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Portable document format (PDF) is one of the most common file formats for documents on the web. Unfortunately, they are also some of the most difficult for screen reader users to access. Follow the instructions below to create, test, and fix PDFs.
If you are creating a document from scratch, use MS Word (or PowerPoint for a slide deck). Then follow the instructions below.
Is there an Acrobat tab on your MS Word or PowerPoint toolbar?
Before you begin, make sure you have Acrobat tab for the Adobe Acrobat PDF maker. If not, acquire or upgrade to Adobe Acrobat DC or 2017 (not Acrobat Reader or Acrobat Standard) and to (at least) Microsoft Office 2016.
How to acquire or upgrade this software:
When your MS Word or PowerPoint document is ready, use the Acrobat PDF maker to create a PDF. Make sure to select the Acrobat tab, then "Create PDF." (Do not use "Print to PDF" or "Save As" PDF to create PDFs because they strip the hidden tags and alt text you added and will make the document inaccessible.)
Make sure you are using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC or 2017 (not Acrobat Reader or Acrobat Standard).
The easiest way to fix an inaccessible text-based PDF is to make the corrections in MS Office or PowerPoint.
Note: If you don't have access to the original Word or PowerPoint document, export the PDF as a Word or PowerPoint file:
For more complex documents, refer to:
If you're working with a scanned image of text, you will need to either (i) acquire a text-based version or (ii) convert the scanned image into actual text.
If your PDF is of a journal article, search for the article using Library One Search and download the full-text PDF. These PDFs are often text-based, which are easier to make fully accessible than image-based PDFs. Next, follow the instructions in step #2 (above), "Check if existing PDFs are accessible."
If you only have access to the scanned image-based PDF, use the OCR software in Acrobat to convert the scanned document to a text-based document.
- Open a PDF file containing a scanned image in Acrobat.
- Click on the Edit PDF tool in the right pane. Acrobat automatically applies optical character recognition (OCR) to your document and converts it to a fully editable copy of your PDF.
- Click the text element you wish to edit and start typing. New text matches the look of the original fonts in your scanned image.
- Choose File > Save As and save as an MS Word document.
Good PDF repair firms include CommonLook, Equidox and SensusAccess. Typically, remediation of regular PDFs ranges from $8-$15 per page depending on their complexity. PDF forms and scanned pages can be as much as $50 to $100 or more per page, depending on their quality and how extensive they are.
Lynda.com's "Creating Accessible PDFs" is an in-depth and current course that's worth the time for anyone who works often with PDFs. All ASU faculty and staff have access to Lynda.com.
Sign in to lynda.com: