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Digital Accessibility Unit

PDF Documents

PDF accessibility

PDF format has become a standard for the publication of digital documents. PDF documents have their own tags and rules, so when creating or converting these documents we must take them into account to guarantee the accessibility.

PDF documents are organized internally in different tags. The tags give structure to the document -headings, lists, sections, etc-. Therefore, the same accessibility requirements that we have seen in the previous sections apply when:

  • Writing texts that are easy to understand and marking the language of the document and the text fragments.
  • Providing the document with a structure through the use of lists, paragraphs, titles, etc.
  • Providing descriptions to non-textual elements such as images, tables or graphics.
  • Creating links with their own meaning.
  • Not transmitting information only through color.

In most cases, PDF documents are the result of a conversion from other formats such as Word or PowerPoint. Currently, almost all applications have options to save the document as PDF , but not all take into account the accessibility features.


This is the case of applications that install a PDF printer in our system to save any content in this format. But the resulting PDF document is text without structure and, in the worst case, the content is created in images, which will make the document inaccessible to people who use support products.


Create a PDF from Word

Save as PDF in Word

The easiest way to generate an accessible PDF document is to save our work done in Word.

If we have taken into account the accessibility requirements seen in the previous sections, our document will also be accessible. On the contrary, if our Word document does not contain a structure: no titles, no alternative texts in images, etc., the resulting PDF document will not be accessible either.

To save a Word document as PDF, we follow these steps:

  1. Click on File and click on Save as.
  2. We click on Browse to choose where to save our document. Acción examinar guardar como
  3. In the file type drop-down we select PDF (.pdf).
  4. Now click on the Options button. Ventana guardar como seleccionar ubicación
  5. In the Options' dialog box we have to ensure that you:
    Ventana de opciones para guardar Documento de Office como PDF
    1. Activate the option Create bookmarks using and choose Headings. This way, a table of contents will be created in the navigation panel of the PDF document from the headings of the Word document.
      Panel de navegación de marcadores en PDF
    2. Activate the Document Properties option. With this option the metadata of our Office document such as title, author or date of creation in the PDF document will be included.
    3. Activate the Documents structure tags for accessibility option. This way we will keep all the accessibility features used in Word in the PDF document.
      Panel de etiquetas en PDF
    4. Disable the Bitmap Text option when the fonts are not embedded. To ensure that our PDF document is always text, regardless of whether we have the type of font installed in our system or not.
  6. Click on OK.
  7. We finish by clicking on Save.

It is important to note that interactive Word or PowerPoint elements such as charts, equations, forms or SmartArt schemes will be exported to PDF as simple images and therefore we must make modifications to the resulting PDF to guarantee accessibility.


Save as PDF with Acrobat Professional from Word

When we install Acrobat Professional or Acrobat DC, we add an add-on to Microsoft Office that allows us to save our Office documents as a PDF in a more advanced way.

To create a PDF document with the Acrobat plugin in Word, we follow these steps:


  1. We select the Acrobat tab.
  2. In the toolbar click on Create PDF.
    Barra de herramientas de Acrobat en Word Crear PDF
  3. We select where we want to save the document.
  4. By default, the accessibility options are activated. By clicking on Options you have more configuration options.
    Ventana de opciones de PDF Maker
  5. We finish by clicking on OK.


Convert PDF to Word

As we have said before, in most cases PDF documents are the result of conversion from other formats, such as Word or PowerPoint, so if we want to make modifications to our PDF documents, the simplest option is to make the modifications on the original documents and re-save them as PDF.

However, sometimes this is not possible because we do not have the original document in Word or PowerPoint, so we must use a PDF document editing tool such as Adobe Professional or Adobe DC.

Now the process would be the opposite, convert a PDF document with accessibility errors to Word, make the modifications and then save it again as PDF.

To convert a PDF document to Word we follow these steps in Adobe Professional:

  1. Select the File menu and click on Save as another ...
  2. We select Microsoft Word and then Word Document .
  3. We choose a location, and we finish by clicking on Save .
Save as another Word from PDF menu

Scan a document

We can scan documents with PDF from... images and even directly through a scanner or camera.

Let's imagine that we have a printed document, and we do not have the original. We need to make it accessible so that a person with visual disability can have it in digital format. For this purpose, Adobe Professional has tools to help us achieve it.


Menú crear PDF de archivo, escáner, imagen, etc.

Once the document that we want to scan has been opened in Adobe Professional, we follow these steps to perform an Optical Character Recognition (OCR):

  1. Open the View menu, then click on Tools and on Text recognition.
  2. In the text Recognition options of the tool panel we select the button In this file. Digitalizando un documento reconocimiento optico de caracteres
  3. In the Text Recognition window:
    1. We select the page or pages that we want, all by default.
    2. We select the language in which our document is, for example Spanish. If we want to select another language, we will do it from Edit ...
  4. Click on OK.
Scanning a document text recognison window

Depending on the size of our document, digitization will take more or less time. Once finished, it is advisable that we check that the text, images or titles have been recognized.

The most problematic elements such as bookmarks or tables are not recognized with the same precision. So, we should continue working on the document.


Edit a PDF

Sometimes we have no other option than to directly modify the tags that make up a PDF document. To make the tags panel visible, we follow these steps:

  1. Access the View menu.
  2. We select Show/Hide.
  3. We select Navigation Panels.
  4. We select Tags.
Panel de etiquetas en PDF

From this moment we have the Label panel   Icono etiquetas . This panel shows the tagging tree that contains our document. We can go unfolding levels until we reach the label that we want to modify.

The tags are modified by clicking on them with the right mouse button and selecting Properties.

Modificar propiedades de etiqueta en PDF


The properties window of the tag will open, in which we can modify, among other things:

  • The Element type : Header level 1, Header level 2, normal paragraph, list item, etc.
  • The alternative text of images and non-textual elements.
  • Set the Language of the text that contains the tag.


Ventana propiedades de etiqueta en PDF

Tagging a PDF document

After scanning a document or a poorly wrongly PDF conversion, the resulting PDF document lacks tags of any kind (headings, lists or paragraphs...) To solve this problem and give tags to our documents, we follow these steps:

  1. Display the View menu, select Tools and click on Accessibility.
  2. In the Accessibility options of the secondary lateral tool panel, click on Add tags to the document.
Panel herramientas accesibilidad etiquetar automatocamente documento

Now we can check that tags appear in the tags panel. In the case of images, they are well recognized, but you should add an alternative text with your description.


Alternative text in images

Adobe Professional has a tool to add the description of images easily. To use it, we follow these steps:

  1. We display the View menu, select Tools and click on Accessibility.
  2. In the Accessibility options of the secondary lateral tool panel, click on Set alternative text.

      Panel herramientas accesibilidad establecer texto alternativo
  3. Now in the background the images of the document are highlighted, and a window appears to include the description of that image. We can also mark it as a decorative image. We have buttons to tag next image or to go back to the previous one.
Ventana agregando texto alternativo a imagen herramienta accesibilidad acrobat

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