Table of Contents

  • Tip 1: Add a document title: 
  • Tip 2: Mapping heading styles to tags:
  • Tip 3: Mark table headers: 
  • Tip 4: Add alt text to images: 
  • Tip 5: Use the layers panel:
  • Tip 6: Create bookmarks (20 pages or more): 
  • Tip 7: Ensure the document has good color contrast
  • How to Export accessible InDesign files

Document Checklist:

Tip 1: Add a Document Title: 

The file properties for every document should include a brief and accurate title. The document title is the first thing a screen reader will read aloud.

  1. File > File info…
  2. Fill “Document title” field (set nomenclature rule as AUTHOR/TITLE)

Tip 2: Mapping Heading styles to Tags:

  1. Use Paragraph styles for headings
  2. Right-click on a style > Edit…
    • Click “Export Tagging” tab on left
    • Click PDF “tag:” field (AT THE BOTTOM) and change to a heading.

Tip 3: Mark Table Headers: 

It is important to know which rows of a table are the headers and which ones are the data. Providing this information will allow screen reader users to navigate the table data. 

  1. Select top header rows (sometimes there might be two or more rows that are headers).
  2. Right-click choose “Convert to Header Rows”

Tip 4: Add alt text to images: 

Alt text is a short description of an image. It ensures that images are accessible to screen reader users. 

  1. Right-click an image > choose “Object Export Options…”
    • Select the “Tagged PDF” tab
    • Change “Alt Text Source” dropdown field to “Custom”
    • Enter alt text that describes the image 
  2. OR for decorative images
    • Set “Apply Tag” dropdown field to “Artifact”

Learn more about writing good image descriptions on our alt text page.  

Tip 5: Use the Layers panel:

The Layers Panel helps organize content in a way that is more linear. Without organizing content in the Layers Panel it is possible that content is read to screen readers in an unpredictable reading order.

  1. Use the "Windows > Layers" panel
  2. Put graphics and content in the order the page should be read in (top to bottom, left to right).

Tip 6: Create Bookmarks (20 pages or more): 

  1. Open the Window > Interactive > “Bookmarks” pane 
    • Select a heading
    • Click the New (file icon at bottom of pane)
    • Repeat for other major headings
  2. Optional alternative: Use the TOC to generate easier.
    • Select a heading
    • Click the New file icon at the bottom of pane
    • Repeat for all major headings


It is important for people to be able to easily read the text on your page. Avoid colors like yellow or light grey. Read more about it on our color contrast page.



How to Export accessible InDesign files:

InDesign export configurations are set once and it should remember them for future exports “Set it and forget it”.

Traditional InDesign export configuration

Create a configuration:

  1. File > Adobe PDF Presets > Define…
  2. Choose Favorite export preset
  3. Click “New…” button
    • Compatibility Field “Acrobat 8/9”
    • Checkmark:
      • “Create Tagged PDF"
      • “Bookmarks”
      • “Hyperlinks”
    • Name your preset "ACCESSIBLE" so you know it is your accessible preset
  4. Choose “Advanced” tab
    • Change “Display Title” dropdown to “File name”

Exporting each PDF:

  1. File > Export
    1. Format: “Adobe PDF (Print)”
    2. Click “Save” button
      • Export dialog box opens
      • Choose Adobe PDF Preset ACCESSIBLE that we just made.
      • Click the "Export" button

InDesign interactive export configuration 

  1. File > Export
  2. Click "Save" button
    • Export dialog box opens
      • Check "Create Tagged PDF"
      • Check "Use Structure of Tab Order"
    • Go to "Advanced" tab on left
      • Change "Display title" field to "Document Title"
    • Click the "Export" button


For more comprehensive training watch LinkedIn Learning Creating Accessible PDFs. It is free when you log in using your Duke email address.