Creating accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word

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Before starting

Demo file

An example file, Word-un-accessible.docx (DOCX 126KB), has been created which has issues that need to be corrected.

Making documents correctly

Title, Author etc.




Alternative text for images (alt text)

Image use


Leading screen reader software is multilingual.

Language of document

The language of the document must be set so that screen readers will read the document using the correct language profile.

Language of part of document

Content within the document written in a different language to the document’s default language must be identified.


Other things to take into account for accessibility

Plain English

Why use it?

Further help



Word Accessibility Checker

Accessibility Checker (external website) tests Microsoft Word documents for accessibility issues and gives errors, warnings, tips, and intelligent servies.




Intelligent Services

Suggested alternative text.

Running the Accessibility Check

General Word advice

Setting up Word to make accessible documents

Navigation pane set to be displayed

Outline and Style levels

Use Word’s Heading styles to style the headings consistently.

editing heading styles


Language of document

Language of part of document



Footnotes and Endnotes

Fixing the issues

To fix the errors in the Inspection Results, select the down arrow by each item and follow the Recommended Actions.

Accessibility inspection results pane

Missing Object Description

The error reported is “Missing Object Description” because the image does not have alt text set or is not marked as decorative.

Recommended actions add a description or mark as decorative

Note: the exported PDF failed on the logo in the Header not having alt-text so make sure that both Text Alternative and Description fields are filled.

Text alternative and description

Missing Table Header

The error reported is “Missing Table Header” because the top row is not set to a header.
Select "first row as header"

Errors menu use first row as header

Image or Object Not Inline

The error reported is “Image or Object Not Inline” because the image is not inline with the text.

Photo of person wearing an Aussie bush hat within non-inline text

Either “Place this inline” with the text or mark as decorative, in this case the image has placed inline with the text – note how the image placement has changed.

Photo of person wearing an Aussie bush hat within inline text

If the image had been marked as decorative, the number of Auto-Generated Descriptions that would require reviewing would have been reduced by one.

Use of Merged or Split Cells

The warning is because of the first cell which covers two rows

First cell of a row within a table which covers the row below too


First header row has merged cells

The best way to fix this warning would be to split the table into two, one for the females and one for the males.

Females and Males tables separated into two tables with the headings set as table headings

Note: This problem can also be sorted out in the exported PDF using Adobe Acrobat Pro but setting sub-headings in Adobe Acrobat Pro are time consuming to do

Hard-to-Read Text Contrast

This warning is because of the colour contrast between the text and the background.

Lorem ipsum text with poor colour contrast to the background

To fix this, select the text and change the text colour.

Lorem ipsum text with good colour contrast to the background

Review Auto-Generated Description


Setting headings in tables

Inserting a table
First HeadingSecond HeadingThird Heading
Editing a table
Repeating heading when table splits across pages
Avoid newlines to create space
Avoid using empty table cells for formatting

Tables with empty cells

Tables with empty cells


Avoid newlines to create space

Footnotes and Endnotes

Footnotes and Endnotes can be correctly defined and made accessible using Adobe Acrobat Pro but to get the Accessibility Check to pass footnotes and end notes must be put inline.

Creating a table of contents or TOC

Artifacting objects

Adding bookmarks

Exporting to a PDF

Artifacting objects

Header and Footer objects are artifacted when exported to PDF.

Issues to consider

Check for accessibility in Adobe Acrobat Pro PDF

Check for accessibility in PAC 2024

Fixing these issues

Removing empty <P> tags

Figure element on a single page with no bounding box

No bounding box attribute

This is something NOT normally done as the tag structure can be broken, and make sure NOT to actually edit any text.

Table header cell has no associated sub cells

All tables require header cells which define the category(s) for the data cells within the table but this is NOT enough, scope needs to be applied too the header cells too. The “Table header cell has no associated sub cells” error occurs due to header cells that do not have the scope attribute applied to them.

Invalid use of a "TBody" structure element

PAC 2024 showing where the invalid use of tbody structure element is in document

Alternative description missing for an annotation

This error occurs because the PDF/UA standard requires all hyperlinks have alternative text.
These 16 errors are coming from the Table of Contents

Errors in table of contents

If links such as “Click here” were in the text rather than meaningful text, when the “fix” was run, it would technically pass but the text would be wrong and meaningless.

PDF/UA identifier missing

The PDF/UA identifier indicates that the file meets the PDF/UA Standard and this should be done at the end when the file actually is PDF/UA compliant.
Note: this can be added to a file that is NOT compliant but this does not mean that the file will then be compliant.

Adobe Acrobat Preflight panel


Downloadable Microsoft Word version

Creating accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word (Word 2.09MB)

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Font size help

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Letter spacing help

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Line height help

  • Default (Unset): all text has a minimum line height of 1.5 times the size of the text
  • Increased: all text has a line height of twice the size of the text
Paragraph spacing

Paragraph spacing help

  • Default (Unset): The space between paragraphs is equivalent to 1.5 times the height of the paragraph's text
  • Increased: The space between paragraphs is equivalent to 2.25 times the height of the paragraph's text
Word spacing preference

Word spacing help

  • Default (Unset): No modifications to word spacing are present
  • Increased: Spaces between words are equivalent to 0.16 times the font size