Creating an Accessible PDF from Word on the Mac

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Developing accessible PDF from a Word File on the Mac is sort of a trick question because the tool set is different than that on Windows. It's not terribly difficult, but you DO have to purchase the full version of Acrobat (I know, accessibility shouldn't cost this much). But if you have Word and Acrobat, here's what you can do.

In Word

Some tips for creating accessible content in Word are the following:

  • Use a legible font - Times New Roman is a default, but it isn't so legible. Verdana and Arial are classic sans-serif choices, but you may want to try , but if you prefer serif text, you may want to consider Palatino or Bookman Old Style. I am also a fan of Chalkboard (versus Comic Sans) and Optima.
  • Use Heading 1, Heading 2 styles - In many contexts, these Word styles will correspond to H1,H2 tags in HTML. Even if your Word file is headed for Dreamweaver, using these styles may mean they convert to H1/H2 in a cut and paste operations.
  • Use the list tool in Word (instead of using Option+8 to manually insert bullets). Again, the list will be recognized as UL or OL lists in other documents.

Convert to PDF

I will assume that you will take the free option and print as a PDF file in the Mac print dialogue. The result is that text will be preserved as text, but it will not be "tagged" into levels according to Adobe Acrobat.

Printing to PDF is not inaccessible, but it is not as accessible as it could be.

Adding Tags in Acrobat Professional

Now comes the finicky part.

  1. Open the .pdf file you generated in Acrobat Professional 9.
  2. To see if a document is "tagged", open File >> Properties. In the pop-up, there will be a Tagged PDF field at the bottom. If it's set to "No," you have to add tags.
  3. Click OK to close Document Properties window.
  4. Now go to Advanced >> Accessibility >> Add Tags to Document. A processing slide bar will be displayed.
  5. To actually see the effects of tagging, so to Advanced >> Accessibility >> Touch Up Reading Order. You should see a pop-up window along with series of gray boxes with numbers in the upper right. The numbers indicate that the order the block will be read in.
  6. To add an ALT tag to an image, make sure the Touch Up Reading Order window is active. Then select an image and right-click (or control-click) and select the option to add an ALT tag. Note: Beware of multiple images together. Apparently the PDF conversion merged them into one big image (Sigh).

There are more accessibility tools to explore including a Tag tab and the table cell editor, but I think you get the idea....

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