If you decide that the given content needs to be exclusively in PDF format, authoring programs like Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Adobe InDesign make creating accessible documents straightforward. When creating accessible PDFs, accessible design in the authoring program will allow for easier modifications in the future.

It’s important to follow some core principles to assure your document is readable by people with disabilities.

Overview of what to focus on

  • Headings
  • Lists
  • Meaningful Hyperlinks
  • Identifying document language
  • Alt-text for images
  • Exporting correctly to preserve accessibility

Further Considerations


  • Tagging
    • Tagging defines the reading order and identifies headings, paragraphs, sections, tables and other page elements.
    • Allows for screen readers or other text-to-speech tools to work properly
    • Allows for restructuring for mobile devices
  • Use Headings 
    • Use proper navigation if applicable.
    • Use hierarchical headings (H1, H1, H3, etc.)
    • Only use heading 1 (H1) once
  • Use Lists
    • Need to be formatted correctly
    • Helps user understand how content is organized
  • Use Meaningful Links
    • Need to be descriptive
    • Need to make sense out of context
  • Searchable Text
    • Make sure your text is selectable with your cursor. If the text is not selectable, it is an image file.
    • Images of text and scanned PDFs are not accessible
  • Alternative Text (alt-text) for non-text descriptions
    • Such as for images and objects

Helps describe the image’s meaning for those who have seeing disabilities


  • Readability
    • Simplest language
    • Strategically use columns, horizontal separators, and white space
    • Use images, graphics, and diagrams to supplement text
    • Proofread grammar and spelling
    • No broken links
  • Typography
    • Readable fonts, at least 12px for documents and 18px for presentations
    • Avoid serif fonts and ALL CAPS 
  • Use of Colors

When exporting your document as a PDF, make sure to preserve accessibility and validate the document. You can use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to validate and check accessibility.


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