InDesign Export to PDF

To export the file to PDF format, in the main menu select File > Export.

Screenshot of the export menu option

If the main purpose of your document is to be available on the web, choose “Adobe PDF (Interactive).” If your main purpose is to make the document available for printing, choose “Adobe PDF (Print).”

Screenshot of the save file dialog

After clicking on “Save,” InDesign shows you another dialog of options.

Saving as Adobe PDF (Interactive)

If you choose to save as Adobe PDF (Interactive), the most important options for accessibility are found in the “Tagged PDF” section. Select the options for “Create Tagged PDF” and “Use Structure for Tab Order.” The structure is defined by the order of the items in the Articles Panel.

Screenshot of the PDF export options

Saving as Adobe PDF (Print)

If you choose to save as Adobe PDF (Print), InDesign shows a different set of options.

  1. Be sure to select a compatibility mode of Acrobat 6 (PDF 1.5) or higher. Older versions will not retain the accessibility information.
  2. Ensure that “Create Tagged PDF” is selected.
  3. Ensure the bookmarks and hyperlinks options are also selected.

Screenshot of the PDF print options

Finish the Job in Acrobat Pro

Ensure the Document has a Title (in Acrobat Pro)

If you created a title in InDesign, it should have transferred over to the PDF file. You can check to make sure it transferred by selecting File > Properties in the main menu, then going to the Description tab and looking at the Title field.

Screenshot of the Description tab in the file properties in Acrobat Pro

If you didn’t create a title in InDesign, you should probably go back to the original InDesign file and add it there, then export the file to PDF again. Or, if you don’t have access to the original anymore, you can type the title in Acrobat Pro.

Set the Initial View to the Document Title (in Acrobat Pro)

Unless you change the Initial View setting of a document, Acrobat Pro prefers the file name of the document (e.g. document.pdf) instead of its title. It would be much better for screen reader users to hear the document title, so you should change that setting accordingly. Go to the Initial View tab of the File Properties dialog. Under Windows > Show, choose “Document Title.”

Screenshot of the initial view tab

Specify the Language (in Acrobat Pro)

To ensure screen readers use the correct pronunciation rules, you need to specify the language of the document. Go to the Advanced tab of the File Properties dialog, under Reading Options > Language, choose the correct language from the drop-down list.

Screenshot of the language option

Double-Check the Tag Structure (in Acrobat Pro)

The document must be in Tagged PDF format to be accessible to screen readers.

To check the tags, open the tag view in Acrobat Pro. If you have used it before, it will be the tag icon on the left side of the interface. If you haven’t used it before, you will need to open it from the main menu: View > Show/Hide > Navigation Panes > Tags. Once the tags panel is available, select it and expand the document’s tag structure to ensure the tags accurately represent the semantic structure of the document.

Screenshot of the tabs pane

You may need to edit the tags, rearrange them, add new tags, or touch up the tags in some other way. This is especially true if you have tables with row headers or other complex features because InDesign has no way of marking them up appropriately. Acrobat Pro allows you to create and edit table tags, even for complex tables.

Double-Check the Reading Order (in Acrobat Pro)

The reading order must be logical for screen reader users.

To check the reading order, open the Order view in Acrobat Pro. If you have used it before, it will be the Order icon on the left side of the interface (it looks like four squares with a “Z” superimposed over the top). If you haven’t used it before, you will need to open it from the main menu: View > Show/Hide > Navigation Panes > Order. Once the Order panel is available, select it and expand it to ensure the order accurately represents the best reading order of the content of the document.

If the order is incorrect, you can drag and drop items to rearrange them.

Screenshot of the reading order panel

Set the Tab Order (in Acrobat Pro)

Although tab order and reading order are similar, Acrobat treats them differently. The reading order (explained above) isn’t necessarily the same as the tab order. To set the tab order, select the Page Thumbnails panel on the left of the Acrobat Pro interface. If you haven’t used it before, you may need to open it from the main menu: View > Show/Hide > Navigation Panes > Page Thumbnails.

Select all of the pages in the document, so that they are all highlighted in the Page Thumbnails view, then go to the Options menu (the icon just barely above the Page Thumbnails panel), and select Page Properties.

Screenshot of the options button

Screenshot of the page properties option

Under Tab Order, select “Use Document Structure.”

Screenshot of the tab order options

Learn More About PDF Accessibility

PDF accessibility can be rather involved, especially if you need to make complex tables accessible, or if the original document did not have proper accessibility markup before being exported to PDF format. You should plan to learn PDF accessibility in detail to ensure that your documents are fully and correctly accessible for all users.