Just announced: Level Access and eSSENTIAL Accessibility agree to merge! Read more.

InDesign Accessibility Hints

Some document accessibility can be performed directly in InDesign before converting documents to Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. InDesign has a tagging structure that is similar but not the same as the tagging structure exposed in Adobe Acrobat. While Adobe Acrobat can be used to add tags to InDesign document without this method, there are a several reasons to tag InDesign document for accessibility before converting to Adobe Acrobat. For example, when InDesign document templates exist for content designers to use, add tags in the appropriate order and type in the InDesign document. If content changes will be made later to the document, work should be done directly in InDesign for tagging. In addition to tagging there are other accessibility considerations that should be followed in the InDesign document itself such as accessible use of colors, background images, and typography.

Specifically InDesign CS4 supports partial tagging of a limited set of elements. These are

  • Paragraphs, Sections, and Articles
  • Headings
  • Lists and list items (but not nested lists)
  • Data table cells (but not table header cells)
  • Figures
  • Links

The order of these items can be set in InDesign using the structure pane. Tagging of each item has limitations and methods that must be used. For some tags, role mapping must be performed in Acrobat Professional to complete the tagging of that item. To prepare the document for tagging, open the structure pane from the view menu and choose “add untagged content” from the options drop down. To tag the content with an appropriate tag for each object, select the object and then select an appropriate tag from the tags list. If new content is added, when it is tagged it will appear in the structure tree at the end. Rearrange items in the structure tree by copying and pasting or dragging and dropping. Each element is listed below with some specific hints.

Paragraphs, Sections, and Articles

These generally come through correctly but check the role map in Acrobat to verify.


The tag name does not come through and instead the standard style name is brought into Acrobat as the tag name. Make custom style names in InDesign and call them “H1”, “H2”, etc. as appropriate and the proper tag name will then come through into Acrobat.

Lists and List Items

The List tag name and the style names for list items will appear in Acrobat, however, a role map must be created for List and List items in Acrobat.

Data Table Cells

Data table cells whether they are header or data cells all convert into Acrobat as data table cells. Use the table inspector in Acrobat to properly identify the header cells.


Assign the case sensitive “Alt” attribute to tagged figures in InDesign to have alternative text convert into the Acrobat document.


Create a tag called Link and tag, use the hyperlink pane to create hyperlinks and tag the hyperlinks with the Link tag.

Use the Export to PDF feature on the file menu of InDesign to perform the tagged export. Ensure the option to export the tagged structure is checked and the “export interactive elements” and “export hyperlinks” checkboxes are checked before exporting.

Review the document in Adobe Acrobat, set the appropriate role mappings (associate a tag name with the actual tag element) and finish tagging the document for accessibility.