Creating Accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word

In order to create an accessible PDF document from a Word document, you must first ensure that the original Word document follows rules and guidelines for accessibility. See Tutorials for Word in the sidebar of this section for help with this.


Once you have created the accessible Word document, saving/exporting the PDF so that the document maintains this accessibility is necessary. The way to do this depends on which version of Microsoft Word you are using:


Word 2013 and Word 2010 (Windows)

  • First, save a copy of the document as a Word document
  • Once done, go to the "Acrobat" tab in the top ribbon. On the left side you will see both a "Create PDF" button as well as a "Preferences" Button.

The Acrobat ribbon in Word, displaying "Create PDF" and "Preferences" as described in text above.

  • First click "Preferences" and make sure that you have the "Enable Accessibility and Reflow with tagged Adobe PDF" box checked. Then click OK.
  • Next click the "Create PDF" button. Save it to your desktop or desired folder.


Word 2016 (Mac)

In Office 2016 for Mac, Word can create a tagged PDF that preserves a document’s accessibility features. (This unfortunately is not the case with earlier versions of Word on a Mac.) To convert to a PDF in Word 2016, however, first: 

  • Go to File > Save As, and select PDF. By default this produces a PDF that preserves the document’s accessibility features.
  • When saving, be sure the box labeled “Best for electronic distribution and accessibility” is checked.


Older versions of Word

  • In Windows, exporting to an accessible PDF in Office 2007 and 2003 requires a plug-in. 
  • On a Mac, Word did not include accessibility features at all until Office 2011, and did not support saving to tagged PDF until Office 2016. In Office 2011, you can create an accessible Word document, but in order to export to tagged PDF you must take that final step of converting it to a PDF in Word for Windows for it to carry over the necessary accessibility components.

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