October 17-21 2022 | Singapore

Guide to an Accessible Submission

ISMAR 2022  promotes diversity and strongly encourages you to create accessible submissions so that your content can be read by the greatest number of readers. This includes taking steps as you author your document, and making your submitted PDF accessible. This ensures that your paper is readable by reviewers and, ultimately, the world at large. These steps can improve usability for many people, especially those of us with visual impairments. These instructions are based on the SIGACCESS Guide for Accessible PDFs in Word and Adobe Acrobat, and are modified to represent the new process being used for ISMAR 2022. 


  • What makes a paper (in)accessible?
  • Writing accessible content
  • Creating accessible PDFs in Microsoft Word
  • Creating an accessible PDF using LaTeX
  • Adding accessibility metadata using Adobe Acrobat
  • How do I check whether my PDF is accessible?
  • Additional information
  • Submitting your publication ready source files
  • Making your final PDF accessible

What makes a paper (in)accessible?

There are two aspects to accessibility for your submission: content and format. Each will be covered in more detail below.

  1. Content: All information, including information in figures, charts, tables, etc., should be available to readers who consume it in different ways. For example: some of us cannot see color, some use high contrast displays, and some listen to the content instead of seeing it.
  2. Format: ISMAR 2022  is receiving initial submissions in PDF format.  This requires specific steps to make sure the content is accessible to everyone. The PDF must be saved properly so that it includes appropriate metadata, including the document text and markup for section headers, tables, etc. This information can be added in several different ways, depending on the software you are using to write your document (described below).

Writing Accessible Content

Your paper will be read in different ways: on paper, on screen, through speech, or on a braille display, etc. Some of us enlarge the text or change the colors on our displays for easier reading. Not everyone can see the colors and shapes in the figures. Some of us can’t see the figures at all and rely on you to provide a text description of your essential content. You can make your content accessible by following these steps:

  1. Mark up content such as headings and lists appropriately, using the correct Word template style or LaTeX markup.
  2. Don’t rely only on color. Charts that rely only on color to differentiate elements may not be usable for those of us with color vision differences, or for those who print papers in black and white. In figures, legends and the text that refers to the figures, use different shapes and patterns to provide another way to visually distinguish elements.
  3. Provide a text description for all figures. Figure descriptions are different to figure captions. Descriptions are an alternative to seeing the figure, and should provide important information that is not already in the paper or the caption.  Do not simply repeat the caption. For guidance on writing good figure descriptions, see the SIGACCESS Guide to Describing Figures.
  4. Create every table as a real table, not an image. Indicate which cells are headers.
  5. Create every equation as a marked-up equation, not an image of an equation.
  6. Set the metadata for the title of your paper.

Creating Accessible PDFs in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word can produce accessible PDF. This works in most versions of Word for Windows, and works on the latest versions of Word for Mac. If you do not have access to the latest Word for Mac, you can edit the document on Mac and perform the last step on a PC with Windows Word.

  1. Ensure that built-in styles are used. Word is able to produce accessible PDFs if the content is created using Word’s built-in styles. Ensure that headings are created using Word’s heading styles, tables are created using Word’s table feature (rather than an image), and lists are created as Word bulleted or numbered lists.
  2. Add figure descriptions (alternative text) to all figures. For each image in your document, right-click the image and select “Format Picture”. In the Format Picture window, select the “Layout & Properties” tab. In the “alt text” section, provide a title of the image and a text description of the image. Remember that the text description should include the equivalent information to the image itself so that the content is accessible to readers and reviewers who cannot read the image. For more information, see the SIGACCESS Guide to Describing Figures. If you are using an older version of Word, see these instructions for adding alternative text.
  3. Mark table headers. Mark the header row of each table so that a screen reader or other accessibility software can navigate the table. Highlight the header row or column in the table, click the Table Design tab in the Word ribbon, and check the Header Row and/or First Column checkbox if either contains header information for the table.
  4. Check title and language. Add a document title. On Word for Windows, open the File tab and click on Info. On Word for Mac, click the File Menu and select Properties, then click the Summary tab. Fill in the title of your document. Set the document language. Click the Review tab in the Ribbon. Click the Language button and select the document language from the pop-up.
  5. Save tagged PDF. 
    1. Word for Windows. Open the File menu and select Save (or Save As). Select PDF as the file format and select More Options. Under the Options menu, make sure that “Document structure tags for accessibility” is checked. Click Save to save an accessible PDF, and verify the PDF accessibility using the steps below.
    2. Word for Mac. Open the File menu and select Save (or Save As). Choose PDF from the File Format dropdown. Make sure that the option “Best for electronic distribution and accessibility (uses Microsoft online service)” is selected. Note that this option requires a connection to the internet. If you do not see this option, your version of Word may be out of date, and you will need to save the PDF on a newer version of Mac Word or in Windows Word, or you will need to add accessibility data in Acrobat.
    3. Do not use the Print > Save as PDF function to produce your PDF, as that will strip the accessibility information from the saved file.

Creating an Accessible PDF using LaTeX

Unfortunately, support for adding accessibility metadata to LaTeX documents is limited. You will probably need to use Adobe Acrobat to add missing accessibility metadata to your PDF file.

Adding Accessibility Metadata using Adobe Acrobat

If you produced a PDF file that does not contain the proper accessibility metadata, you can add this data to your produced PDF file using Acrobat. Note that this requires the commercial version of Adobe Acrobat. Note also that this information will need to be re-added each time you produce your PDF. If possible, it is preferable to add the accessibility metadata to your source document (Word or LaTeX) using the instructions above. Follow the instructions below, or consult the SIGACCESS Accessible PDF Author Guide for more detailed instructions.

  1. Add document tags. The PDF file must be “tagged” with metadata about the document structure and text. You can check to see if your document is tagged by using the accessibility check function: select Tools > Accessibility from the menu, then click Full Check. If the document is not tagged, you will see a message stating that “This document is not structured”. To add tags to the document, select Tools > Accessibility from the menu and click Add Tags to Document.
  2. Add figure descriptions (alternative text) to all figures. From the application menu, select View > Tools > Accessibility. The accessibility tools will open in a panel on the right. Select “Set Alternate Text” from this menu. This option will walk you through each image and ask you to provide alternative text. If you are using an older version of Acrobat, this option might not be available. In that case, you can add the alt text manually. Select View > Tools > Content from the top menu. Select the Edit Option tool. For each figure in your PDF, right-click the figure and select Properties. Click the Tag tab in the pop-up window, and enter the figure description in the field named Alternative Text. As this method requires Acrobat to guess the structure of the document, you will want to use the TouchUp Reading Order tool to verify the document structure. See the SIGACCESS Guide to Describing Figures for details on how to write good figure descriptions.
  3. Mark table headers. Right-click the table in your document. You should see an option named “Table Editor”. If that option is not available, Acrobat may not have correctly identified the table. You may use the TouchUp Reading Order tool to label the table in the PDF. Within the editor, each table cell should be labeled as a header (TH) or data (TD). If a cell is mislabeled, right-click the cell and select Table Cell Properties, and set either Header Cell or Table Cell as appropriate, and indicate whether it is a header for the row, column, or both on the Scope dropdown menu.
  4. Set title and language and other metadata. Add a title and language. Select File > Properties from the menu. Select the Description tab. Fill the Title field with the document title. Next, select the Initial View tab. In the Show dropdown, select Document Title. Next, select the Advanced tab. In the Reading Options section, select English from the Language dropdown menu.
    Set tab order. Setting the tab order is necessary so that a keyboard user can use the tab key to navigate through the document. To set the tab order, click the Page Thumbnails icon to show thumbnail images for each page (or, in the top menu, select View > Show/Hide > Navigation Panes > Page Thumbnails). Select all pages with Control-A (Windows) or Command-A (Mac). Right-click and select Page Properties. In the popup window, select “Use Document Structure” on the Tab Order tab, and click OK to set the tab order.
  5. Save tagged PDF. Before you save your PDF, use the accessibility check tool to verify that your PDF is accessible: elect Tools > Accessibility from the menu, then click Full Check. Saving the PDF in Acrobat should save the relevant accessibility data by default. No extra steps are necessary.

How do I check whether my PDF is accessible?

On newer versions of Word, you can check the accessibility of the document by clicking the Review tab in the Ribbon and selecting Accessibility Checker. Note that even if Word says that your document is accessible, you must still save your document using the steps described above to produce a tagged PDF.
Using Acrobat Pro, you can check for accessibility by opening a PDF file and selecting Tools > Accessibility > Full Check.
If you do not have access to Acrobat Pro, and you need assistance in making your PDF accessible, please contact the Accessibility Chairs at diversity_chairs@ismar2022.org.

Additional Information

Where to Get Help

If you have any questions or concerns about creating accessible content, please contact the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility Chairs at diversity_chairs@ismar2022.org.

What about my other content?

It is important to consider accessibility issues in your other content as well. For example, here are some resources about captioning and describing video content.

Additional Resources for Accessible PDFs

Submitting Your Publication Ready Source Files

Final Steps for Authors Using Word

As you go through the process of validating your document, make sure:

  1. All figures have descriptions and these are updated to match the final figures you are using.
  2. Table headers are marked up.
  3. The paper’s final title, authors and keywords are correct  in the document metadata.

Final Steps for Authors Using LaTeX

For LaTeX authors, moving into the stage with publication-ready source files involves two important steps for accessibility:

  1. Ensure all figures have an up-to-date figure description in the source.
  2. Ensure the paper metadata is set.

Making your Final PDF Accessible

Please refer to the instructions on Making your Final PDF Accessible for details.