Accessible Documents Workshop – From Word to PDF

 Why we’re here

Equal access is a right, under the law and that extends to electronic documents.

Purdue Calumet website

Documents, which we make available online [Opens in New Window] provide for us, a convenient method of communicating information to our visitors. But unless we make sure that those documents are accessible, we are essentially telling a portion of our audience, that this is information that they don’t need to know.

The good news is that we have tools available to create accessible. Retro-fitting existing documents can be messy and time-consuming, but creating accessible documents from the beginning can be a breeze!


This document contains some of the most common issues that you will run into as you work with Word files. It is not complicated. You will encounter more complex documents but for now, this one will give us some good practice.

The One True Way – is a Myth

We all want hard and fast rules, one true way to accomplish something. But that just isn’t the case when it comes to digital technology. There are dozens of ways to accomplish what you want to do. And some techniques will seem to contradict what I am going to tell you. I will show you a process and a method. If you come across others that seem more comfortable for you, then, all the better. Make this your own.

Assistive Technology is improving and software makers are also doing their part. But we still need to take steps to make sure that the information in our documents is available. Otherwise we’re relying on the intelligence of the software/hardware and that’s not always a good thing.

What Does Make a Document Accessible?

The requirements are similar but not identical to what it takes to make a Web page accessible:

  1. Logical Reading Order & Structure
  2. Headings, Lists, Paragraphs
  3. Document Title and Language
  4. Alternate text, captions for images, tables, objects
  5. Tables for data only – proper formatting
  6. Color contrast and information
  7. “Human readable” links – descriptive text