The first step in creating an accessible PDF from Microsoft Word is to ensure that the original Word document is accessible. Make sure to follow the core steps for accessibility as outlined on the Documents page.
Starting with an accessible Word document, a goal when exporting to PDF is to do so in a way that preserves the document structure of the Word document, including heading levels, alternate text for images, and markup that explicitly identifies lists, tables, document language, and other content that is important for accessibility.
UW students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to use the most current version of Microsoft Office on computers owned by the UW. This software can be downloaded with a valid NetID from the IT Connect UWare site.
Do not print to PDF. This method will not preserve the document structure and will result in a PDF document with no tag structure.
Word for Windows
From the File menu, select “Save As…” and choose where you want the file to be saved. In the Save As dialog box, select PDF from the Save as type list. By default, this produces a PDF that preserves the document structure and assures accessibility.
Word for Mac
From the File menu, select “Save As…” and choose PDF from the options provided. By default, this produces a PDF that preserves the document structure and assures accessibility.
When saving, be sure the radio button labeled “Best for electronic distribution and accessibility” is selected.
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.