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PDF Accessibility

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

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 the WebAIM 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.
These instructions can also be used to convert PowerPoint files to PDF.

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.

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.