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Creating Accessible PDFs from Word

Many people like to convert Word documents into PDF files for print consistency and to prevent document modification.

Check your software versions

  1. Make sure you have the most recent version of Acrobat and Microsoft Office. If you are not sure take a look at “What Version do I have?
    • As of this writing these are Acrobat DC and Office 2016.  Both are available to employees of Swarthmore. If you do not have either of these follow the next bullet point.  If you have both, jump to step 2.
    • To download go to the ITS Home page and use the Install Software button to find Acrobat DC and Office 2016.  Install Acrobat DC first (I’ll explain why later).  For more information on the installations, upgrading and licensing, please visit our software download page or contact help@swarthmore.edu for assistance.
  2. Check for updates after the initial install.

Accessible PDFs require Accessible Base Doc

To create an accessible PDF the original Word document must be accessible.  Follow these steps to successfully create accessible PDF files from Word (and nearly all MS Office) documents:

  1. Create structure in your Word document by using the built-in styles to create headings, bulleted lists and numbered lists
  2. Run the Accessibility Checker to find barriers to access
    • Review > Check Accessibility
  3. Use the Acrobat add-in in Word to “Create a PDF”
  4. Use Acrobat DC’s Action Wizard to “Make Accessible”

One Caveat

Students who use assistive devices often find Word documents friendlier and easier to use than PDF documents.

Why Install Acrobat DC first?

Word will add an Acrobat tab if Acrobat DC is already installed on your system after you run the needed updates.  This is extremely useful when creating accessible PDFs.