Improving Document Accessibility in InDesign

Last modified 9/27/2023

Creating accessible PDF documents is essential for ensuring that individuals with disabilities can access and engage with your content effectively. InDesign, a popular desktop publishing software, provides powerful features and tools to create accessible PDFs that meet accessibility standards and guidelines. 

Why Accessible PDFs Matter

Accessible PDFs are designed to be inclusive, allowing individuals with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the content. By making your PDFs accessible, you provide equal access to information, fostering inclusivity and enhancing user experience. Accessible PDFs benefit a wide range of users, including those with visual impairments, cognitive disabilities, or mobility challenges.

Key Accessibility Considerations

When creating accessible PDFs, several key considerations should be kept in mind:

  1. Text Structure: Structuring your document with headings, paragraphs, and lists provides a clear organization that aids navigation and comprehension. Users can navigate the document using assistive technologies, such as screen readers, more efficiently.
    Improving Document Accessibility with InDesign
    Setting Up Your Accessible Document in InDesign

  2. Alternative Text for Images: Providing descriptive alternative text (alt text) for images allows users with visual impairments to understand the content. Alt text should concisely describe the image's purpose, context, and any relevant details.
    Alternative Text for Images in InDesign

  3. Color and Contrast: Ensure that your document's color choices and contrast ratios meet accessibility standards. This ensures legibility for users with visual impairments or color blindness. Use high contrast between text and background to enhance readability.
    WebAIM Color Contrast Checker
    Colour Contrast Analyser

  4. Hyperlinks and Navigation: Make sure hyperlinks are descriptive and meaningful when read out of context. Ensure that the document's table of contents, bookmarks, and navigation features are properly structured, allowing users to easily navigate through the content.
    Hyperlinking Text in InDesign

  5. Accessibility Tags and Metadata: Properly tagging elements in your PDF, such as headings, lists, tables, and form fields, allows assistive technologies to interpret and present the content accurately. Metadata, such as document title and language specification, also contribute to accessibility.
    Add Character Styles to Your InDesign Project
    Adding Paragraph Styles to an InDesign Project
    Add Layers to Your InDesign Project

  6. Forms and Interactive Elements: Create accessible forms by adding labels, descriptions, and instructions. Consider user interactions, such as keyboard accessibility, to ensure all users can complete and submit forms independently.
    Accessible Forms in InDesign

  7. Export Options: InDesign allows you to check for accessibility issues in your document before exporting to PDF. The Export options provide settings specifically tailored for accessible PDF creation, such as tagging, bookmarks, and meta data.

    Export Tagging Paragraph Styles in InDesign

    Exporting an Accessible PDF from InDesign