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Creating Accessible PDFs

Under state and federal disability law, online course materials such as Blackboard documents must be accessible. When professors scan articles (with publisher permission, of course), they should use software that applies Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to the document before it is posted to Blackboard. This allows the documents to be read aloud by text-to-speech software for individuals with vision or reading disabilities.

Programs such as Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Professional, OmniPage, and ABBYY Fine Reader have OCR capability. Free 30-day trials of programs such as Adobe Acrobat are available online, while the OmniPage program is included with campus PODS scanners. Departmental offices may also have these applications available.


Start by determining if your PDF is already accessible by following the 'Test the PDFs Accessibility' steps below.

Creating Accessible PDFs Using Adobe Acrobat

1. 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.

2. 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.)

3. 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.

Batch Processing- Creating Accessible PDF's Using Adobe Acrobat X Professional

1. Create two folders

2. Open ADOBE Acrobat X Pro and open the first ADOBE PDF file of the 'batch' from Folder 1 from the ADBOE software program

3. Check Overwrite existing files (this will skip PDF's that already have OCR)

4. Click save

5. A window will prompt for you to name and describe the action.

6. An Action dialogue box will appear, which summarizes the options you chose and the information you previously provided

7. The batch process action will begin.

For more detailed instructions you can download a PDF of the instructions by clicking here (PDF, 479 KB).

Bartle Library Resources

There are two BookEye 4 scanners located in the Bartle Library in the Information Commons. The BookEye 4 Scanner is specifically designed to accommodate oversized and especially fragile materials as it scans from above. The scanners are capable of producing OCR PDFs and mp3 files of the original text. This high-speed scanner is capable of scans up to 17 x 24 inches and as small as a postage stamp. It scans in color or black & white and is four times faster than a desktop scanner. The library department's equipment, along with trained staff, allow for the creation of high-quality scans while even the most delicate materials are handled with the utmost attention and care.

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Last Updated: 6/20/14