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Making Print and Scanned Documents Accessible with Adobe Acrobat

This document provides steps for making print and scanned documents accessible for users that rely on screen readers and other assistive technologies.

Getting Started

Adobe Acrobat can be used to make documents more accessible so that people who use assistive technologies, like text-to-speech readers, can engage with the content of the document. Text-to-speech tools need to use the information "embedded" within a digital document to fully describe the content to the user. Materials like paper handouts, scans from textbooks, photos of text, and hand-written documents are not accessible for users that rely on screen readers unless additional measures are taken. To make these types of documents accessible:
  • Scan the material to generate a PDF.
  • OCR (Optical Character Recognition) scan the PDF to convert the text into machine-encoded text.
  • Add metadata to the document so that an application can "read" the title of the document.
  • Add alternative text to images, figures, graphs, maps, charts, and other visual material in the document.

Scanning the Document

1. If the document is printed media, first scan the document and save it as a PDF. When you scan the pages, make sure they are straight on the scanning bed and keep the material as still as possible.

Making the Document Accessible

2. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat.

3. OCR scan the document. OCR scanning will straighten the image and identify text.

3a. In the tools panel on the right side of the screen, click Scan & OCR. The Scan & OCR menu should now appear at the top of the document.

screenshot of acrobat ocr button

3b. Click on the Recognize Text tab in "Scan & OCR" menu at the top. In the dropdown menu, click on In This File.

screenshot of recognize text in this file button

Note: If you need to OCR scan multiple files, you can scan them all at once by selecting Multiple Files from the dropdown menu instead. Click the Add Files button in the pop-up window, select any additional files you would like to OCR scan, then click OK. In the next pop-up window, select a folder location and file naming scheme (if desired) then click OK again. Finally, select “Editable Text and Images” for the Output and click OK. Proceed to step 4, making sure to re-add all your files with the “Add Files” button when you get to the “Make Accessible” menu in step 4c.

3c. Click on the blue Recognize Text button that appears underneath the "Scan & OCR" toolbar. Adobe Acrobat will start identifying the text in your document. This part might take a few minutes as it scans all of your pages.

screenshot of recognize text in this file

3d. A progress bar will appear, and will show that it is "Converting scanned page to Searchable Image Exact." Once the progress bar has disappeared, proceed to step 4.

screenshot of progress bar

4. Make the OCR-scanned text accessible.

4a. In tools panel on the right side, click Action Wizard. If you don't see this option, click "More Tools" at the bottom of the tools panel and then locate the "Action Wizard" option from all tools.

Screenshot of Acrobat Make Accessible feature

4b. In the "Actions List" menu on the right side of the screen, click on Make Accessible.

screenshot of actions list in acrobat

4c. This will open the "Make Accessible" tab. Click the blue Start button.

screenshot of clicking the start button

4d. A pop-up menu will open. Under the "Title" section, uncheck the box that says "Leave As Is." Give the document a proper name in the "Title" field.

general settings screenshot in acrobat

4e. Click OK.

5. Fill in the General Settings. 

5a. For "Output," select "Editable Text and Images" from the dropdown menu.

select the output screenshot in acrobat

5b. Click OK. Adobe is now recognizing text. This might take a few minutes. 

6. A box will appear that asks "If this document is intended to be used as a fillable form?". If it is a fillable form, click Yes. If it isn't, click No.

screenshot from acrobat asking if this document is a fillable form

7. Set the Reading Language. From the drop down list, select the primary language in the document, then click OK.

screenshot from acrobat asking for user to select language
8. Add alt text to figures and images.

8a. Another box will pop up alerting your that Adobe will detect figures. Click OK.

screenshot asking user to add alternative text to images

8b. If Adobe identifies figures without alt text, either provide alternative text in the text box or check the "decorative figure" box, then click Next.

8c. Continue until all images have alt text or are marked as decorative, then click Save & Close.

9. The Accessibility Checker Options pop-up menu will open. Click the Start Checking button.

screenshot of accessibility report within acrobat

10. The Accessibility Checker tab will open on the left side of the page. Review any flagged accessibility issues and address them if necessary. To learn more about the Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Checker, please see this Adobe guide.

11. Save your document. Now your document has text that can be identified by a text-to-speech reader, a machine-readable title, and figures with alt text.

Keywords:accommodations, SAS, OCR, scanner, optical character recognition, highlight text, reader, text to speech, kurzweil, assistive, accessibility, screenreader, PDF   Doc ID:114734
Owner:Kate F.Group:UW Green Bay
Created:2021-11-08 15:03 CSTUpdated:2021-11-11 16:27 CST
Sites:UW Green Bay
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