by Andrew Kirkpatrick

 Comments (20)


March 20, 2008

This post is subject to Adobe's Terms of Use.

There is a lot of PDF that is generated though Adobe’s PDFMaker plug-in for Microsoft Word. You can quite easily create PDF documents that meet the majority of accessibility needs with very little effort, if you know how. For the CSUN conference, we created a one-page document that helps guide users who may not know much about accessibility so that they can more easily address accessibility in their documents.
This document doesn’t cover every possible issue, but identifies the small number of items that need some attention to avoid the most common issues that authors can prevent. In general, if an author:

  • provides equivalents for images in Word
  • uses Word’s styles to define structural headings
  • identifies table headings for simple tables
  • uses Word’s column feture instead of text boxes, and
  • enables the generation of tagged PDF
  • The results are excellent for most documents created in Word. Yes, you can deviate from this path and need to perform repair work to make a PDF document accessible, but to start I want to ensure that authors know what the path to minimize challenges looks like.
    This is a first stab at this document, please let us know what you like, if it is useful to you, or any other comments you may have.
    Download Reference Card


  • By Dennis at Web Axe - 2:58 PM on March 20, 2008  

    Superb PDF, Andrew, thanks! I’ll be sure to mention it in the Web Axe podcast.

  • By Mei Fang - 4:43 PM on March 20, 2008  

    Thank you so very much for the flash card, a very big card. Extremely helpful for my work and our faculty and staff. I will link to it in my web site soon. I also think Mr Gates should give you guys unlimited free upgrades to his products, if you wanted them that is.

  • By Natalie - 12:46 PM on March 24, 2008  

    Excellent. Thanks!!

  • By CSUCI - 5:21 PM on March 24, 2008  

    Thank you for sharing this quick reference card! Got a copy at the CSUN 2008 conference, and was looking for an electronic version. It is a great resource to share with our content creators.

  • By Mark Turner - 7:45 PM on March 24, 2008  

    The Reference Card you have provided is enormously helpful. Kudos to all who helped create this resource. I’m seeking clarification about one specific element in the ‘Tables’ section. The card states to ‘repeat header rows’ for tables beyond 1 page. However, my experience thus far is that ‘repeat header rows’ is necessary for PDFMaker to tag a row as a header row during conversion and thus create a tag within the PDF. Thus I recommend always checking this option when the first row is a header row irrespective of whether the table spans more than 1 page. Is this approach incorrect?

  • By Chungho Kim - 4:35 AM on March 28, 2008  

    Thanks for update which you promised in session. ^*^
    By the way, please guide me how to become a trust agent. [FYI], my company develops screen reader for Korean Windows.

  • By Fed Employee - 11:39 AM on March 28, 2008  

    This is great! Thank you.
    However (the other shoe drops), my employer (a federal agency) has yet to migrate our office products to any of the versions listed in the Reference Card, and has no plans and no money to do so for the foreseeable future. Has this Reference Card been test using Word 2002 and Acrobat 6 products?
    The law requires we create and produce accessible IT products (Section 508). Unfortunately, the law offers no way to do so and it appears, neither does anyone else.

  • By Andrew Kirkpatrick - 12:02 PM on March 28, 2008  

    Word XP (Word 2002) and Acrobat 6 can be used with this sheet also, but I’m not sure if the methods for adding equivalents are the same as pictured, and the most significant change is that support for headings for structure was an improvement in Acrobat 7. You should be able to get good use out of it for your older versions, but it is more directly applicable to newer versions of Acrobat’s PDFMaker plugin and newer versions of Word. -AWK

  • By Kevin Jones - 11:11 AM on March 31, 2008  

    Great reference card! Thanks for doing that as I’ve been meaning to provide that same information to our staff, but couldn’t find the time to put it all together.
    I’d like to mention that the PDF file size can be reduced from the current 1.2Mb to 794Kb.

  • By Keith Bierman - 9:43 PM on April 3, 2008  

    I’m a bit puzzled about how to apply the advice from the Reference Card on a Macintosh running Word 2008. They seem to have done away with PDFmaker (as well as VBA support, so short of coding up calls to distiller with applescript, I don’t see how to recreate it). Not that making a PDF is hard (now one can “save as” PDF, but I’ve been unable to find any controls, so setting metadata or influencing the generation of proper tags eludes me.
    Any insights or suggestions?
    Thanks in advance.

  • By Andrew Kirkpatrick - 8:54 AM on April 14, 2008  

    Keith, the support for accessible PDF creation in the Mac version of Word and PDFMaker is not the same as on Windows. I’m looking into the exact reasons, but suspect that the DOM in Word for Windows has accessibility information that the Mac version doesn’t.

  • By Deborah Edwards-Onoro - 11:38 AM on April 30, 2008  

    I’m not surprised to hear that Word 2008 on the Mac does not support the conversion settings.
    After much research at work, I recently discovered that on Word for Mac 2004, the conversion settings are not available as they are for Word for Windows. Creating an accessible, tagged PDF using Word for Mac does not seem possible, without a lot of manual editing after the PDF is created.

  • By Mayuko Nakamura - 3:50 PM on April 29, 2009  

    Great info. I’m teaching this topic to faculty soon, but we now have Acrobat 9. Do you plan to update this quick reference card for Acrobat 9?

  • By Robert Grandmaison - 11:42 AM on March 7, 2010  

    Thank you so much for this quick reference card. It really helped me solve my issue with consistently losing tags for alternate text in my MS Word 2007 source files.
    I’ve read a lot of user problems on various websites/forums with users having this problematic issue- with all kinds of responses that never seem to remedy the issue. Your blog and reference card was the only place that hinted at the problem being created by images being too close to text.
    Thank you!

  • By Texas Law - 12:16 PM on June 24, 2010  

    The PDF creation is notoriously problematic, the reference and bug fixes really help a lot of the issues. Didn’t know myself that it was the images that caused the bulk of the problems. Thanks for the tip.

  • By drupal web development - 9:17 AM on February 23, 2011  

    thank you for your great advice. it is very much help to create the PDF file with very effective..

  • By Karen Sorensen - 4:16 PM on August 26, 2011  

    Any reference card updates planned? For Microsoft Office 2010 (for Windows)? Also, why doesn’t converting to PDF from Microsoft office for Mac work to create an accessible (tagged) PDF?

  • By Frank Welkenstein - 3:55 AM on November 8, 2011  

    Excellent that very usefull.
    Thank you so much.