How to Create An Accessible PDF
Welcome to this online training session on how to format an accessible PDF!
This session includes:
Overview of the course
The four lessons that describe the process of creating an accessible PDF document.
1. Module 1. Accessible PDF’s vs. Inaccessible PDF’s. This module describes the
different characteristic of accessible PDF and inaccessible PDF documents.
2. Module 2. Creating/Converting PDF’s. This module includes three ways to create an
accessible PDF document from an MS-Word, MS-PowerPoint, or Scanned Document
file using freeware like
PrimoPDF with Adobe Reader
, standard software such as MS-
Office 2007, or specialized programs such as Acrobat Pro, or OCR software.
3. Module 3. Conversion Tools. This module includes an overview of four PDF
conversion tools: PrimoPDF with Adobe Reader, PDF Plug-in for MS-Office 2007,
Acrobat Professional, and OmniPage Professional.
4. Module 4. Reviewing PDF’s. This module provides reviewing processes for an
accessible PDF document.
This goal of this online training module is to help faculty to create accessible PDF documents. It
consists of four lessons on what makes a PDF document accessible (or not), how one can create
an accessible PDF file or convert a non-PDF file into one, the different technology tools that can
be used for accessible PDF formatting, and a list of additional resources for further training.
At the end of the course you will be able to
1. Differentiate between accessible and inaccessible PDF files
2. Apply the general rules of formatting and use different technology tools to create and
or convert files into accessible PDF document.
3. Apply steps on how to review PDF files for accessibility
4. Apply these tools and procedures to any other type of PDF documents that you create.
Module 1. Accessible versus Inaccessible
To create accessible PDF’s, we need to know what accessible PDF’s are and what inaccessible
What characteristics does an accessible PDF have?
The most reliable way to generate an accessible PDF file is to create Tagged PDF files. A
Tagged PDF is a PDF that “provides structure and orders information to allow PDF documents
to be read by screen-readers and to be reflowed to fit different display screen sizes”
Accessible PDF’s can be read intelligently by screen reader software. Accessible PDF’s contain
“tags” that define the logical document structure. Logical structure refers to the organization of a
document. The logical structure can indicate the precise reading order, and improve navigation
of more complex documents.
Accessible PDF’s have the following characteristics:
Tags, screen reader-friendly.
A logical reading order, which an assistive technology like a Screen Reader will read
aloud the document to the user.
Alternative text defined for all images in the document. This text is used to describe an
image in the event that the image cannot be seen.
[Image 1.1. An example of an Accessible PDF]
This picture shows the characteristics of an accessible PDF: a) reading orders, b) tags, and c) a
Image having an alternative text.
What characteristics do inaccessible PDF’s have?
In an inaccessible PDF document, only an image scanned into a PDF document is represented
inside the PDF file. These scanned documents are not accessible because screen-readers are
unable to recognize the text at all.
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[Image 2. An example of an Inaccessible PDF]
This picture shows the PDF which does not include Tags and is only an image file.
Where inaccessible PDF’s come from:
Scanning the document as an image
Using the PDF Plug-in in Office 2007 without using style and formatting
The most common result from “Print To PDF” functions
Mac programs that use the PDF built-in feature
Module 2. Creating/Converting PDF’s
We have now made it to Module 2: Creating PDF’s! This module includes three ways to create
an accessible PDF document from an MS-Word, MS-PowerPoint, or Scanned Document file
using Primo PDF with Adobe Reader, MS-Office 2007, Acrobat Pro, or OCR software.
2.1. From MS-Word
One way to create PDF documents is to create the document using MS-Word, or by converting
an existing MS-Word 2003 or 2007 file into PDF. It is highly recommended that general rules
for formatting a document that is word-processed using MS-Word be applied when creating any
original document. (For more information on these general formatting rules, go to Accessible
Syllabus module (http://trc-online.csusb.edu/AcceSyllabusInMS2003/index.html
2.1.1. From MS-Word 2003 to PDF
Because MS-Word 2003 does not have the built-in feature of saving a file as PDF, another
program will be needed to convert an MS-Word 2003 document into an accessible PDF file.
Software such as PrimoPDF (http://primopdf.com/
), a free software,
will allow you to make PDF
files from a 2003 MS-Word document. PrimoPDF installs on your computer as a PDF “printer”.
This means you can use the PrimoPDF to “print” your documents that were created in MS-Word
or other programs to a PDF file. The end product is an electronic PDF file, not a paper printout
or hard copy. However, the resulting PDF file may be inaccessible or partially accessible so
an accessibility check or review is necessary.
Adobe Reader 9 (or later) can be used to check for accessibility of PrimoPDF-created files.
Adobe Reader 9 can do either a quick check or full check. It will generate an Accessibility
Report, and provides options to add tags to document, run form field recognition, add form field
to tags or to touch up reading order (See Module 4.1 (http://trc-
) for more details.).
To convert a word-processed file to PDF using PrimoPDF,
1. Choose File>Print.
2. Select the PrimoPDF printer from the list of available printers and click OK.
[Image 2.1. PrimoPDF]
3. The PrimoPDF window appears. For “Save As”, enter a name and location for the PDF
file. You can also set other PrimoPDF options at this time.
4. Click “Create PDF”.
[Image 2.2. PrimoPDF2]
To check for accessibility of PrimoPDF-created files using Adobe Reader,
1. Open Adobe Reader (or download a free copy of Adobe Reader from- put URL here)
2. Choose “Advanced” in the menu bar, and choose “Accessibility” in the drop-down
3. A second drop down menu will appear and you can choose Quick Check or Full Check.
4. An Accessibility Report will automatically open or you can click “Open Accessibility
Report” to view the report.
5. Use the fix options provided by Adobe Reader to address accessibility issues indicated
in the report.
These options are:
a. Add Tags to Document
b. Run Form Field Recognition
c. Add Form Field to Tags
d. Touch Up Reading Order
For more details, go to Module 4.1 (http://trc-online.csusb.edu/AccePDF/module4.html
(DISCLAIMER: As indicated earlier, PrimoPDF-created files may not have a fully
accessible format. Moreover, Adobe Reader may not be capable of fixing all accessibility
issues in PrimoPDF-created documents. However, in the absence of more advanced
programs like Word 2007 and Acrobat Professional, these two, free software could provide
some help. Therefore, all effort should be taken to use more appropriate accessibility tools
to create PDF files in accessible format.)
2.1.2. From MS-Word 2007
Microsoft provides PDF Plug-in for MS-Office 2007 on its website. This program allows you to
export and save PDF formats in 2007 Microsoft Office programs.
The URL for MS-Office 2007’s PDF plug-in
The key to successful conversion of accessible PDF documents from MS-Word is making sure
that the document is formatted following the appropriate hierarchical structure (e.g., heading 1,
heading 2, etc.) The document should follow formatting guidelines for accessible documents
and include document maps (see http://trc-online.csusb.edu/AcceSyllabusInMS2003/index.html
To view a PDF file, download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer from Adobe
If MS-Word 2007 does not have a PDF Plug-in for MS-Office 2007, you can download the
PDF Plug-in for MS-Office 2007 from the Microsoft website.
After installing PDF Plug-in for MS-Office 2007, the “Acrobat” menu will be added to MS-2007.
[How to Create a PDF document using the PDF Plug-in for MS-Office 2007]
Step 1: Enable tagging in Microsoft Office 2007 Word.
Go to the “Acrobat” menu bar
Select “Preferences” tool bar menu.
Check if “Enable Accessibility and reflow with Tagged PDF” is checked. Select
Image 2.3. Preference menu]
Step 2: Create an accessible document in Microsoft Word 2007.
Step 3: Export it to PDF.
Choose the < Acrobat> option from the menu bar.
Select the <Create PDF> option.
Save the file at the prompt.
[Image 2.4. Create PDF menu]
Step 4: Perform a PDF review to ensure accessibility (see Module 4: Reviewing PDF’s).
For more information on this topic, see “Converting a Microsoft Word 2007 Document
to an Accessible PDF” developed by Cal State
2.1.3. From Acrobat Professional (Acrobat PRO)
Creating PDF’s with Acrobat PRO is very simple and straightforward. It includes selecting a
document file and then saving it as a PDF file.
[Steps to Create a PDF document using Acrobat PRO]
Step 1: Choose File
Step 2: Select a file (doc format).
[Image 2.5. Create PDF menu]
Step 3: Select a file (doc format).
Step 4: Save a file (PDF format).
Many California State University campuses provide very detailed instructions on how to create
accessible PDF’s documents using Acrobat Professional. The following resources are very
helpful in learning how to write a PDF document using Acrobat Professional:
1. The Chancellor's Office for PDF accessibility workshops:
2. CSU at Sacramento: URL: http://www.csus.edu/training/handouts/index.htm
3. CSU at Bakersfield: URL: http://www.csub.edu/ati/inst.shtml
2.2. From MS-Powerpoint (PPT)
Just like word-processed documents, Powerpoint files can be successfully saved or converted
into accessible PDF files by applying the appropriate steps when creating the Powerpoint
document. These steps include:
Creating slides from templates provided within Powerpoint
Converting PPT into “outline” format by saving as a “Outline/RTF”.
Selecting the Outline/RTF file and saving it as a PDF file.
2.2.1 From MS-PowerPoint 2003
MS- Powerpoint 2003 does not have a built-in function for saving files in PDF format. After
converting the PPT file to Outline/RTF file, the conversion procedure from PPT to PDF is the
same as that from MS-Word 2003 files to PDF. However, note that there will be accessibility
issues to address because MS-Word 2003 also does not have built-in functions for saving files in
PDF format. See Module 2.1.1 (http: //trc-online.csusb.edu/AccePDF/module2.html)
[Steps to Create a PDF document from MS-PPT 2003 using PrimoPDF]
1. Convert PPT into “outline” format by saving as a “Outline/RTF”. This will save the
Powerpoint file into MS-Word 2003 RTF file.
[Image 2.6. Converting PPT to RTF Using MS-PPT 2003]
2. Open the Outline/RTF file using MS-Word 2003.
For the next steps, use the same steps as Module 2.1.1. (
2.2.2. From MS-PowerPoint 2007
The conversion procedure for MS- PPT 2007 is a two-step process: first, convert the PPT file
into RTF file. Then convert the RTF format to PDF using MS-word 2007 using the same
procedures as converting from MS-Word 2007 files to PDF files.
[Steps to Create a PDF document from MS-PPT 2007]
If MS-Word 2007 does not have a PDF Plug-in for MS-Office 2007, please download PDF Plug-
in for MS-Office 2007 from the Microsoft website
Below are the steps for saving a PPT as a PDF file:
Step1: Convert PPT into “outline” format by saving as a “Outline/RTF”. This will save
the Powerpoint file into MS-Word 2007 RTF file.
[Image 2.7. Creating a power point presentation in Outline View using MS-PPT 2007]
Step 2: From MS-Word 2007, open the RTF file.
Step 3: Export it to PDF.
o Choose the < Acrobat> option from the menu bar.
o Select the <Create PDF> option.
o Save the file at the prompt.
Step 4: Check the PDF to ensure accessibility (see Module 4 (http://trc-
2.2.3. From Acrobat Professional (Acrobat PRO)
[How to Save as a PDF]
Save the presentation as an Acrobat PRO document. Below are the steps for saving a PPT as a
Step1: Select the PPT file for conversion.
Step 2: Select PDF from the menu bar.
Step 3: Click Convert to PDF.
Step 4: Type the PDF name in the File name.
Step 5: Click Save.
2. 3. From Scanned Documents
The other way to create a PDF document is to create a scanned PDF document from existing
documents such as books, articles, etc. The existing documents must be scanned using Optical
Character Recognizing (OCR) software.
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested