It's best to save a word file to PDF but only after the word file has been properly configured for accessibility.

Word files present a security issue because they are much more easy to edit and alter once downloaded than PDF files, so if for some reason it's not possible to create a PDF and the content is required to be delivered in a regulated format, apply security settings to the Word File, using Word's document protection.

Accessible Word Document Requirements

A Word document is accessible if:

  • it has a table of contents (for long documents).
  • is has hierarchy of headings for clarity and understanding.
  • lists are created using the editor list function.
  • tables have designated headings, and complex tables use table alt tag/summary to add extra information for screen readers.
  • important images have informative alt tags so they are understandable when not seen.
  • unimportant images and graphics have empty alt tags so they can be skipped.
  • text effects that are not accessible are avoided (Text Box, Quick Parts, WordArt, and Drop Caps are not accessible formatting tools in Mac or PC).


Testing Techniques

Word 2010 comes with an accessibility checker that can help find a few overlooked accessibility items in a document, but it will not locate most problems. To run Microsoft Word's accessibility checker, select File, then click the Info tab on the left-hand side of the screen. Then click on the Check for Issues button and select Check Accessibility.