Creating Accessible PDFs
It is important for faculty to learn the steps to create accessible PDF's. This ensures students with vision or reading impairments who rely on text-to-speech software have access to course readings. Software programs such as Adobe Acrobat/Professional, OmniPage, and ABBYY Fine Reader have Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capability to create an accessible PDF.
Free trials of most of these programs are available online.
Start by determining if your PDF is already accessible by following the 'Test the PDFs Accessibility' steps below.
Creating Accessible PDFs Using Adobe Acrobat
To create an accessible PDF format using Adobe Acrobat, open a scanned document in Adobe Acrobat.
- Click on the "Document'" pull-down menu > OCR Text Recognition > Recognize Text using OCR.
- Choose "All Pages." (Options are given to recognize only the Current Page or a group of pages if preferred.)
- Choose "Primary OCR Language: English (US)" < click "O.K".
You now have a document that looks identical to the original scan, but can now be read aloud by text-to-speech software.
Test the PDFs Accessibility
Follow these steps in Adobe Reader (a free download) or Adobe Acrobat to hear the text read aloud.
- Click on the 'View' pull-down menu > Read Out Loud > Activate Read Out Loud
- Again click 'View' pull-down menu > Read Out Loud > Read This Page Only.
If the document reads aloud, but the text is read out of order, adding "tags" to the document may help.
In Adobe Acrobat, choose "Advanced" > Accessibility > Add Tags to Document. (This command adequately tags most standard layouts so text-to-speech software reads the PDF in the correct order, but it cannot always correctly interpret the structure and reading order of complex page elements.)
Tips to Remember
- Adobe Acrobat/ Professional is capable of converting many different types of files into an accessible PDF. If you have a document scanned as a GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, or Microsoft Office file, any of these can be made accessible for your students.
- Keep in mind that if the original scan is blurry, the OCR programs will not be able to decipher the words and the document cannot be read aloud.
- Some, though not all, PDFs downloaded from online databases, journals, or publishers may already be in an accessible format.
- Test the file by following the steps above – you may not have to run an OCR scan.