Accessible PDF Documents

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. 

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.

If you are unsure whether your PDF is an image or digital text, 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.