Create An Accessible Document

To make an accessible PDF in Word, there are six (6) key areas you need to format, in order to take advantage of Word’s Web accessibility features.

Use the Styles and Formatting menu to format text and headings

Use the Formatting toolbar

Use properly nested H1-H5 headings

Use Emphasis and Strong rather than italics and bold.

Use bullets for unordered lists and numbering for ordered lists.

Provide alternative text for images

Word 2000-2003:

Right-click image > Format Picture…> Web > Enter alt text

Word 2007:

Right-click image > Size…> Alt Text > Enter alt text

If appropriate, indicate that the first row of a table is the table header row: Click on table > Table > Table Properties…> Row > Select Repeat as header on the top of each page

Use display text rather than just a URL to ensure hyperlinks make sense to screen reader users.

For documents read primarily in an electronic format:

Highlight URL > Right-click > Edit Hyperlink…> Enter display text in the Text to display field > Click OK

For documents that may be both printed and read electronically:

Provide both a description and the URL in parentheses in the Text to Display field.

Do not use tables to create columns of text. 

Create actual columns:

Word 2000-2003:

Select text or click in section to be formatted > Standard toolbar > Click Columns button > Select number of columns desired

Word 2007:

Select text or click in section to be formatted > Page Layout tab > Page Setup panel > Columns > Select number of columns desired

Do not use a tab to indent text

Tab using the indent tools:

Word 2000-2003:

Select the paragraph(s) to be indented > View > Ruler > Use your cursor to drag the appropriate indent marker

Word 2007:

Select the paragraph(s) to be indented > View tab > Show/Hide panel > Select Ruler > Use your cursor to drag the appropriate indent marker


Make sure the font size is large enough. Use at least 12-point font for text.


Never use color alone to convey information (i.e. a color-coded pie chart with no labels or highlighted paragraphs). Use labeling, headers, or other text or styling in addition to color, even if it seems redundant.


Provide a table of contents for long, multi-section documents.

Word 2000-2003:

Insert > Reference > Index and Tables > Table of Contents tab > Select desired options and click OK

Word 2007:

References tab > Table of Contents panel > Table of Contents > Table of Contents pull-down menu > Select style to insert


Convert Word Document to PDF

Test for Accessibility

Make  A Non-Accessible PDF Accessible