- Las Positas College
- Online Learning
- Faculty Resources
- Web Accessibility
- Converting a Word Document to an Accessible PDF
Converting a Word Document to an Accessible PDF
Note: The easiest way to ensure accessibility is to type or paste directly into Canvas' Rich Content Editor and not use Word at all.
- Check for accessibility in Word
- Heading styles
- Adding descriptions to images
- Adding table headers
- Convert to accessible PDF
To check accessibility of a document in Word, follow these steps:
- Open your document in Word. Click the File tab. The Info screen should come up.
- Click the Check for Issues button, then Check Accessibility.
- The Accessibility Checker will open. Click on any of the warnings to see what needs
to be fixed. The text below the warnings gives you information on why it needs to
be fixed, and how to fix it.
- Once all errors have been addressed, your document is accessible. You can then upload it to the web if you are sure that all of your students have access to Word in order to view it.
The most common errors in Word documents are that users don't use heading styles, don't add descriptions to images, and don't add headers to tables. Here's how to address those issues:
Heading styles are used to organize your document and help define main topics (typically using Heading 1) and subtopics (Heading 2 or Heading 3). For instance, in your syllabus, you might have a main topic of English 1A and subtopics of Course Description, Textbooks, Grading, etc. If you don't use heading styles in Word, the reading order of your document will be jeopardized when the document is converted to an accessible PDF, and consequently, a visually impaired student using screen-reading software will have a difficult time understanding it.
To add a Heading 1 in Word, highlight the heading, and click Heading 1 in the Styles
panel of the Home tab.
To add a Heading 2, highlight the heading, and click Heading 2.
Here is the result:
Also, when dealing with text, adhere to these points:
- Use list styles to create numbered and bulleted lists.
- Ensure adequate color contrast between all text and the background.
- Use tabs, not spaces to move words.
If your Word document contains an image, you'll need to add a description, known as an alternative text, or alt text. The alt text is read aloud to the visually impaired student by assistive technology, such as a screen reader. Its content needs to be relatively simple, and depending on the image, it should not require an extensive description. The alt text can be a simple phrase or even 2-3 sentences. Either way, it should convey enough information so the visually impaired student has an equal amount of knowledge about the image as the sighted student. Do not start your alt text with "Image of..." because the screen reader will already say the word "Image" once it gets to the image.
Each sentence should end with a period at the end to signal to the assistive technology software that there is a pause in the reading of the text. If a longer description of the image is necessary to fully explain alt text content, consider inserting a more detailed description of the image within the text document that precedes or follows the image.
To add alt text, right-click the image, and choose Format Picture.
In the Format Picture panel on the right, click the icon for Layout and Properties.
Click Alt Text, and type your description in the Description box. Do NOT type in the Title box. If you type in both the title and description boxes, the visually impaired student's screen reader will only read the title box.
If your Word document contains a table, you'll need to tag the table prior to converting the document to a PDF. To create a Word table for a PDF document, it is
necessary to use the Table formatting option in Word. Do not use "spaces" or "tabs"
to visually format content in a Word table as this will create the incorrect content
in the properly formatted PDF document.
After creating your blank table, type in a header for each column in the first row of the table. The headers for this example are Date, Topic, and Read. Next, select the header row, then right-click, and choose Table Properties.
In the Table Properties box, make sure the Row tab is selected, then check the box in front of Repeat as header row at the top of each page. Click OK.
If you are sure that all of your students have Word, you can save your document, and upload it into your course. However, unless you are teaching a CIS course about Microsoft Word and its usage is required, it's a safe bet that not all of your students have Word. In that case, you will need to convert your Word document into an accessible PDF (portable document format).
A PDF is a graphical file that is an exact image of the document originally created by another application (e.g., Word) and then converted into PDF format. PDF files can be viewed using Acrobat Reader, which is a free viewer program used by web browsers. A PDF provides the most flexibility to ensure accessibility is maintained in the document.
- Click File, then Save As.
- Choose where you want the file to be saved.
- Select PDF as the Save As type, then select Options.
- Check the box for Document structure tags for accessibility.
- Click OK.
When the conversion is finished, you can upload the PDF to the web.