Accessibility considerations are now an integral aspect of the publishing workflow. As a long-term supplier to the Victorian Government, Aria Design applies best practice in this area and we are able to provide solutions to meet your requirements.

We can work with InDesign and Microsoft Word files as source formats, and export these files to one or more of PDF, MS Word, RTF and HTML formats with full awareness of accessibility requirements. This includes:

  • PDFs that pass the Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Full Check and meet WCAG 2.0 requirements
  • MS Word or RTF files that are correctly structured for screen readers
  • HTML files that are correctly tagged for incorporation into your website.


Creating accessible PDFs requires a more rigorous approach to layout in both InDesign and MS Word. While in theory the inclusion of PDF tags is the essential requirement for an accessible PDF, in practice this is only the case if the tagged PDF has been expertly produced as an accessible document.

Designers producing accessible documents must understand:

  • the WCAG 2.0 requirements in detail
  • which accessibility features can be set up within the authoring program, and which can only be set up in Adobe Acrobat after export
  • which accessibility features can only be implemented by editorial adjustments (and therefore need to be discussed with the writer or editor)
  • how to set up the document in the authoring program so it will export a correctly tagged PDF
  • how to check the exported PDF and repair or add tags that the authoring programs cannot generate correctly.

This is the depth of knowledge we bring to our work with accessible PDFs. We do not rely on the Adobe Acrobat accessibility checker but on our direct knowledge of the WCAG 2.0 requirements and PDF tagging syntax.

MS Word or RTF

If publishing in MS Word or RTF format is a requirement, we can assist either by doing the layout in MS Word, or doing the layout in InDesign and then exporting to MS Word. The default export from InDesign is generally not satisfactory, so MS Word expertise is normally required to prepare the exported file for publication. The required steps usually include font substitution, setup of headers and footers, correct style naming, setup of a hyperlinked table of contents, and addition of alt text for figures. Although not necessary for accessibility reasons, some additional work may be required to enhance the presentation and conform to corporate visual style.

Where MS Word is a preferred format to meet accessibility requirements, there is a cost/benefit argument for producing the master layout in that program rather than InDesign.

MS Word 2007 for PC and later versions are able to export tagged PDFs. Because the natural paradigm for an MS Word layout is to run all the content as a single flow, using that straightforward treatment provides a good foundation for exporting a correctly tagged PDF without the hazards associated with more complex InDesign layouts. With correctly set-up templates, and by following good formatting and basic accessibility practices, it should be possible (with a bit of training) for corporate staff without technical knowledge of tags to prepare Word files that can take advantage of the export capabilities of MS Word itself or of PDF export plugins. However, it is generally advisable for any PDF exported from Word to be checked and repaired by an accessibility specialist, as the exported tags often contain syntax errors that can cause serious problems for assistive technologies.

To find out more, see our Microsoft Word page.


HTML is undoubtedly the best format to meet the full legal requirements for accessibility. Unlike PDF and MS Word, it is inherently a tag-based format that naturally separates content and structure from presentation. Despite this, it is a format that is rarely used  to provide an accessible version of documents that have been laid out in InDesign. However, in some cases an HTML version of an InDesign document can be prepared more quickly than an accessible PDF, and can be updated much more easily if required.

InDesign provides some tools to facilitate export to HTML format, but once again some pre and postprocessing will be required. This export can be problematic in workflow terms because many print designers do not know HTML, and corporate web teams may not use InDesign. There is an urgency now not only to overcome these impediments, but also to deal with the backlog of existing publications that have been published online in PDF format but are still not available in HTML format.

Aria Design can assist with this workflow by providing clean HTML on completion of a layout in InDesign or MS Word, or we can prepare clean HTML files from your existing InDesign or MS Word files. We do not require access to your web server to complete this task. We can convert a document to a single HTML file formatted to your corporate specifications, including CSS classes, which your web team can divide into separate pages on your website. Our supplied code will take care of the document content itself, while the pre-existing corporate web templates and style sheets will take care of presentation as well as those aspects of accessibility that relate to the surrounding webpage structure.