Create Accessible PDFs with Adobe Acrobat DC

Students create accessible PDFs

About This Strategy

This 3.5-hour strategy helps students develop awareness of accessible design in technical writing and communication. Using Adobe Acrobat DC, students learn to create accessible PDFs that users with visual impairments can access through assistive technologies.  Students can use this strategy on its own or as a companion strategy to “Analyze PDFs for Accessibility.”

Adobe Acrobat DC enables accessible design in creating, editing, and retrofitting PDF documents, this strategy underscores the importance of accessible document design and empowers students to create documents that can be used by individuals of  all abilities.

Supporting Tools and Resources

  • Student Sample
  • Adobe Acrobat DC

  • Editable Resource Bundle

  • PDF Resource Bundle

Outline for Teachers

210 minutes


Students learn about accessible design and assistive technologies that allow individuals with disabilities access resources following these steps. (60 minutes)


Students research the availability of disability services on their campus, searching specifically for information about such services and the resources provided to students with disabilities on their campus. (30 minutes)


Using their research, students create a one-page informational flier about campus disability resources using a word processing tool such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs that allows them to include accessible elements such as headings, alternate image text, tagged lists, etc. (60 minutes)


Students import their accessible document into Adobe Acrobat DC. They finalize  the accessible PDF within Acrobat by using Acrobat’s Accessibility Checker, which checks for elements such as leveled headings, alternative image text, contrast, etc. Students use these steps to guide them. They can find an example here, and read a tutorial here. (60 minutes)


Students share and publish their accessible PDF documents. 

Steps for Students

As more and more reading is done electronically, it’s important for technical writers to ensure that their documents can be read by people with many different abilities, including the visually impaired. You will create accessible PDFs using Adobe Acrobat DC that allow more people to access information by making documents readable by assistive technologies, such as screen readers. 

Because Adobe Acrobat DC allows users to create, edit, and retrofit PDFs into accessible formats, it’s an ideal tool for creating accessible documents.


1. Note: If you previously completed the “Analyze PDFs for Accessibility” strategy, the first step of this strategy may be familiar. Review the following resources as necessary before moving on to Step 2. (30 minutes)

Access to information is more widely available now than it has been at any time in human history. Digital texts, including PDFs, are a common way to share information electronically. For many users, especially those with visual impairments, PDFs not designed with accessibility in mind may be difficult if not impossible to access, read, or understand.

As you prepare to create your own accessible PDF, start by doing the following:

  • Learn about what PDF accessibility is (and why it matters) by watching this short video from the advocacy group National Federation of the Blind. 

    • As you watch, consider how the scenario outlined in the video highlights the importance of having accessible learning materials before a class or learning opportunity begins.

  • Learn how accessible design benefits all users, regardless of ability by watching this brief video, from Udacity.

    • What specifics do you notice about how accessible design benefits all users?

    • How might design elements anticipate and accommodate diverse abilities during the design process?

  • Notice the features of accessible design outlined in this resource from the University of Washington. 

    • In reviewing this list, can you identify any particular accessible design choices that are new to you or that you may have overlooked in previous design work?

  • Peruse this Adobe resource that covers information about accessible PDFs and consider why we might want to make our PDF content accessible to more users.

  • Note why skills in accessible document design might be particularly relevant for technical writers.

2. When considering how to create accessible digital content for online spaces, it’s important to note that both PDF and HTML can be made accessible, but sometimes one or the other might be more effective. (30 minutes)

Skim this article on some potential challenges for using PDFs online. On your own, or with a partner or small group, answer the following questions:. 

  • When might you want to use a PDF for your online communication? When might HTML be more beneficial?

What are the advantages of including multiple formats (such as HTML and PDF)?

3. Now that you have a foundation in understanding accessible PDF design, it’s time to prepare to create and check your own accessible PDFs. For the content of your PDF, you’ll produce an informational flier for students with disabilities on your campus. (30 minutes)

College students need accessible places, texts, and services in order to have equal access to higher education. To learn more about resources offered to students with disabilities, search online or in person for disability services on your campus. (These offices typically have names like ‘disability services’ or ‘accessibility services.’) As you search for resources offered through these offices, consider the following questions:

  • What do you find out from visiting the website or office that helps you understand what tools, technologies, and resources are available to students with disabilities on your campus?  

  • What steps does a student with a disability need to take in order to access tools, resources, and accommodations?

4. Create a one-page flier detailing, in a clear and concise manner, the key information you found in your research about campus disability resources. The audience for your flier is students with disabilities on your campus. (60 minutes)

  • Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and other programs provide easy tools to allow you to make content accessible. 

  • Begin the accessible design process by using elements such as leveled headings (H1, H2, etc.), alternative text for images, high contrast colors, and other elements of accessible document design, such as those listed in this resource from the University of Washington. 

  • You can access a Word template version of the student sample from this lesson to adapt, if you choose. This template includes leveled headers and an image with alternative text. 

When you’re finished with your flier, download or save it as an Adobe PDF. (Instructions for saving PDFs in Word and in Google Docs.)

5. Open your saved PDF in Adobe Acrobat DC. Check and adjust your PDF’s accessibility by using Acrobat’s Accessibility Checker, which will guide you through important accessibility features such as contrast, tags, alternative text for images, etc. (60 minutes)

For more direction on how this process might unfold, please review these steps.

6. Share your accessible PDF as directed by your instructor.


Rubric for Successful Analysis

Consult the attached rubric in order to evaluate students' work.