Fixing accessibility issues in a PDF document can be difficult and time-consuming. When possible, it’s best to address accessibility issues in the original document format, like Microsoft Word or Excel, and then export the updated file to PDF format.

If the original document is not available, accessibility features can be added to the PDF by using Adobe Acrobat Pro.

View step by step instructions on how to convert documents to accessible pdfs »

How to check if a PDF is accessible

Try selecting the text. If you’re unable to select the text, then the file is an image, not a document.

You can also use Adobe’s Accessibility Checker.

When possible, present web content as text on a webpage, rather than a linked PDF document.

Here are a few reasons you may wish to avoid a PDFs:

  • They are generally not mobile-friendly. PDFs typically shrink-to-fit a full page on a mobile screen, requiring a lot of pinching and zooming to read the content.
  • You can’t track reader engagement, and they take users away from your website.
  • PDFs can be slow to load and even slower to download. 

Using InDesign to create PDFs

When using InDesign to create PDFs, most of the steps for creating an accessible document should be performed directly in InDesign.

The following steps are a brief overview of the tasks needed to create and export an accessible PDF document, for more details refer to Adobe’s page on creating accessible PDF’s.

  • Use consistent paragraph styles throughout the document, including headings to create hierarchical structure.
  • Create an export tag relationship between InDesign styles and PDF tags.
  • Anchor images within content flow, and add alt-text to any images.
  • Establish content order in the Articles Panel.
  • Add document title and description
  • Export as PDF optimized for accessibility

Steps after exporting in Acrobat

  • In Document properties, set the language.
  • Change the display name from Filename to Document title
  • In the Page Thumbnails pane set the tab order to use the document structure.
  • Run the Acrobat accessibility check. For help using the accessibility checker refer to Adobe’s User Guide for creating and verifying PDF accessibility.

Additional Resources for Accessible Documents