What is the different between a PDF and an accessible PDF?

Uploading PDF (Portable Document Format) files can be a good way to deliver content to your students in a way that is usable for most students on most computers and mobile devices, without any special software. While the formatting of PDFs is designed to be more universally usable, they do present some problems for screen-reader devices if not properly formatted.


The most significant issue is with PDFs that are saved as image versions of a document. This can be the result of scanning a book page or document that results in an image, not as digital text. Such images of documents are not accessible to screen-reader devices, and their visual quality and printability can be very low as well. 


How do I know if a PDF is accessible?

The simplest way to check is a PDF document is accessible, try to click and drag to select words.  If you can select the text, then the PDF will be readable and searchable by screen-reader technologies. If you cannot select anything, then the PDF is most likely an image and will need to be converted to digital text before it will be accessible.


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How do I create an accessible PDF?

If you are scanning a paper document for conversion to PDF, make sure the scanner’s OCR (Optical Character Recognition) feature is selected. This will convert the image of words and numbers into digital text that will be more accessible.


Is there any easy way to convert a file to an accessible PDF?

Below are two free options (with limitations) for converting files to an accessible PDF.  Both options work the same way. There are other options available by searching the internet.




  1. Upload, drop, Enter URL, etc. in the Choose File area.
  2. Once the file has been uploaded, click Start. It will begin processing the file into an accessible PDF.  Note:   the file can be in any PDF acceptable format.
  3. Once it is complete, the file will download to your device.
  4. You can check to see if the file is accessible by:
    • Try to select any of the text in the document
    • Ctrl + F (a Search box will appear) and search for any word in the document.