Inaccessible vs. Accessible PDFs: Making All PDFs Accessible!

During this crazy time of school closures and virtual instruction, educators are scrambling to find digital resources. Often general education teachers are converting their print materials to digital materials by taking a picture or by scanning the document. Many of the educational resources available online are also inaccessible. How can students with visual impairments access these documents?

In Jessica's first post, she shares how general education teachers can create higher quality documents by scanning the document vs. taking a photo of the document. High quality is critical, especially for students who will need to enlarge the document in order to see it. See the Creating Higher Quality Materials for Remote Learning post here. Note: The scanned document created in this manner is NOT accessible with a screen reader.

Inaccessible vs. Accessible PDFs

Why are some PDFs accessible while others are not? It depends on how the PDF was created. PDFs that are created as a Word document then saved as a .pdf have text that is typically accessible with a screen reader. If the PDF was created by scanning or taking a picture of a document (which creates images) and then the image is saved as a PDF; this method of creating digital PDFs is not accessible with screen reader. However, there are ways to convert these inaccessible PDFs to an accessible PDF. The first two videos demonstrate two different apps that can scan and read aloud the scanned document. Note: The Claro PDF provides an additional feature that allows the student to annotate directly on the document.

Voice Dream Reader/Voice Dream Scanner

Voice Dream Reader is an app designed to read the text aloud for users who are print disabled, including users who are visually impaired or blind. When the two apps are paired together,  the previously inaccessible PDF is converted by Voice Dream Scanner and read aloud by Voice Dream Reader.

In the video below, Jessica demonstrates two PDFs: one is accessible and one is not. She then demonstrates how to convert the inaccessible document to an accessible version using Voice Dream Reader and Voice Dream Scanner. In the video, the inaccessible PDF is shared in Google Drive and opened on an iPad in Voice Dream Reader.

Claro PDF Converting a PDF Document

Claro PDF is similar in that the inaccessible PDF is opened in Claro PDF, scanned and then uses text to speech to read the document aloud. With Claro PDF, the student can also annotate on the document. In the video below, Jessica demonstrates using Claro PDF.


Claro PDF Converting a Photo

What if the document is an inaccessible image (photo) of a print worksheet? Jessica continues by sharing how to make an image (.jpg file) of text into an accessible document using Claro PDF. In this scenario, Jessica recommends opening the Claro PDF app, select the Download From Cloud button, select the desired cloud service (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.) and import the desired .jpg file. Claro PDF converts the image to an accessible version that uses text-to-speech to read the text. Again, the student can zoom in and can annotate directly on the document.


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Posted by Kate Under GLASApr 20, 2020

Super helpful.  Thanks for another great video.  I really like both apps.  For students struggling to see print material or track across the page, I like that the text is highlighted as it is read.  Does either app allow you to change the color of the highlighted text?  

Posted by Jessica McDowellApr 21, 2020

Hi Kate,

Yes, Voice Dream Reader has extensive options. There are two ways to view in VDR. Plain Text (text only with font, size, spacing and many advanced visual settings) and Original Layout (retains formatting and images). In Plain Text mode, the highlighting can be customized for both the spoken word and spoken line. Also in Plain Text mode you can set preferences that apply to Light, Dark, and Custom presets so it is quick to toggle between those modes. Text and background color options apply to whole Plain Text document. In Original Layout mode you can adjust color of spoken word and spoken line. 

Claro PDF allows you to change page color but I don't see controls for highlight or text color. Those would be great features to discuss with developers.