The Portable Document Format (PDF) developed by Adobe can be easier to read if it has the right tags for graphics and a structured layout as well as reading areas that flow in a way that makes sense when they are read with a screen reader or text to speech. Sadly there are times when PDFs are totally inaccessible so a work around is required.
- Download the latest version of Adobe Reader. Having loaded a document, use the Adobe Reader Accessibility Features to make sure it can be read aloud or changed in appearance.
- Use the Accessibility Setup Assistant (Document menu). This allows for some high contrast colour changes, preferences for reading order and zoom etc.
- More changes required – Preferences (Edit menu) offers more options especially for colour, speed of reading and a choice of voice for Read Out Loud– see below. However, fonts still cannot be changed so if the file menu allows, save the document as text and view in your chosen word processor.
- The Read Out Loud feature(View menu) of Adobe Reader will allow for all accessible text to be read. It does not highlight text read in the way Texthelp PDF Aloud helps, but the latest version allows for paragraph reading.
- Try converting it before scanning if it is not accessible. Google may offer an HTML version if you have used their search engine. SensusAccess offers a free e-mail conversion service.
- TextHelp Read and Write has Screenshot Reader for reading small sections of text displayed in picture format – You may need to magnify the text before capturing it.
- Large areas of inaccessible text to speech – scanning and using Optical Character Recognition may be the only option but the layout tends to change unless you are using a specialist program such as Kurzweil 3000. TextHelp Read and Write Gold and ClaroRead Plus also offer scanning – once saved as text or HTML, the document can be read with a screen reader or text to speech program. See Resources below.
- Adobe Accessibility Training Resources – reading and creating accessible PDF documents – a set of animated tutorials that are easy to follow.
- Add the ‘Save as PDF’ feature for Microsoft Word 2007
- Texthelp Read and Write Gold with Screenshot Reader plus scanning with OCR for text to speech.
- ClaroRead Plus 2008 with Accessible PDF Reader for conversion into web page layout plus scanning and OCR for text to speech.
- Papers – a Mac application for sorting and storing PDFs automatically saved on Mac systems. This was a free program, now it is £19.50 but students still have a 40% discount.