Adobe Acrobat (pdf 10.3M)
The next sections briefly describe the main tools available for identifying and
fixing accessibility problems in Acrobat Professional 8. In the following
sections, the basic methods and techniques for fixing these problems are
Note: the visual appearance of a document remains unchanged when editing
with any of the tools below.
Tip: there is no Back or Undo button in Acrobat Professional and, although
version 8 is more stable than previous versions, it can crash from time to
time. You are strongly advised to save your work frequently.
Checking for accessibility problems
Acrobat has some useful tools for identifying accessibility problems:
The accessibility Full Check report produces a detailed list of potential
problems together with suggestions for fixing them. To run the report,
Reflow view reorganizes the content into a single column. This is
useful for visually checking for reading order problems. To use Reflow,
You can also listen to the document to check that the reading order
makes sense by selecting View
Read Out Loud. This works fine for
short documents, but a more sophisticated screen reader is
recommended for more complex documents. This is because with Read
Out Loud you can only start, pause or continue. There is no means to
move around a document, making longer documents hard to use.
Tools available in Acrobat Professional
The TouchUp Reading Order Tool
To open the TouchUp Reading Order tool select
Order, or Tools
Reading Order Tool.
Use the TouchUp Reading Order Tool to add or
edit headings or other structural elements as
With the TouchUp Reading Order Tool dialogue
box open, any part of the document can be
selected by clicking and dragging a box around
it. It can then be tagged as a heading, text,
figure (for an image), or background (to remove
it from the reading order) etc, by clicking on the
corresponding button in the TouchUp Reading
Order panel (see figure).
The Order Panel
To open the Order Panel, from the
TouchUp Reading Order tool, click the
Show Order Panel button.
The Order Panel provides the quickest and
easiest way to adjust the reading order.
Items can be cut, copied, pasted,
dragged, or created (right-click and select
New Tag). Each region of a page has a
corresponding numbered entry in the
Order Panel. The sequence of the
numbering indicates the reading order of
the content in the page.
You can also use the Order Panel as an
alternative to the TouchUp Reading Order
tool to format elements. To do so, right-
click an item in the Order Panel and from
the drop down select Tag as heading 1,
Tag as text, Tag as background etc.
The Tags Panel
The Tags Panel shows the document’s
tag tree. To view the tag tree select the
Tags tab on the navigation panel or
Right-click on any tag to view a number
of options for deleting, inserting or
editing tags. You can also drag and drop
tags to change the reading order, or
delete them to remove them from the
Finding a section of content
To find a section of content in a PDF
from its corresponding tag, with the Tags
tab selected, click Options
Content. Alternatively, right-click a tag
and select Highlight Content. The
content will be highlighted on the page
Finding a tag
To find a tag from its corresponding
content, select the content with the
Select tool. With the Tags tab selected,
Find Tag From Selection.
The corresponding tag will be highlighted
in the tag tree.
Methods for repairing common problems
Checking for the presence of tags
As stated previously, tags are vital for PDF accessibility, and tagging during
the conversion process rather than afterwards almost always produces the
best results. To check if a PDF has been tagged select File
Select the Description tab and look for a Yes or a No next to the Tagged PDF
Note: it is possible for a PDF to have a tag tree but for the Description tab to
show a “No”. Such a document should be treated as if it were untagged. In
such a case, if you have access to the original document, re-convert to PDF
as described on page 6 above. If not, or if there is a problem with tagging
during conversion, delete the tag tree and generate a new one.
To generate a tag tree after conversion to PDF, select Advanced
Add Tags to Document.
Table of Contents
Because of widespread support for links across technologies, platforms and
devices, a Table of Contents (TOC), that provides active links to the various
sections of a document, represents an important navigational aid for most
users, for most kinds of document. A TOC properly formatted in Word
converts well into its counterpart in PDF without further editing work.
If a TOC exists but has no active links to the document’s various sections (as
is the case if a document is tagged after conversion to PDF), it can be
repaired relatively easily using Create Link/Go to
page view. To do so:
highlight a line in the TOC using the Select
right-click and select Create Link (see
(if necessary adjust the Link Appearance
settings, then) select Go to a page view
and click Next;
the Create Go to View dialogue box
navigate to the page you want to link to
and click Set Link;
repeat the process for each line in the TOC.
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested