Creating Accessible Documents


Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as amended in 1998, requires all electronic documents to be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes the requirement that they should be able to be read with screen readers. PDF is the most common electronic document found on web sites and should always be made fully accessible. Note that all files produced, even if they are not placed on the web, are required by Section 508 to be accessible since these files can be distributed to the public using other methods besides the web. This includes all Microsoft Office documents such as Word and PowerPoint.

MS Office Accessibility 

Creating Accessible Powerpoint Presentations
Applies to: Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, PowerPoint 2007 

Quick Reference Card - Create An Accessible Office Document

About Creating Accessible Office Documents

Accessibility on Office 2007

Microsoft Accessibility Page

Accessibility in Microsoft Office 2010

MS Office 2010 Accessibility Checker

Online Course for Developing Accessible MS Office Documents
Need to have your audio turned on. Applies to all MS Office 2003 programs.

Guide for Accessible Excel Spreadsheets - NASA

Tips for Creating Accessible PDFs

Be sure to check the "standard" conversion setting before you convert your PDF from MS Word.

Set the default language to English in Acrobat, for all future pdfs that are made with that copy of the application, without opening any document by selecting: Edit - Preferences - International - Application Language - English

Be sure to add "alt tags" to your images while the document is still a Word file.

There are specific instructions for creating accessible pdf files in this document:
Creating Accessible Forms (221 KB PDF) .

Verifying PDF Accessibility

You can check the accessibility of your pdf document after it is produced by taking the following steps:

1. Open the pdf in Adobe Acrobat Professional (the latest version is Adobe Acrobat 9, you should always use the latest version if you are producing pdf documents).

2. Select "Advanced" tab from the top menu bar, then select "Accessibility" and the "Full Check"

3. Select the "Start Checking" button at the bottom of the window that opens.

4. If it finds no problems, then you will get a message informing you that non-compliance issues were found. But it it does find accessibility issues that need to be corrected, it will produce a report for you to review in the left column of the document. The report will always tell you how to correct the problems.

You can also hear how screen readers handle your document by opening the pdf file in Acrobat, selecting "View" from the top menu bar, selecting "Read Out Loud" from the subsequent drop down menu and then selecting "Activate Read Out Loud". You can "Deactivate Read Out Loud" by following the same procedure.

PDF Accessibility Training and Helpful Guides

Acrobat Accessibility Training Resources

Creating Accessible Forms (221 KB PDF)

Word to PDF Quick Reference Card (1.22 MB PDF)
Excellent two page quick reference guide

Adobe® Acrobat® 9 Pro Accessibility Guide: Using the Accessibility Checker (153 KB PDF)
This document describes how to check accessibility for existing PDF files. Even if you generate an accessible PDF file from an authoring application, you should still verify the result using an accessibility checker.
Adobe® Acrobat® 9 Pro Accessibility Guide: Creating Accessible PDF from Microsoft® Word

Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Accessibility Guide: PDF Accessibility Repair Workflow (803 KB PDF)
Directions for making existing PDFs accessible
A comprehensive overview of the various accessibility features in Acrobat 9
An excellent overview of creating accessible Word files by the Department of Health & Human Services
Guide to Creating Accessible PDF Documents - Section

Accessible Web Pages

The Reclamation web template is designed with accessibility built in and web authoring staff members are required to use Adobe Dreamweaver to add the content and produce the web pages. Dreamweaver has accessibility features built in which help the web author to make the content accessible by adding image alt tags, etc. All the authors of Reclamation websites are required to sign a document annually certifying that all their web pages (and all Reclamation documents linked on their webpages) meet all the requirements of Section 508 Accessibility and Section 515 Quality of Information. Any questions regarding accessibility for web pages should be addressed to the appropriate regional member of the Reclamation Web Team or theReclamation Web Manager.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Accessibility Overview


NOTE: Please don't forget that all audio recordings should have a transcript available. Videos that are produced must include captioning, not just a separately available transcript.

Thoroughly Modern Multimedia: Make Your Videos, Audio Files, Podcasts, and Other Multimedia Section 508 Compliant and Accessible (

Additional Reference Websites
HHS Guidelines and Examples for Determining the Suitability of an Accessibility Accommodation
Plain Writing Act of 2010 Federal Agency Requirements
Federal Plain Language Guidelines
Adobe Flash accessibility design guidelines
Adobe accessibility website
Access E-Learning from Georgia Tech
Comprehensive information from all over the federal government for creating accessible PDFs

Reclamation's Website Accessibility Policy
This link is included in the footer of every Reclamation internet web page. The footer is automatically placed on each web page by the web server and does not need to be added by the person developing the web page.

DOI's Website Accessibility Policy
This link is included in the footer of every DOI internet web page.

Section 508 home page -

Access Board -

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) -



Last Updated: 6/24/15