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Portable Document Files (PDF) - Created from Microsoft Office

Page history last edited by Tammy 5 years, 9 months ago

Many of us use Microsoft products at work, school, or at home and we use them for various reasons. Often, we use Microsoft Word to create online educational materials like tutorials or syllabi. Some students use Microsoft Word to produce their thesis and dissertations. Others use LaTeX, but that is story for another page.

If you use Microsoft products to produce a PDF, there is a good and bad way to do so.

Microsoft Word

The good news is that Microsoft Word can be used to create an accessible PDF. The bad news is that you will likely need to use some functions from Adobe Acrobat to pass the PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC) 2.0 test and all the manual checks that are needed. The PDF tagging is worse for longer documents.

Using styles

boy in formal dress from 1900s. Not very stylish by today's standards.

It is important to use the styles feature in Microsoft Word. If you do this, it will detect the lines that are headings; otherwise, everything will be a paragraph requiring more work for you in the end. An additional benefit is that using styles will produce a more consistent document.

It's all about the images

You can add alternate text for your images in Microsoft Word and they will be present in the PDF that you produce. However, you can't indicate that an image is just decoration (artifact). If you created a drawing in Microsoft Word, marking items as artifacts using Adobe Acrobat can be very tedious because every box, circle, line, etc. would need marked as an artifact.

There are many advisories in the WCAG 2.0 pertaining to raster graphics. Nearly everyone has found pixelized images when enlarging them. Using vector graphics can alleviate this problem. It really burns me that scalable vector graphics (SVG) files can't be added to Microsoft Word (at least the versions that I have used).

Dear Microsoft:

I am writing to inform you that a butterfly looses its wings every time that you cause a barrier to accessibility.

Your Friend,

In your quest for an attractive document, don't change the reading order

Try to never use textboxes and don't use tables for formatting. Usually paragraph spacing and multiple columns can be used to get the look that you want without effecting reading order. Of course, you could fix the tags in the PDF instead if you were using the PDF only online.

Your content, your responsibility

Some criterion can't be detected by automatic means. These criterion aren't difficult to implement, but you must remember them when you create documents. Now, raise your right hand. I won't

  • write directions sensory based directions

    "Whatever you do, don't press the blue button."

  • use color only to show importance

    "Warning: this message is more annoying than it appears when you can't see red text."

  • use vague or misleading titles, headings, and hyperlink text

    Stuff contains sections of stuff and link to more stuff

  • use different hyperlink text for the same URL

    Say hooray for Google because it is a Search Engine.

  • use inconsistent running headings or page numbering

    Can I use the lottery numbers for my page numbers?

Items that will need corrected in Acrobat

Be sure to check the default colors for the headings with the Colour Contrast Analyzer (CCA). For my version of Microsoft Word, they don't pass contrast for level AA. Download page for Colour Contrast Analyzer. There are multiple ways to fill the title field for the Word document, but you will still need to fix the title in Adobe Acrobat. Why this happens, I do not know. The root tag will need changed to document or article to pass PAC 2.0.

If you create a table, you might need to add the row table heading tags yourself. It should tag your column table headings correctly. It is better than converting Microsoft Excel into a PDF. For tables, there should be column and row headings as it makes sense. If you have a very small table, it might only make sense to have column headings only or vice versa.

Use the preflight tool under print production to embed the fonts you use.

Microsoft Excel

Just say no, seriously.

Microsoft PowerPoint

Many points discussed in Microsoft Word are relevant to PowerPoint, such as images, titles, and the document tag. Checking colors is even more important with the various PowerPoint Themes. Don't forget that there are many different colors in a theme including hyperlink text. You can edit colors to make them accessible.

There can be charts in Word documents, but they are highly likely in PowerPoint. Complicated charts can be difficult to make accessible. An image of a simple bar chart could be made accessible with an accompanying table. When using the chart mechanism in PowerPoint, the chart title, legend text, and axes text will appear as individual paragraphs, which makes no sense whatsoever. There are a few options. There is no right and wrong per se. If you create a table, all chart text is marked as artifacts using Adobe Acrobat. If you use text to describe the table, you could adjust the reading order to use some of the text in the chart.

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