InDesign Chapter 1: Paragraph Styles for Headings

How do I use paragraph styles for accessible headings in Adobe InDesign?

 Instructions

InDesign has something called styles, which are like special instructions for how things should look in a document, kind of like the rules for how a webpage should look with CSS. These styles help keep the structure and meaning of the document separate from how it looks.

With InDesign styles, you can use one style for many parts of the document. This makes it easier to make sure everything looks the same throughout the document. If you want to change how something looks, like using a different font, you only need to change the style, and it will automatically update all the places where that style is used. You don't have to go and change each individual part of the document separately.

This is important when it comes to headings because they can be connected to special tags that help screen readers understand the structure of the document. Screen readers are tools that help people with visual impairments understand what's on a computer screen. So by using InDesign styles for headings, we can make sure that screen readers can interpret and read them correctly.

Section 1.1: Use Headings to Create an Outline

Using headings properly is crucial for making documents accessible. The headings help create a clear and organized structure for the content. If we only look at the headings without the rest of the document, they should give us a good summary of what the document is about and how it's organized.

Most documents have a main heading, called a level 1 heading, and usually a few subheadings called level 2 headings. Longer documents often have even more headings, or they should.

Section 1.2: Screen Reader Users Navigate Documents with Headings

Screen reader users can move through documents more easily by using the headings. They can jump from one heading to another, listening to the hierarchy of headings and getting a sense of the document's organization without reading every word. This makes it faster to find specific sections of interest.

The heading structure helps in understanding the document quickly and efficiently. Instead of reading the entire document, screen reader users can listen to the headings first to get a mental map of the content. It saves them a lot of time and allows them to focus on the parts that are most relevant to them.

Section 1.3: Headings can be Styled in Many Ways

If you're concerned that using headings will make your documents seem too plain or uninteresting, you don't need to worry. You have the freedom to style your headings in any way you like, including changing the font, color, size, and many other properties.

When you think about headings, try not to focus on how they look visually. Instead, think about the structure they provide to your document. Keep in mind that blind users who rely on screen readers won't be able to see the visual appearance. They will only hear the text and its structure. So, you can be creative with the visual design while ensuring that the heading structure remains clear and meaningful.

Section 1.4: Map the Headings to Heading Tags

Big bold text doesn't count as a real heading. A heading in InDesign isn't really a heading until it has been mapped to a heading tag.

Section 1.5: Creating Paragraph Styles and Mapping to Heading Tags

  1. In the top bar, click the Type Tab. In the dropdown menu, click Paragraph Styles.

    Type Tab in Adobe InDesign
  2. Create a new blank style by clicking the New Style icon in the bottom right corner. Double-click on the new style to open the Style Editor.

    Add New Style button in Adobe InDesign
  3. In the Style Editor, go to the General Category, type in a Style Name.

    Paragraph Style Options in the General Tab. Style Name is H1.
  4. Go to the Basic Character Formats Category. Modify the styles appearance in what ever way suits your needs. You can change the fonts, size, positions, margins, etc).

  5. Go to the Export Tagging category. Click the EPUB and HTML tag dropdown menu, and choose your tag. Choose the same tag in the PDF Tag dropdown menu. Click OK to exit the box.

  6. To apply the heading to the text, place the cursor on the text in the document. Select the heading level from the Paragraph Styles pane. The text will change to the new style.

The text before the new style was applied.

Text after the new style was applied.