How can I make a PDF document more accessible for people with visual disabilities?

Here are some tips for ensuring accessibility when creating/converting Word documents to accessible PDF documents.  
1.     Make sure all graphics and images have alternate text that will identify what is contained in the image for users who are blind or visually impaired.  [right click on image, choose size, and select the Alt Text tab]

2.     Fonts – try and use at least 12 pt. type, Ariel font (or another sans-serif font). Avoid Times New Roman and other serif fonts, which can be difficult for some people with visual impairments due to letter curling)

3.     Do not use word boxes.

4.     Use Styles to create Headers (headers are a shortcut tool people who are blind use with screenreaders) and have them flow in a logical order.

5.     Use the column command to create columns, rather than the tab or space keys.

6.     Use the space before and after properties in the paragraph styles, rather than using the Enter key to create spaces between paragraphs.

7.     Use the Insert Table command to create tables, rather than using the space or tab keys.

8.     Use appropriate descriptions for hyperlinks (rather than “click here”) [Ctrl K to insert hyperlink, then screen tip button to add text description]

9.     Use bulleted lists or numbered lists.

In Adobe Acrobat Pro, when converting word documents you want to have the following settings checked:
1.     Bookmarks Tab:  Check the “convert word headings to bookmark” box and make sure the headings are ordered properly.

2.     Settings Tab:  Make sure the following boxes are checked:  Bookmarks, Links, Enable Accessibility and reflow.

3.     Word Tab:  Make sure the following boxes are checked: Enable advanced tagging, Convert footnotes and endnotes, Convert cross references

4.     Security Tab:  Check the “enable text access for screen reader devices for the visually impaired” if Permissions are applied

You can also save the word document directly as a PDF file from Word, and then run the document through the accessibility checker in Adobe.

Last updated: Jun 16, 2011