[Athen] Editing PDFs with a Screen Reader

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Thu Sep 6 10:34:24 PDT 2018

This is a really great explanation of why PDF remediation with a screen reader is not an accessible process. Clearly written!

I would add that OmniPage is reasonably accessible, and it for me does better OCR than Adobe Pro produces with automatic settings.

When I get a publisher PDF, even if it seems to read out loud OK, I run it through OmniPage and make a few changes in its mostly accessible editor. If the student wants the book right away I tell them they can have the unaltered PDF and to email me what remediations they truly need. This saves me a lot of work, because only some students need some remediations.

Another solution if your student wants to see and hear the book is to give them the unaltered PDF and a word document with the entire text that you’ve cleaned up some with an accessible program like K1000. Changing the reading order in K1000 is of course perfectly accessible.

Another feature I love in K1000 is its ranked spelling which lets me clean up the worst errors quickly. Instead of presenting spelling errors in chronological order, it presents them in frequency of occurrence order. So I can zap 97% of the errors in five minutes.
Both K1000 and OmniPage have accessible ways of moving pages around or knowing what page you are on.

It’s too bad nobody has made a modern Optacon. When I dropped an unbound book on the floor and got some pages out of order, and I was the only one in the office, I was glad I could still sort of use mine!


From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of Karlen Communications
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2018 6:35 AM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network' <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Editing PDFs with a Screen Reader

Screen readers and Text-to-Speech tools are always in ”virtual view” of HTML and PDF documents. This means that the adaptive technology is reading from the buffer not the text layer of the document, In PDF, this is the Tags Tree. It is the reason we can’t add notes or other comments to PDF documents – where we think we are in the document is not where we are, it is where we are in the buffer. It is also why we can’t follow notes or comments in PDF documents. For us, there is no connection between the note or comment and the “text on the page.”

While we can go down the Tags Tree, open the tags and review some of the content/that is showing, we can’t tell if content has been missed or tagged correctly based on what is on the visual representation of the page we are working from.

You do need eyesight to fully remediate PDF documents.

Cheers, Karen

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu>> On Behalf Of Robert Spangler
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2018 9:05 AM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list at u.washington.edu>>
Subject: [Athen] Editing PDFs with a Screen Reader


I am in charge of our alternative formats program. As a screen reader user, I do not find Adobe Acrobat Pro or Abbyy Finereader to be the most accessible. I find them laggy, they sometimes freeze and I have not found a way to edit PDFs directly.

Is this possible for blind folks to do with a screen reader? Ultimately, I need to be able to remediate PDFs. I would like to do tagging, edit the text, do chapter breaks, etc. I know I can do chapter breaks especially if there are bookmarks in the PDF, but I find this difficult to do, to determine the page numbers easily, if there are not bookmarks.

Normally, we have student workers who handle the editing and I just do the administrative stuff, such as sending out the texts. We have summer classes, though, when the student workers are not here, so this task ultimately falls to me!

I would love to hear from people, especially blind people, who are working with remediating PDFs. Is this possible? Are there accessibility problems with these programs? Admittedly, I've just accepted that most PDFs are not always edited adequately and I deal with it, but I don't want to tell my students this. Haha. I usually run it through OCR and that's sufficient for me except for when the order of the reading is incorrect.

Looking forward to responses.


Robert Spangler
Disability Services Technical Support Specialist
rspangler1 at udayton.edu<mailto:rspangler1 at udayton.edu>
Office of Learning Resources (OLR) - RL 023
Ryan C. Harris Learning & Teaching Center (LTC)
University of Dayton | 300 College Park | Dayton, Ohio 45469-1302
Phone: 937-229-2066
Fax: 937-229-3270
Ohio Relay: 711 (available for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing)
Web Site: http://go.udayton.edu/learning<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__go.udayton.edu_learning&d=DwMFaQ&c=WORo6LNFtQOb4SPVta8Jsg&r=K_2Yg4I05GGnHlSOevlp3QeE5-JEqtmoUnmP0YVj9ZM&m=NS6Bk8hB7g4EqHf06xQXAt98sM4ynBrgA6aH6fAFYcY&s=SE2K9eRPMfVmyX0gQLSHzF-X3TtwOEZzPIu29qov2Ro&e=>
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