Accessible Digital Documents

Digital DocumentsThis resource provides information about common office documents and accessibility. It was developed as a supplement to our Accessible Web Design page when we realized that much (if not most) of what gets posted on the web either starts out as a simple document, created by a word processor or other office suite product, and is then converted into a web page, PDF or other web-based resource. Often in this conversion process, accessibility is not taken into consideration and the final result is a web document that cannot be used by all. This is particularly problematic in large organizations where there are many content producers. It is important for content producers – especially those creating content that will be sent out to the public – to ensure their document are accessible to all.

To this end, we have created this resource which provides information and resources to help you create accessible documents.


Webinar: Accessible Digital Documents

In this 90-minute webinar, recorded December 8, 2015, the issues and methods related to the creation of accessible digital documents were discussed. Procedures for assessing content for accessibility and team work-flows that can ensure your digital content successfully meets accessibility standards are examined. More information and to view the archived video…

Accessible Digital Documents – Part 1 and 2
UM University College Faculty Institute – May 20, 2016


The following list of on-line resources was developed with assistance from all of my good friends on the WebAIM Web Accessibility Listserv. Thank you!

The National Center on Disabilities and Access to Education – Goals Project has developed a new set of resources, or “cheat sheets” to help assist individuals in the quest to create accessible content. GOALS currently has cheat sheets available, addressing the following topics:

  • Creating accessible documents in Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • PDF conversion in Microsoft Word
  • Creating accessible PDF documents in Acrobat X

View the cheat sheets – include Microsoft, Adobe and YouTube products…

Accessible Digital Office Documents (ADOD), a project by Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) published a resource that provides information about making accessible documents with office products from Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Corel, and Google. View Accessibility of Office Documents and Office Applications… has published a list of downloadable articles that describe methods for creating accessible digital documents using a variety of office products. View Create Accessible Electronic Documents…

Microsoft has published an extensive resource designed to assist users in making MS-Office documents accessible. View Creating accessible Word documents…

Berman Accessibility Ribbon for Word – The Berman Accessibility Ribbon (version 1.0) is an add-on to Microsoft Word for Windows (versions 2010, 2013, and 2016). (Unfortunately Word for Mac … even the 2016 test release … still lacks the accessibility features of Word for Windows, so the ribbon only works for Word for Windows). View information about Berman Accessibility Ribbon for Word…

Braille Works 508 Document Compliance – Braille Works has developed a (paid service) solution for repair or remediation of your documents so you can meet WCAG and 508 compliance standards. WCAG and Section 508 document compliance can be difficult and navigating these waters is not a job for the inexperienced. Elements of a document such as paragraph structure, tables, charts, lists etc, need to be properly organized and tagged to provide true accessibility. More information about the Braille Works paid solution…

Cliff Tyllic’s Productivity Tab for Word – Accessibility consultant Cliff Tyllic has also developed a plugin for MS Word that “gives you most if not all of the tools that help you create accessible documents and displays none of the tools that would lead you astray.” More information on the Cliff-Knows website…

Karlen Communications has posted a number of resources from tutorials on how JAWS users can use keystrokes to activate MS-Word advanced features; accessible documents design tutorials; as well as, other handouts they have used in their training programs. More information on Karlen Communications accessible documents resources…

Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities has hosted a series of learning modules on making Microsoft Office 2010 documents accessible to people with disabilities.

Adobe has posted Adobe® Acrobat® X Creating Accessible PDF Files from Microsoft® Word which is a PDF with step-by-step directions.

Information Technology for Minnesota Government has posted resources on accessible digital documents.

Keyboard Shortcuts – MS-Office

Many individuals navigate on their computers without a mouse or pointing device. This may be done with a traditional keyboard, a modified or specialized keyboard or through a combination of switches. Here are some resources listing the keyboard combinations to activate various features or navigate through digital documents created in one of the applications in MS-Office:

PDF Conversion tools/services

Below we have pulled together list of some “tools and services” that can assist in this process of converting PDFs to accessible digital documents. Thanks to Jiatyan Chen of Stanford University, Damian Sian of Princeton University and Tristan Price of Mt. Hood Community College who generated the initial list.

Conversion SERVICES

SensusAccess – SensusAccess is a self-service, alternate media solution for educational institutions. SensusAccess allows students, faculty, staff and alumni to automatically convert documents into a range of alternate media including audio books (MP3 and DAISY), e-books (EPUB, EPUB3 and Mobi) and digital Braille. The service can also be used to convert inaccessible documents such as image-only PDF files, JPG pictures and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations into more accessible and less tricky formats.

CommonLook – NetCentric Technologies, a global leader in document accessibility, provides software products and professional services enabling faster, more cost-efficient, and more reliable processes for achieving compliance with the leading PDF and document accessibility standards, including WCAG, PDF/UA, and Section 508. CommonLook software makes the creation, remediation, and management of accessible PDF and Microsoft Office documents easier than ever before.

247 Accessible Documents – On-demand Accessible Documents – Upload a Document and receive an Accessible PDF, Accessible Word Document or an Accessible PowerPoint that meets Accessibility Standards & Guidelines 2.0 in 5 days.

inclüd – Accessible content conversion, creation, and consulting services, inclüd provides institutions with a path to accessible information, ensuring that those with exceptional needs can access content tailor made for them.

Equidox Equidox is an automated solution that simplifies the process of discovering, converting, and publishing PDF documents to WCAG 2.0 compliant HTML. Manual PDF to HTML conversion requires a significant amount of time and extensive HTML knowledge. Not only is manual HTML conversion less efficient, but it can also introduce errors.
Equidox automates the conversion process, and saves organizations time and money.

BrailleWorks – Braille Works is a solution for repair or remediation of your documents so organizations can meet WCAG and 508 compliance standards. WCAG and Section 508 document compliance can be difficult and navigating these waters is not a job for the inexperienced. Elements of a document such as paragraph structure, tables, charts, lists etc, need to be properly organized and tagged to provide true accessibility.

Conversion TOOLS

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC – The defacto PDF conversion tool. Includes an Accessibilty Checker to assess your PDF files.

axaio MadeToTagaxaio MadeToTag is an Adobe InDesign CS6 to CC plug-in to properly prepare InDesign documents for export as accessible, tagged PDF file – much more easier, faster and more reliable. The tagged PDF complies with the terms of the PDF/UA-Standard, the international standard for universally accessible PDF. PDF/UA is important to all organizations and companies delivering documents which have to be conform to regulations requiring accessible electronic content including WCAG 2.0, Section 508 in the US.

PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC 2) – PAC 2 quickly tests PDF files for accessibility. PAC 2 is used to support expert and affected tests during assessment. NOTE: The company offering this software, Access for All, is based in Switzerland, you may need to use translation to understand the content.

Accessible Web Development Resources






Captioning – Web Captioning General Information

Captioning Services

Captioning Software

Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Training Resources

These resources are found on the Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Training page.  Check out the Acrobat Users website as well for training as well as great ideas on making your PDFs accessible.


Revised: 05/10/2017