Learn to use Adobe InDesign’s accessibility checker tools

Adobe InDesign versions 5.5 and later provides a lot of accessibility features–most of which are well-integrated and intuitive to use. Ensuring accessibility in InDesign still requires a bit of extra work. The following will mainly focus on accessibility features available in InDesign 5.5 or later.

Important aspects to consider during your check


In InDesign, the overall document language can be set by default. The language for individual paragraphs can also be set through the ‘Character’ panel.

Document title

Document information like title, author, and keywords can be added via ‘File Info’ in the ‘Description’ tab.

Tagging text

When you tag text as a paragraph, heading, etc. it is possible to map the styles of each tag. When you decide on a style, you can select “export tagging” and define the style of each tag. For instance, a style you’ve named “large header” could be mapped to the H1 tag.


There are a few ways to ensure that every image in your PDF is accessible. If an image is purely decorative or it does not convey any important information, the image should be defined as “artifact.” If the image does convey important information or links you should include alternative text to describe the image and the meaning it conveys. You define these factors through the “Object” menu. When selecting an image and choosing these options, the tabs for these option becomes available.


Tables can be tagged and made accessible in InDesign if the table is in a simple data table. If this is the case, you will have the option of adding table headings using the “Convert Rows to Header” feature.


If you wish to present content in columns, there is a built-in “Columns” feature most often available directly through the top menu. Avoid using the tab key to move content in a position that looks like columns. This method of creating columns is not only more difficult for you, but also makes the reading order very poor for assistive technologies.

Reading order

In InDesign, you can define the reading order by dragging content into the “Articles” panel and placing it in the desired sequence. You can also drag and drop images into the desired reading order. Simply, click and drag the image by the small rectangle on the frame. Once you drop the image in its new location, the rectangle will turn into an anchor. Lastly, make sure you select, “Use for Reading Order in Tagged PDF” in the “Articles” panel. 

While InDesign includes these capabilities, many prefer to define reading order later, using a remediation tool. Some tools provide the ability to simply drag and drop the content into a desired order through a panel.


The easiest way to insert bookmarks using InDesign is to highlight the headings one by one and add them in the bookmarks panel.

Conversion (exporting)

After finalizing the document, the method you use to convert it into a PDF matters for accessibility. In the “Export” menu, choose “Create Tagged PDF” and “Use Structure for Tab Order.” This process saves tags in the document and provides accessibility once the PDF is created.

More tips for creating accessible PDFs in InDesign

Additional resources

These resources were developed by Adobe to assist with ADA compliance.

Checking the document

There is a variety of tools available to check the accessibility of PDFs and remediate documents if necessary. Without going into detail with specific tools, the following provides a general process for checking and/or remediating PDFs to check accessibility compliance.

First, open the converted PDF and make sure that “Content Copying for Accessibility” is set to “Allowed.” You can find this information in the “Security Settings” in the “Document Properties.”

Most remediation tools provide the ability to check the reading order of a document. This is a critical check that needs human evaluation. The reading order helps ensure that assistive technologies can render the content in a meaningful way, making this one of the first checks you should complete. The tab order should also be confirmed, as well as the document title and language settings.

Next, tagging should be reviewed, especially headings, lists, tables, and alternative text for images. Depending on the tool you are using, this can be done in a fully automated or semi automated way. If you created your document in InDesign, remember to check if your role mapping is done correctly; mapping styles to tags. Some remediation tools provide this information through a menu in a tags panel.

Finally, make sure that the document opens in the desired way (on the first page in the right size). You can then compress the document to reduce its file size.

If you find any of these areas are not defined correctly, they should be fixed in the original document if possible. If this is not possible, a remediation tool can be used to fix problems.

Other things to consider

The background color and text color should be in sufficient contrast to one another, in order to allow everyone to read text clearly. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 gives guidance and recommendations for text sizes and compliance levels.

Additionally, avoid using references to content and information solely based on location on the page. Some users will receive the content in one long sequence, so instructions to click in a “box on the right” would not be meaningful or helpful to them. Supplement this by also including reference to a heading. For example, you could refer to “the box on the right with the heading Resources.”

You should also make sure that documents can be zoomed to enlarge text without it becoming difficult to read. As users zoom in, text should not become pixelated. For this reason, avoid images of text, as they don’t work well for several user groups, such as those with reading difficulties.

Lastly, avoid using text in images, as it can’t be read by many types of assisted technologies. Text in an image can be defined as text that cannot be highlighted. Some aspects of accessibility can be checked automatically, while others need to be reviewed manually.