Creating accessible PDF with LibreOffice

In the following article, I give brief instructions on how you can create accessible documents and tagged PDFS with the free OpenOffice or LibreOffice. I recommend LibreOffice as this is dynamically developed. The instructions only refer to Writer, but can also be transferred to the other Libre Office programs except for the format templates.

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General information

In principle, Microsoft Office documents can also be edited with LibreOffice. However, always check that the layout is correct, as the import filters do not always work well.

Please do not improvise with the layout: do not use Return or Tab to create spacing. Always use the built-in functions to create spacing or a new page.


In order for blind persons to recognize that a piece of text is a headline, this information must be stored for them. For this we use the templates.

The important thing is that you use the style regardless of how the headline looks visually. If you are not satisfied with the layout of the template, you can change the layout later.

First select the text that you want to format. Select "Heading 1" under "Template" to mark the main heading. You can use heading 2 for subheadings.

You can do the same with titles, subtitles, quotations or numbered and unnumbered lists. You can find all the elements for this in the Templates menu.

Image descriptions

For the blind, you can store an image description that is only visible to them. First select the image. From the Format menu, choose Description.

In the appearing dialog box, enter the description.


Set the language of the text so that blind persons can read the document in the correct language.

Go to "Extras" Select "Language" Select "For all text" and select the language

Language of Parts

If you would like to mark individual passages in another language, first mark this passage and follow the same path. But select the option "For selection" instead of "For entire text".


To create a table, go to the "Tables" menu and then to "Insert Tables". If the headings of the table are in the first row, you can tick the “Headings” box. If the headings are not there, you should not check the box.


Create the title of the document and some keywords in the metadata. This makes it easier to read in the file explorer.

In the "File" menu, select "Properties" and then the "Description" tab.

Properties in LibreOffice

Here you can enter a title, keywords and some other data. Click "OK" to save.

Accessibility Checker

Libre Office now has an integrated accessibility check. You can find this under Extras – Accessibility check. Always be careful with automatic checks. The main thing is always that you formatted properly.

Save as an accessible PDF

If you would like to pass on the document as an accessible PDF, one more step is necessary so that the structural information is transferred. Always save with LibreOffice features and not an external program.

Go under "File", there on "Export as" and there on "Export as PDF".

Export document as PDF

An options window will appear. In the "General" tab, select the items "Universal accessibility/PDF UA" and "Export outline".

The first function adds the structure information like headings and image descriptions to the document, the second function adds bookmarks generated from the document headings. The bookmarks are what is displayed to the user in Acrobat Reader on the left side as a convenient table of contents.

Please always use self-explanatory file names. annual report-2018-schmidt-gmbh.pdf is better than 931f2fifl2i2f3.pdf.

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