Module 4: Create an accessible PDF from scratch new icon

The following steps describe how to create accessible PDFs from scratch using Microsoft Word, which is an easy and time-conscious method. A tutorial on creating a new PDF from directly within Acrobat Pro DC is in development.

  1. Start by creating an accessible Word document. This means the Word document includes:

    • proper color contrast, font style and font size
    • appropriate use of styles
    • alternate text attached to all images
    • descriptive hyperlinks
    • tables with designated header rows that repeat on subsequent pages (if necessary)

  2. "Save As" a PDF

    For Windows (PC):

    1. Click "File", then "Save As".
    2. In the "Save As" dialog box, select "PDF" under "Save as type".
      PDF under Save As Type

    3. In the "Save As" dialog box, click "Options".
      Options button

    4. In the "Options" dialog box, ensure that the "Document structure tags for accessibility" button is checked. This will ensure that the styles you used in the Word document will be preserved in the PDF.
      Document structure tags for accessibility button

    5. Click "OK", then click "Save". Your document should now open within Acrobat Pro DC.

    For Mac:

    1. Click "File", then "Save As".
    2. In the "Save As" dialog box, select "PDF" under "Save as type".
      Mac save as PDF

    3. Upon selecting PDF, a checked radio button will appear that reads: "Best for electronic distribution and accessibility." Leave the box checked as is.
    4. Click "Export". The PDF that results should maintain all the accessibility features you added within Word.
      Mac Save As best for accessibility

  3. Run the "Make Accessible Wizard" in Acrobat DC

    1. Add the "Action Wizard" to your toolbar.
      1. In Acrobat Pro DC, click "Tools" in the upper left corner. The tools menu will appear.
        Tools button

      2. Scroll down until you see "Action Wizard". Click "Add". You should now see the Action Wizard on your toolbar at the right side of the screen.
        Add action wizard to toolbar

      3. Click "Document" at the top to go back to your document.
        Document button

    2. Run the 'Make Accessible Wizard'
      1. Click on 'Action Wizard', and then 'Make Accessible' in the Actions List that appears. Note that under 'Files to be processed' your document title should appear.
        Make accessible button and files to be processed

      2. Click "Start".
        Start button

      3. The wizard will begin. Click through each screen, following the prompts. Below is text and image information about each screen, followed by a brief video demonstration of how to run the wizard.
        1. Description: You should include a title for your document because this is what will be announced first to someone using a screen reader, and lets them quickly determine if this is the document they want to read.
          Add title

        2. Recognize Text - General Settings: The wizard will scan the document and detect any text it sees. This is known as Optical Character Recognition, or OCR. You can also select the language of the document.
          Recognize text

        3. Is this document intended to be used as a fillable form?: If your PDF is a fillable form, you can select "Yes, Detect Form Fields".
          Fillable form prompt

        4. Set reading language: This allows you to set the language which screenreading software will use when it voices the content.
          Set reading language

        5. Acrobat will detect all figures in the document and display any figures with missing alternate text: If any images without alternate text are found, it will take you through the process of adding it for each image.
          Detect images for alternate text

        6. Accessibility Checker Options: I recommend leaving all the settings as is. This will ensure a thorough check of the document's accessibility. Click "Start Checking".
          Accessibility checker options

        7. Once you run the Accessibility Checker, you will see a results panel appear to the left with symbols next to each criteria checked. Items that "passed" will have a green check mark. Because you've run all steps of the "Make Accessible" wizard, you should have mostly green check marks.

          attentionNOTE: The checker will always recommend that you manually check Logical Reading Order and Color Contrast. Color contrast can only be changed in the source document, but the following steps will 
                          show you how to check logical reading order.

          Here is a brief video showing how to run the 'Make Accessible Wizard':

  4. Check logical reading order

    1. Add the "Order Panel" to the Navigation Pane.
      1. Move your cursor over to the white space within the Navigation Pane to the left.
        White space in Navigation Pane

      2. Right-click your mouse, and then click "Order" in the menu that appears. The Order Panel will then appear on the Navigation Pane and will open by default.
        Add Order Panel

      3. Once in the Order Panel, you can click on each item and see it highlighted in the document. It will also have a number assigned to it to show the order in which it will be read.
    2. Rearrange items as needed.
      1. This is as simple as clicking and dragging the item and moving it to the desired spot within the Order Panel. Note the change in reading order number after moving an item.
      2. Once finished, click the X in the Order Panel to close it.
        Close the order panel

  5. Run a test using free screen-reading software


You have now completed Module 4: Accessible PDFs


Next: Module 5: Accessible Audio and Video

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