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Michigan State University

Creating Accessible ePub Documents with InDesign

To create a document in InDesign that will read well in ePub, it is strongly recommended that you become familiar with XML tags and how they are used in InDesign. (If you are using InDesign CS5, see Chapter 19 - XML in the InDesign CS5 Help file.)

Adding XML tags added to text boxes, stories, pictures, and graphic items help InDesign create an ePub document that flows logically.

In addition, to view your new ePub document, you will need an ePub reader. Adobe Digital Editions is a free download that will work well with InDesign. Additional information is available.

Adding Tags to Your Document

Before you add tags to your document, you have to create the tags themselves. InDesign can tag your page content automatically based on the contents of the frame, but unless your document is extremely simple, you will create a much more logical document by creating your own tags and then applying them.

To add tags to your content, open the Tags pallet by clicking on the top menu: Window > Utilities > Tags. You can also create tags based on styles or styles based on tags.

After items are tagged, review the document's tag structure in the Structure pane (on the left in the image below) to make sure the document flows the way it should. For example, your document should move from your title, to a headline, to a story, to an appropriate picture, etc.

The Structure pane should open automatically when the Tag pallet is opened. If it does not, you can open it by clicking: View > Structure > Show Structure. In the sample below, you can see that the document starts with a headline, then the story/text frame on the left and then the story/text frame on the right.

Indesign tagged document

Labeling Graphics within Your Document

Labeling graphics within a document is important because a labled graphic allows screen readers to give the user information about the picture.

After you have tagged your document, open your Structure pane if it isn't already open (View > Structure > Show Structure). If your tags aren't showing, click the arrow beside "Root" to expand the view.

To add a label to an image, click on the "Figure" tag for the image, and then in the Structure pane menu select "New Attribute."

 New attribute menu selection

Once the "New Attribute" window opens, click in the section marked "Name" and type either Alt or ActualText (Be careful: This is case-sensitive). In the "Value" section, type a description or concept of what the graphic represents. This description is what will be read by the screen reader.

new attribute window

Publishing a Document to ePub

To publish your document to ePub, first save it in InDesign. Next, click: File > Export For > EPUB.

Export for ePub

A "Save As" window will open. Type in the name of your new ePub document and click "Save." If you are using Adobe Digital Editions, a window called "Digital Editions Export Options" will pop up after you click "Save." Choose the options you want, and then click "Export." InDesign will create and export your new ePub and it will open in you ePub reader.

 digital edition options

Important Things to Keep in Mind

Items tagged and then exported to an ePub format are read in a left to right, top to bottom flow. Special layouts, like those used for a folded brochure could have pages in the wrong location unless the tags for each item are rearranged within the Structure pane to flow in the manner you want the document to be read. If the tags are not in the order they should be read, click on them in the Structure pane and drag them to the location they should be.

Special graphic elements created in InDesign, such as tab leaders, tables with shading, or graphic elements within a cell, will not show up in your ePub document. If you have a graphic element that is important to the understanding of your content, it is better to create it in a design program such as Illustrator or Photoshop (or even PowerPoint) and save it as a graphic file (.jpg, .tiff, .gif, etc.). It can then have Alt or ActualText applied to it with a tag.