Accessible PDF from InDesign

A guide for creating accessibile Portable Document Format (PDF) files using InDesign and Acrobat.

Follow all of these steps for each file. Some will result in presets that can be re-used in the future so well worth the effort.

This procedure creates a far more accessible PDF compared to attempting to remedy an inaccessible file using Acrobat.

Starting with your InDesign file...


Add in the Document Title, Author and Keywords. Select File from the top menu then File Info.

Decorative images

Place any imagery or graphics that don't require alt tags onto the Master page. This allows them to be read as background rather than content and removes them from the PDF accessibility check.

Text threads

All text should be linked in correct reading order.

Paragraph styles

All text should be mapped to paragraph styles. All paragraph styles need to be mapped to tags for example P tag for Body text, H tag for Headings - this is done via a drop down menu within a Paragraph Style Options / Export Tagging / PDF / Tag.

Articles panel

For Tag Order articles need to be created. Open the Articles Panel and drag text and imagery from the same articles to the articles panel. Create a new article for each section or page should be created. Tag order for articles runs from top to bottom of the panel. Check the box Include When Export when creating a new article.

Reading order

The Layers Palette determines the reading order.Text must be arrange from bottom of the palette to the top. Drag and drop text within the layers palette to arrange accordingly.

Table styles

Attach Table Styles to all tables. Styles will only read data information but not imagery pasted inside the cells. Assign the Heading of each table by highlighting, right clicking and selecting Convert to Header Rows


All hyperlinks can be added via the hyperlinks panel. Highlight the text to be a hyperlink and right click, choose Hyperlinks / New Hyperlink. This will then appear in the Hyperlinks panel, and can be altered as required.

Alternative text for images

Any imagery that has relevance to the content should have Alternative Text as well as Tagged PDF information attached. Select the imagery and right click, choose Object Export Options. Select Alt Text tab, then from the Alt Text Source Drop Down menu select Custom and type or copy/past the image description into the text field. Repeat step for Tagged PDF tab. Note: Some images have descriptions inbuilt into the file information, you can access this by selecting From XMP: Description

Artifact images

All images not requiring alternative text should be tagged as Artifacts in the Alternative Text Palette. Follow steps above but instead of creating Custom Alternative Text in the Tagged PDF tab select Artifact from the drop down menu.

Export to PDF

Create or use the Accessible PDF Export Setting from Indesign.

Create tags

Under General / Options - check the option Create Tagged PDF. Under General / Include - check the option Hyperlinks. In colour settings choose Apple RGB. SAVE PRESET as Accessible PDF for future use.

Now using Acrobat...

Document title

After exporting to PDF use Acrobat to check that the Document Title is displaying rather than the file name by going into the top menu File / Properties / Initial View tab and selecting Document Title from the drop down menu labelled Show.

Language settings

Select the correct language by going into the top menu File / Properties / Advanced tab and selecting English from the drop down menu labelled Language.

Manual reading order check

To manually adjust the reading order select View Menu / Show/Hide / Order. Drag and drop the text and images into the correct order top to bottom.

Save again

You saved your InDesign file into PDF, after these changes to the PDF now save the PDF again.

Accessibility check

Do a full check for Accessibility, in Tools / Accessibility. If any issues arise then amend in the InDesign document and re PDF with the Accessible PDF setting.

The End.

PDF Myths

We have an enlightening and entertaining page on PDF Myths.

Also of interest may be the Adobe Acrobat 'Accessibility Check' function, we do recommend it if indeed you will use PDFs on the web.