Making PDF Documents Accessible

Last updated: May 23, 2024

Recognizing Inaccessible PDFs

  • While viewing the PDF document, use the mouse to click and drag to select text. In an accessible document, you can select all the text and copy-paste it to other documents. If clicking a piece of text instead highlights the entire page, that page is inaccessible. Run OCR on the document as described below.
  • When saving or managing security settings for the document, make sure the PDF is not protected. Protected PDFs cannot be formatted for accessibility.

Do-It-Yourself OCR

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software can scan an image PDF into a PDF with selectable text. Adobe Acrobat Pro, available on many computers campus-wide, can be used for OCR.

  1. StepsActions
  2. Scan document to PDF with Adobe Reader, or click “File,” then “Open” to open an existing document in Acrobat.
  3. Click “Document,” then “OCR Text Recognition” and follow the prompts.
  4. When OCR finishes, click “File,” then “Save As” to save your accessible document.

Alternately, you can use FineReader to run OCR on documents.


Below are more resources on PDF accessibility and conversion.