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From InDesign to Accessible PDF

Creating an accessible PDF from InDesign is a relatively simple process, but depending on the file size, it can be time-consuming.

To keep me on track, I keep a list of accessibility "must do's" when preparing an InDesign document for export to PDF: ALT text, Reading Order, Export Tags, and Export. Please note that the order of operation has no bearing on the resulting PDF, as long as you address each item in the list.

Let’s take a look and a listen to how Adobe experts walk us through those first three items.

ALT Text


Reading Order


Export Tags


Export as PDF

Now you’re ready to export to PDF. InDesign gives you two options - Adobe PDF (Interactive) or Adobe PDF (Print) format.

With the InDesign Save As menu open, in the file type dropdown at the bottom of the page, there is a red arrow pointing to the print option and a red arrow pointing to the interactive option so to highlight the two choices available.

The type you choose depends upon whether or not have interactive elements such as forms, buttons, audio, or video in your document. The Adobe PDF (Print) format exports bookmarks and hyperlinks but not buttons, audio, video, or animation. Exporting those would require using the Adobe PDF (Interactive) format.

Make sure you check the "Create Tagged PDF" option in the Export dialog box of either export format you choose.

The InDesign Export dialog box with Create Tagged PDF checkbox checked.

In the Export to Interactive PDF dialog:

  • select the "Use Structure for Tab Order"
  • set the Forms and Media option to "Include All" to activate bookmarking, hyperlinks, cross- references, and buttons,

The other settings are optional and are dependent on your specific needs or preferences. You can also create a Preset to save you some time in the future:

  • Choose File > Adobe PDF Presets > Define
  • Then...
    • To create a new preset, click New. If you want to base the new preset on an existing preset, select the preset first. Set PDF options, and click OK. (See Adobe PDF presets.)
    • To edit an existing custom preset, select the preset and click Edit. (You cannot edit the default presets.) Set PDF options, and click OK.
    • To delete a preset, select it and click Delete.
    • To save a preset in a location other than the default Settings folder in the Adobe PDF folder, select it and click Save As. Specify a location and click Save.

Once the export is complete, I open the PDF in Acrobat and add two finishing touches - Bookmarks, which increase usability, and file compression for faster loading since most of the PDFs I create, reside on the web.

Taking advantage of InDesign's accessibility features will go a long way in creating an accessible PDF that requires less remediation thus saving you time and person power.


Maggie Vaughan, CPACC
Content Marketing Practitioner