Document accessibility checklist

We built this checklist as a reference tool for those who already know how to create an accessible PDF.

New to creating accessible documents? Learn how with step-by-step guides on Lynda.com, available for free from the Greater Victoria Public Library. We suggest Creating Accessible PDFs: Unit 4 Create an Accessible PDF file from Word. But we encourage you to look online for further resources. 

Document checklist

Creating your accessible PDF requires both Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Document setup and preparation in Word

  • Set document properties: Title, language, keywords
  • Choose fonts that are easy to read. See the recommended fonts for the UVic brand.
  • Colour contrast ratio is 4.5:1
    • Can you identify links in grey scale? Larger fonts help with contrast.
  • Use built-in features to create page structure like breaks, columns, footers and other page elements.
    • Avoid adding spaces by hitting the enter key. Instead, edit the paragraph spacing or the paragraph style.
  • Use paragraph styles to format headings and text, and create meaningful page structure.
    • Avoid creating custom styles – instead, edit the appearance of the existing paragraph styles.
  • Use built-in features to create lists (bullets, numbers, etc.).
    • Use lists to make information easier to scan and digest.
  • Add meaningful alt-text to non-text content like images and figures.
    • The alt-text for decorative elements (images, backgrounds, running headers, etc.) is "artifact" or ""
  • Anchor images to ensure correct reading order.
  • Use built-in features to create tables, and define the title and header rows on every page.
  • Create data visualizations with the built-in tool and set titles and labels. Do not draw manually.

Converting the Word document into an accessible PDF

  • Save the Word document as an interactive PDF.
    • Do not choose the ‘Print to PDF’ option.
  • Run Acrobat Pro’s automated full accessibility check and fix any issues.*
  • Manually review Tag Order and Reading Order and adjust as necessary.
  • Test using Acrobat's "Read Out Loud" feature or another "text-to-speech" tool.
    • Can you understand the document without reading along?
    • Can you navigate the document using a keyboard? Can you tab through sections, select links using the space bar/return key, and etc.?
  • Add/edit the PDF metadata tags
  • Save your updated PDF. 

*Note: If you're using Word on a Mac computer, you may run into issues exporting an accessible PDF. If you've followed all the steps under "Document setup and preparation in Word" and are still seeing a large number of accessibility issues when you run the accessibility check, try having a colleague with a PC export the Word document. If that isn't possible, send the Word document to  for help exporting correctly.