Converting Word to Accessible PDF

An adapted version of the ACM Word template is available that when converted to PDF should produce a relatively clean, accessible PDF file ready for publication.

Download Accessible Word Paper Template

Download the ACM Paper Template

From Word to Acrobat Pro to Accessible PDF

If you prefer to watch a video over reading instructions, here’s a video that describes the whole process of creating and converting a Word doc, then adjusting the PDF with Acrobat Pro. Or, read on below for step by step instructions on converting Word to accessible PDF.

Making your PDF Paper Submission Accessible

Be sure to maintain the document formatting that has been provided in the template.  If you are adding to the template, be sure to do so in a way that will allow the document to be converted to accessible PDF. The following are the primary elements you should watch for when adding to the template: Headings, Images, and Tables.

Headings: Ensure that headings are actually headings and not just large bold text. Use the Heading buttons in Word, like those in Figure 1 below, to create proper headings. Also be sure that headings are properly nested, not skipping levels when setting up the document heading structure. That is H2 should be followed by an H3 to create a subsection, and not followed by an H4, or H5, for instance.

Figure 1: Word Styles Bar

Images: All meaningful images must have alt text. In Word, right click on an image and choose “Format Picture” as shown in Figure 2  below. This option is also available through the Word Format > Picture menu.

Figure 2: Format Picture to Add Alt Text

Select Format Picture from the context menu, by right clicking on the image.

In the Format Picture dialog shown in Figure 3 below, choose Alt Text from the options on the left, then enter text for the image in the Description field on the right. Be sure to reproduce any meaningful text in the image. Alt text should sufficiently describe the meaningful elements of the image, up to a maximum of 125 characters. If you need more space to describe the image, consider describing it in the surrounding text of the paper and provide just a brief description as Alt text.

Figure 3: Description field for Alt text.

Add alt text to the Description field

Tables: When using tables to layout columnar data, be sure the cells of the first row are column headers. To accomplish this right click and choose Table Properties as shown in Figure 4. Table properties can also be accessed through the Word Design toolbar when the table you are editing has focus.

Figure 4: Table Properties Menu Item

Choose Table Properties from the context menu by right clicking on a table.

In the Table Properties dialog be sure to select “Repeat as header row at the top of each page” as shown in Figure 5. Note that this will not create a header column if you are presenting data across two dimensions. In such a case the header cells will need to be manually defined by adjusting the PDF tagging in Acrobat.

Figure 5: Check the “repeat as header” option to create a table header row.

Choose Repeat as header row to add table headers to a table.

Tagging Your Saved PDF

As of  Microsoft Word 2010 it is possible to save a word document as a tagged pdf.  Save your paper as you would typically save a PDF document, and use the Options button, shown in the screenshot below.

Slect the Options button when saving a document to PDF

After clicking the Options button, choose “Document structure tags for accessibility”  in the dialog that opens, shown below.

Be sure Document structure tags for accessibility is checked.

MAC Users

Unfortunately Mac versions of Word do not have an option to export tagged PDF. If you do not have access to a Windows version of Word, you’ll need Acrobat Pro 11+, or Acrobat DC with the accessibility addon installed. Both will take a PDF exported from a Mac version of Word, check and correct accessibility issues, and tag the PDF.

Acrobat Downloads

Acrobat Reader DC Download

WebAim: PDF Accessibility Resources

PDF Accessibility

WebAim: Converting Documents to PDF

Important Dates

  • W4A 2017 April 2 to 4
  • Submission deadline Jan 6, 2017
  • Author Notifications Feb 6, 2017
  • Camera ready Feb 27, 2017