Accessible PDF's from Word - NIU - Information Technology Services




Creating accessible PDFs from Word 

The Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act requires Illinois universities to ensure that the information on their web sites is accessible to people with disabilities.

It’s easy to make accessible PDFs from Word 2007 documents. When creating the document, use heading styles and lists. Add alternative text to all images. Make columns and tables using the columns and tables commands.

Use heading styles

Use heading styles for all section headings instead of making headings a larger font size. Heading styles are under the ‘Home’ tab. Headings become bookmarks in pdf’s, which are especially useful in long documents.

The headings in this document become bookmarks in the pdf



The headings in this document become bookmarks in the pdf.

Create lists

If you have a list of items, create a bulleted list instead of a series of paragraphs. For a sequential list, such as steps in a procedure, create a numbered list. Both list options are under the ‘Home’ tab in the Paragraph section.

  • One item
  • Another item
  • Another item
  1. Step 1
  2. Step2
  3. Step 3

Add alternative text to images

Right-click the image and choose Size. Go to the Alt Text tab. The default alt text is the name of the file, which is almost always not helpful to someone who can’t see the image. Type a short description of the image and close the dialog box.

Use the Column command to make columns

Choose the Page Layout tab, then Columns in the Page Setup section. Don’t use the Tab key and space bar to make columns.

Use the Table command to make tables

Choose Insert, then Table to create tables. Don’t use tabs and spaces.

Add descriptions to hyperlinks

Choose Insert, then Hyperlink in the Links group.

The Edit Hyperlink window has a Screen Tip button

Click the Screen Tip button in the upper right of the dialog box. The Screen Tip text can be the same as the Text to display. Describe where the link will take your visitor. “Click here” is not descriptive.

Save the document as a pdf

If you do not have Adobe Acrobat (not Adobe Acrobat Reader), click the Windows button, choose Save As > PDF or XPS. In Save as type, choose PDF.

The Save Adobe PDF File As window showing the Options button.


Click the Options button. Make sure “Creating bookmarks using: Headings” and “Document Properties” and “Document structure tags for accessibility” under “Include non-printing information” are checked.

check everything under Include non-printing information

Click OK, then Save.

If you have Adobe Acrobat (not Adobe Acrobat Reader) on your machine, click on Acrobat in the top menu or Save As > Adobe PDF under the Office button.

PDF Options window. Choose Convert document information, Enable Accessibility, Create Bookmarks, Convert Word Headings, and Page range of All.

The Application Settings in the Acrobat PDFMaker window should look like this:


Click OK then Save.