CommonLook Office GlobalAccess – Overview

Convert DOC, PPT to accessible PDFAccessible PDF from Word & Powerpoint

CommonLook Office GlobalAccess is an add-in to Microsoft® Word and PowerPoint. It leads users through the process of making accessible PDF documents that comply to Section 508, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), WCAG 2.0 AA, and/or PDF U/A standards.

CommonLook Office GlobalAccess allows authors to test and correct accessibility issues in the source Word or PowerPoint file, ensuring maximum accessibility in the resulting PDF at the lowest possible cost.

CommonLook Office GlobalAccess is simple and effective; it does not require prior knowledge of accessibility.

How to use CommonLook Office GlobalAccess?

Use CommonLook Office GlobalAccess whenever you are ready to create an accessible and compliant PDF file from Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.

The CommonLook process systematically reviews the checkpoints that correspond to the selected level of conformance, and for maximum efficiency, only the checkpoints that actually apply to your document are reviewed.

Advanced users may run specific checkpoints at various stages of the document’s authoring process.

It’s best to start with a review of the CommonLook Office GlobalAccess User Guide for Word and User Guide for PowerPoint. The basic CommonLook Office GlobalAccess process follows these steps:

  1. From the CommonLook Office tab in the ribbon, select Create CommonLook PDF. 
  2. Choose the standard to which the document should comply.
  3. Afterwards, launch the CommonLook Office GlobalAccess panel will be displayed.
  4. CommonLook Office GlobalAccess displays the first applicable checkpoint based on the contents of your document.
  5. Follow the instructions to complete each checkpoint. Note that some of the checkpoints may require changes to the Word or PowerPoint file.
  6. Once all the applicable checkpoints are complete, CommonLook Office GlobalAccess will generate an accessible PDF document.

Adding Alternative Text to Images

People who are visually impaired require alternative means of accessing the information conveyed by images and other non-text objects (for example, charts).  CommonLook Office GlobalAccess provides an easy to use interface for adding alternative text to images, charts, graphs, and even mathematical formulas.


Sometimes in Word document or PowerPoint presentation, images are simply used for decoration and they do not convey any relevant information.  When this is the case, they should be treated as “artifacts” in the PDF so that they are not read by assistive technology.  While there is no way to properly artifact decorative images in Word or PowerPoint, CommonLook Office GlobalAccess provides this functionality with the simple click of a button.

Adding Structure to the PDF Document

The correct use of styles, such as heading levels, helps ensure that the PDF document is properly structured.  This, in turn, makes navigation through the document easier for people who use many types of assistive technology.  While MS Word does have built-in styles to assist in adding document structure, PowerPoint does not.

CommonLook Office GlobalAccess will guide the user through verifying that proper styles have been used and, for instances in which this is not an option (for example in PowerPoint), CommonLook Office GlobalAccess will provide the functionality to create the necessary heading levels for the document.


While WCAG 2.0 is designed for web content, it’s a commonly cited source for general principles of accessibility in electronic content including PDF documents.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has its own set of conformance criteria (based on WCAG 2.0 and other “best practices”) for the creation of PDF documents.

PDF U/A (Universal Accessibility) is the “gold standard” of PDF accessibility because, unlike Section 508 and WCAG 2.0, the guidelines are specific to PDF documents and not “electronic content” including HTML.

Along with making PDF documents comply with Section 508 criteria, CommonLook Office GlobalAccess enables conformance to any and all of the above-mentioned standards during the Word-to-PDF conversion process.  Simply choose the required conformance level when running the software and follow the instructions.

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