So your favourite store just sent you a flyer via email. You're excited because you assume that it'll read just fine. Oh look, are those pigs flying? Oh, no it's superman. Putting all jocularity aside, there will be instances in your lifetime where a PDF document may be unreadable to you. This is usually due to the fact that the PDF is simply composed of images instead of actual text. There are a couple of ways around this and we'll be visiting them today.
Pass them through OCR:
Pass them where? OCR. It stands for Optical Character Recognition. Most scanning programs these days have a virtual printer device which you can utilize to get your inaccessible PDF to be scanned and recognized. What does this mean? Read on.
Getting your PDF scanned:
As I'm dealing with accessible topics here, we'll talk about the most popular accessibility scanning products; Kurzweil 1000 and Open Book. Both Kurzweil and Openbook products install a virtual printer device which you can send files to. In essence this particular printer driver takes the PDF file and prints it to a temporary document. Then Kurzweil and/or Openbook launches, scans the document and then finally, recognizes all possible text within that document. With any do-it-yourself solution there can be caveats. For example, the PDF file might be protected. If it is, this process will not work, unless you know the password, of course. Furthermore, like any scan, the recognized result may have errors or omissions due to poor image quality. Barring all of that, it's a useful weapon within my armory of accessible workarounds.
From within Adobe Reader, while you have the document opened, press CONTROL+P. This will bring up the Print options page.
The list of printers will be displayed. Use the UP and DOWN ARROWS to choose the correct printer driver. For Openbook, the printer driver is called "Freedom Import Printer. For Kurzweil 1000, it's called Kesi Virtual Printer. Press ENTER and the process will begin. If you're lucky you'll get a somewhat error free scanned document.
Advocating for yourself:
You've most likely heard the saying "The Squeaky wheel gets the grease"? Hmm, hopefully I got that one right. At any rate, it's important to let companies know that their documents may not be accessible. Most of them are quite pleased to convert their document for you. Or better yet, change the way they do thing so that all of their documentation and web sites are accessible to all. Find their "contact us" page and send them a quick email, or better yet, give them a call.
PDF documents can be composed of scanned images, which are inaccessible to screen readers.
Kurzweil 1000 and Openbook can scan and recognize these documents via their virtual printers, as long as the documents are not protected.
Alternatively, you can approach the author of the PDF document to see if they can provide an accessible document instead.
PDF documents can be accessible when they are created correctly. For more information on this, see our course page at:
There are also online document scanning services that may be of use. Read their "FAQ" page or their "About" page to find out their limitations.
Check out these links:
ABBYY FineReader Online: convert images to text online: http://finereader.abbyyonline.com/en
Free Online OCR: http://www.free-online-ocr.com/