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Many folks would like to provide course documents in PDF format to make them print more consistently and to prevent easy modification of the content. While it's fairly straightforward to use the built-in style sheets and outline format in Word to create a structured document that's easy for a screen reader to understand, PDF documents created from those Word documents are all too frequently not very accessible, if you use the standard method of creating them, by Printing to PDF from Word or other Microsoft tools.  The solution is fairly simple but takes just a few extra steps. You can simply use the Save-As functionality in MS Office to create accessible versions of your structured MS Office documents in PDF form!

Note: do not print as PDF.  Printing does not preserve the document's accessibility features

Step-by-step guide (MS Office for Macintosh)

Determine what version of MS Office suite you have by going to the menu which runs across the top and look for "Word

Update to the most recent Office suite for Mac.

Save an accessible PDF with Mac for Office:

  1. Select File > Save As (or press Command+Shift+S), type the file name in the Save As text box, and then choose where you want the file to be saved.

  2. In the Save As dialog, go to the File Format drop down box. Use the Down Arrow to browse through file types, and select PDF.

  3. Select the radio button "Best for electronic distribution and accessibility (uses Microsoft online service)." This ensures the PDF is tagged.

  4. Select Export.

Step-by-step guide (Windows)

The kinds of files that you can save as PDF depend on the platform. For example, from a Windows computer, you can save a Word document, an Excel workbook, PowerPoint presentation, Publisher publication, or a Visio drawing:

On a Windows computer, you can save your file as a tagged PDF by following these steps.

Office 2016

  1. Click File > Save As and choose where you want the file to be saved.

  2. In the Save As dialog box, choose PDF in the Save as type list.

  3. Click Options, make sure the Document structure tags for accessibility check box is selected, and then click OK.

Office 2013

  1. Click the File tab, and then click Save As.

  2. Under Choose a Location, choose where you want the file to be saved.

  3. Under Choose a Folder, choose a folder that you have already used or click Browse for Additional Folders to choose a different folder.

  4. In the Save As dialog box, click the arrow in the Save as type list, and then click PDF.

  5. Click Options.

  6. Make sure that the Document structure tags for accessibility check box is selected, and then click OK.

  7. Click Save.

Older Versions of Word

  • In Windows, exporting to an accessible PDF in Office 2007 and 2003 requires a plug-in. The Adobe PDFMaker Plugin ships with Adobe Acrobat Pro, and the plugin is installed into Office and appears as an Adobe toolbar and menu item. With this plug-in installed, use the Adobe toolbar or the Adobe menu item to Save As PDF.  By default, this produces a PDF that preserves the document’s accessibility features.
  • On a Mac, Word did not include accessibility features at all until Office 2011 and did not support saving to tagged PDF until Office 2016. In Office 2011, you can create an accessible Word document, but in order to export to tagged PDF, you must take that final step in Word for Windows or LibreOffice for Mac.

From the Microsoft Support Article:

Quick Help to Prepare Your Source File

Follow these guidelines to help catch and fix accessibility issues, such as missing alt text, before they cause a problem to someone with a disability:

If you’re working in another app, such as Publisher or Visio, many of the suggestions in these articles also apply. For example, it’s always critical to add alternative text for tables and images and to use heading and paragraph styles for text.

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