Accessible Documents

Talent Acquisition & Development offers an introduction to Designing Accessible Word Documents that teaches how to make  Microsoft Word documents accessible in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Please check YU Learn for the next public offering of "Designing Accessible Word Documents."

Course Recordings & Handouts

Recent course recordings and handouts from TAD's course on Designing Accessible Word Documents.

Course Reference Guides

Full reference guides recommended for Designing Accessible Documents.

Workflow Tips

These tips assume you're using Microsoft Office software to create the source document.

  1. Use the built-in accessibility checker in Microsoft Office (Review ribbon > Check Accessibility). The checker will guide you through the issues it finds, and provide instructions on how to deal with them.
  2. Perform the manual checks described in the guides from Understanding Document Accessibility as well, because automated checkers do not check everything!
  3. Generate the PDF in a way that maintains the accessible features of the source document.

Need to create a new source file from an existing PDF? Use the Export feature in Adobe Acrobat Pro, or try an online service like Convert Word to PDF from Adobe.

Working Directly in a PDF

For simple documents, you shouldn't need to work directly in the PDF provided you made the source document accessible in Microsoft Office. For complex documents, you may need to perform an accessibility check and fix some issues directly in a PDF editor.

  • Acrobat Acrobat Pro includes an Accessibility task pane with tools for checking accessibility, adding alternative text and checking reading order. You can use Acrobat for free at
  • PDF-XChange Editor v9.0 can check accessibility on an existing PDF, but please continue to use this software with caution. See our statement on PDF-XChange Editor  & Accessibility (March 1, 2021).


  • Don't edit text directly in an accessible PDF, as this can alter the underlying tagging of the content. Make content changes in the source document and re-create the PDF instead.
  • Avoid adjusting the reading order in a PDF. In most cases we advise fixing reading order issues in the source software, even if it means changing the layout of your document.
    • To properly adjust reading order, you must adjust the content in both the Order panel and the Tags panel.
    • Reading order for adaptive software for blind users is determined by the Tags panel, which is challenging to use.
    • The Order panel in PDF editors controls the reading order for the "read aloud" feature built into other software. It does not help blind users.

Learning More

Resources for Other Document Creation Software

Understanding Document Accessibility (The Chang School, Ryerson University) offers guides for a variety of productivity software including the most popular word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and PDF publishing applications.  Please look here for tips first.


The following guides address useful principles, though they assume some familiarity with HTML coding:

Adobe InDesign

Resources for Web Page Accessibility

Visit AODA Web Accessibility at York for tips and resources on making websites accessible.