How to Export an Accessible Tagged PDF from Adobe InDesign

These instructions show how to export an accessible tagged PDF from Adobe InDesign.

Software used:

  • Adobe InDesign (latest version)
  • Adobe Acrobat DC Pro

Feel free to distribute the link to this tutorial throughout your organization. We want everyone to be able to create an accessible PDF. But don't steel it: this website's content is copyrighted.

Step 1: Make an InDesign layout designed for accessibility.

Accessibility always starts with accessible content. Our classes cover the details of making accessible InDesign layouts files so the PDFs exported from them are compliant as possible and need little remediation.

See our current class calendar at

Step 2: Preflight the INDD layout.

There are a lot of items that need to be checked, which we detail in our classes. Here are the biggies.

  • All fonts are active (not highlighted in pink as "missing"), are Unicode/OpenType, and have permissions and licenses to be embedded into digital files.
  • All graphics are active links (not indicated as missing in the Links panel).
  • All graphics have Alt Text or are artifacted.
  • Text frames are threaded into logical stories, from their heading to the end.
  • All graphics, sidebars, and other objects are anchored into their related story thread.
  • Text and background colors meet contrast ratio requirements. Test them at
  • All hyperlinks (both internal and external) were created in the Hyperlinks panel.
  • Tables are constructed for accessibility, and column headers are set.
  • All text is formatted with styles that specify which tags to apply. Check them via the Edit all Export Tags utility from the Paragraph Styles option menu.
  • If the Articles panel was used to assist with the tag reading order, then check that all elements are in it. (Any element left out will not be tagged in the PDF, nor will it be artifacted — it'll be a Zombie element, neither dead or alive.)
  • Check the architectural reading order in the Layers panel (bottom up).
  • And the design is stunningly gorgeous. Of course!

Step 3: Export an interactive tagged accessible PDF.

Save the file one last time to ensure your changes are set.

Then, select File / Export and choose PDF (Interactive) from the Save as Type drop-down menu.

Navigate to the folder where the PDF will be saved. Windows navigation is shown above. Mac is similar. And name the file.

In the General section of the Export to Interactive PDF dialogue (below), choose:

  • Export As Pages
  • Create Tagged PDF
  • Use Structure for Tab Order

Set the compression in the Compression section. Our recommendations are below, but adjust as necessary. The higher the qualilty and resolution, the larger the PDF will be. However, it also will appear sharper and crisper, especially on high-resolution monitors, displays, and newer smart phones. Find the sweet spot that looks good enough but is not too large for downloading.

In the Advanced section, set to Display the Document Title, and also choose the PDF's primary language. English is shown below and a fairly good selection of the world's major languages are in the drop-down menu.

Click the Export button at the lower right to create the PDF.

Afterwards, be sure to examine and test the PDF for compliance with PDF/UA-1 international accessibility standards. Use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC and other testing/remediation tools.

Untitled Document

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PubCom has a full suite of courses on accessibility topics, as well as traditional desktop publishing, digital media, and website development. We started offering accessibility training to the federal government in 2001 right after Section 508 and WCAG 1.0 went into effect in the US. That was 23+ years ago and we haven't stopped yet!

The takeaway: we know publishing, from editorial to design to distribution (print and digital) — and we're accessibility experts (Bevi Chagnon is a delegate to the ISO committee for PDF accessibility that creates the PDF/UA standard). We share our knowledge and help you learn to fish. Our little fisherman keeps us on our goal.

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