PDF remediation and accessibility

February 10, 2022

PDFs are often used to deliver complex and/or large documents; however, they lack built-in accessibility features. Using PDFs for delivering accessible content is where the term PDF remediation comes into play. Remediating a PDF means creating or extracting an accessible version of this document through manual and automated processes. The result of the remediation process is a web-based version that can be used by people with disabilities. The following section provides an overview of the automated and manual processes available for PDF remediation to provide digital accessibility.

automationAutomated processes

Omeka Outliner is a Firefox add-on that allows you to select text in a PDF and convert it into HTML, which can then be copied and pasted into an article on your website. This tool is useful to extract articles, copy the text and paste it into an online portal or CMS.

Kvisoft PDFtoHTML5 converts PDF files to HTML5 content. It has the ability to create marked-up text with descriptive tags for images, table, etc., while preserving the structure of your original PDF document. The tool also allows recording changes to the original PDF file by directly editing HTML5 code. This tool is useful to quickly create an accessible version of your PDF document.

Similarly, Kvisoft JPGtoPDF turns images into a fully formatted and searchable PDF. It supports white background removal, image extraction and page layout adjustment for creating accessible PDFs.

Using the command line interface (CLI) in any version of Acrobat or Reader enables you to extract text from a PDF as an XML file, which can then be copied and pasted into your website. In addition, this method enables you to create a searchable version of the document that can automatically generate a new PDF file with the added accessibility features.

There are tools that allow users to access existing HTML content on a web page without requiring any changes to the existing site. These tools are called screen readers and come in different versions depending on the disability of the person who needs them, e.g., with or without vision impairment or blindness. For example, users with visual disabilities use a browser extension called Browse Aloud to turn any web page into audio content.

automation 1Manual Processes

A screen-reader user has the ability to listen to all content on a web page by pressing the tab key in their browser. This way they can navigate through the page, reading it line by line without necessarily seeing what they are doing. This method is useful to identify all content on a web page that needs to be included in the remediated version. Once you have identified all web content on a web page, use the browser’s copy function to save it as HTML so that it can be easily pasted into your newly created accessible article. This process can be used to extract all text on a web page, copy it and paste it into the remediated version.

The manual process of adding tags is not limited to screen readers or JAWS for Windows but can also be done using most standard browsers which have accessibility features enabled by default. These features include support for most keyboard commands, the ability to adjust font size and magnification tools, among others. The accessibility features in browsers can be used to turn any web page into a radio for a screen reader or a magnifying glass to increase the text size.

The Opera browser has its own version of JAWS for Windows called Accessible Extranet, which allows users to login and access most parts of a web page.

For example, if there is a section on your website that only authenticated users can see, with the proper permissions you can open it in Accessible Extranet and read it using screen reader features such as text-to-speech. This method has been successfully used to create accessible versions of PDFs which are not accessible when viewed in an Adobe product. This tool is available at no charge and can be downloaded from its website.

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