PDF Accessibility
Converting Documents to PDF

Overview

PDF files are not typically created in Acrobat. They are usually created in another program and converted to PDF. There are dozens or probably hundreds of programs that can create PDF files, but very few of them produce tagged PDF files. If you are using Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, OpenOffice.org Writer, or Adobe tools such as InDesign, you can often create accessible, tagged PDF files without opening Acrobat. Of course, the accessibility of the PDF depends on the accessibility of the original document.

Microsoft Word

Note

The following instructions can also be used to convert PowerPoint files to PDF.

The majority of the PDF files on the web were probably created in Microsoft Word. The good news is that it is possible to create accessible PDF files in Office, as long as the following requirements are met:

  1. The file must be accessible. That includes providing alternative text for images, proper headings, appropriate link text, etc. For more information, read our tutorial on Microsoft Word.
  2. Office 2000-2003 users must have Acrobat installed, as well as the add-in. Office 2007 users must have either Acrobat or the Microsoft PDF add-in installed. Office 2010 users can create tagged PDF files natively or with the Adobe add-in.
  3. The file must be exported correctly. If a file is created by printing to PDF, it will not be correctly tagged.

Word 2010

Adobe Add-in

Important

The Acrobat add-in is only available to users who have Acrobat X installed and are using the 32-bit version of Office 2010.

The Adobe Add-in, also called PDFMaker, is the best choice to create high-quality tagged PDF files. With the Adobe add-in installed, you can export to PDF one of two ways:

Select File > Save as Adobe PDF.

Word 2010 screenshot with Save as Adobe PDF highlighted.

Or you can select Create PDF from the Acrobat ribbon.

The Word 2010 Acrobat ribbon.

Either one of these options will open the same dialog box. The program should create a tagged PDF file by default. If this is not the case, select Preferences from the Acrobat ribbon and ensure that Enable Accessibility and Reflow with tagged Adobe PDF is selected.

Screenshot of Preferences window with Enable Accessibility and Reflow highlighted.

Save as tagged PDF natively

Word 2010 allows you to create tagged PDF files without installing Acrobat. The tagging process may not be quite as good as with the Adobe add-in, but most content, such as heading levels, lists, and alternative text for images is exported. If you want to verify the accessibility of the PDF or edit the tags that are created, you will still need Acrobat Professional.

To convert to PDF using the Microsoft add-in, Select File > Save As, and under Save as type: select PDF. Before you save the file, select Options and ensure that the Document structure tags for accessibility option is selected.

Screenshot of Options window with Document structure tags for accessibility highlighted.

Word 2007

Adobe Add-in

With the Adobe add-in installed, you can export to PDF one of two ways:

Click on the Office Button, hover over Save As, and select Adobe PDF, or press Alt + F, F, A.

Word 2007 Save As dialog with Adobe PDF selected.

Or you can select Create PDF from the Acrobat ribbon.

Screenshot of Word 2007 Acrobat ribbon

Either one of these options will open the same dialog box. The program should create a tagged PDF file by default. If this is not the case select Adobe PDF conversion options and ensure that Create Accessible (Tagged) PDF file is selected.

Screenshot of the Adobe PDF Conversion Options window with Create Accessible (Tagged) PDF file highlighted.

Microsoft Add-in

There is a free Save as PDF Add-in for Word 2007 that allows you to create tagged PDF files without installing Acrobat. If you want to verify the accessibility of the PDF or edit the tags that are created, you will still need Acrobat Professional.

To convert to PDF using the Microsoft add-in, click on the Office Button, hover over Save As, and select PDF, or press Alt + F, F, P.

Screenshot of Word 2007 Save As menu with PDF option selected.

Before you save the file, select Options and ensure that the Document structure tags for accessibility option is selected.

Screenshot of PDF Options window

Word 2000-2003

When you install Adobe Acrobat, an add-in for Microsoft Office is installed by default. The add-in allows you to convert Office files to PDF without opening Acrobat. This add-in also installs an Adobe PDF menu, which should appear in the Menu bar. To convert a Word Document to PDF, Select Adobe PDF > Convert to Adobe PDF. If your document is correctly structured, this should automatically create a tagged PDF. To ensure that files are being converted correctly, go to Adobe PDF > Change Conversion Settings and ensure Enable Accessibility and Reflow with tagged Adobe PDF is selected.

Screenshot of Word 2003 Acrobat PDF Maker dialog.

OpenOffice.org Writer

To save as a tagged PDF, choose File > Export as PDF, enter the name of the PDF file and choose where you would like to save it. Select Save and a second window titled PDF Options should open.

Screenshot of dialog box of PDF options. The checkbox labeled tagged PDF is highlighted.

There are several options that you may want to modify but the only one that concerns accessibility is the check box labeled Tagged PDF. Although this option is not checked by default, it remains selected once you have selected it the first time.

Important

There is an icon labeled PDF on the menu bar (Screenshot of PDF icon)) that will allow you to save a file as a PDF without opening the Options window. You must ensure that Tagged PDF is selected in the PDF Options dialog box before you use this icon, or your files will not be saved as tagged PDF files.

Adobe Acrobat Professional is still required if you want to modify a tagged PDF, and it is not always possible to create a correctly-tagged PDF using only Writer. For example, a document with complex tables or forms, or with a multi-column layout, may need to have the tagging process completed in Acrobat Pro.

Convert to PDF in Acrobat

If you are having trouble converting a document to tagged PDF in Office, or if you want to merge multiple documents into one tagged PDF file, you can convert a file to PDF in Acrobat. There are several ways to do this; one of the easiest is to select File > Create PDF > From File (in Acrobat X, File > Create > PDF From File). If the file format is supported (i.e. the file is created in a Microsoft or Adobe product), the file should be tagged as it is converted. If no tags are present, select Edit > Preferences > Convert to PDF, choose the correct format, select Conversions Settings, and ensure that Enable accessibility and reflow is selected.

Screenshot of Adobe PDF Settings window with Enable accessibility and reflow option selected.

If you want to combine multiple files into one PDF, select File > Create PDF > From Multiple Files (in Acrobat X, File > Create > Combine Files into a Single PDF). A dialog box will appear. Select Options and then select Always enable accessibility and reflow.