Reading Accessible PDFs

This week’s tip, as promised, will focus on accessing PDFs with a screen readers and highlight settings that will help with document navigation.  Please note that this is a rather long tip, so you may want to navigate it by heading to get to the most relevant parts for you.

Review: Setting your Default Apps by File Type

A few weeks ago, the accessibility tip shared how to set your default app by file type with the example of making sure PDF files open in Adobe.  As a review, here are those steps:


Before you start, please make sure the file is saved on your computer.  

When Opening Adobe: The Reading Untagged Documents Dialogue

Often when a PDF is opened in Adobe while running JAWS, ZoomText, or another piece of assistive technology, Adobe will usually open a Reading Untagged Document with Assistive Technology dialogue box you can navigate through using the Tab Key.  This box will usually appear when Adobe detects any AT in use and if the document you are opening is untagged.  This means a specific reading order for the PDF was not identified when creating it. 


Below are the three areas of this dialogue, what the control element is, and what the setting should be for the document to be read successfully.  When finished, press Tab until you hear the button labeled “start” or “cancel” if you prefer to move forward without running the dialogue. 


Once you have selected the “start” button, a progress bar will open indicating the document is processing.  Unless the document is unusually long, it will take less than thirty seconds for that dialogue to close.

Reading Options

To manually change how Adobe handles documents, open Reading Options by pressing Control + Shift + 5 on the Number Row or find it in the menus using the following steps:

Accessibility Setup Assistant

You can run the Accessibility Setup Assistant anytime from the Edit Menu:

The First Panel

The first screen in the Setup Assistant Dialogue explains that this assistant will help you set up how Adobe interacts with assistive technology.  To read the text of the dialogue with your screen reader, press Insert + B.  If you are running NVDA, the screen reader will automatically read the introduction in the dialogue, but JAWS may need to be prompted to do so with Insert + B.  Use the Tab Key to navigate to each area. 


Also on the first panel screen, you can choose which assistive technology you’d like to set up with Adobe.  Though you can specify whether you are using a screen reader or magnification software, these instructions will go through the steps presented when you choose the third option, which is “Set All Accessibility Options”.  In this setting, there are five panels total.  Tab to the Next Button and select it to continue setting options manually. 


Note: There is a button labeled “Use Recommended Settings and Skip Setup” above the Next Button.  You may choose this option instead of manually setting each option.  If you find that your documents are not reading correctly, you may need to return to this area and manually set your options.  Again, to continue setting up options manually, press Tab until you hear the Next Button and activate it.

The Second Panel

Assuming you chose to set up all accessibility options as recommended, the second panel has the following options:

The Third Panel

The Fourth Panel

This screen shows three different options for how pages are presented

The Fifth Panel

The fifth and final panel has two checkboxes, both of which are checked by default. 


Key Takeaways and Helpful Key Commands


Accessing PDFs with Assistive Technology

o   Opens in your browser as a downloadable PDF

o   This is a thirty page guide to Adobe accessibility

PDF Accessibility Overview

o   Opens in your browser as a webpage

o   This resource is focused more on creating accessible PDFs rather than reading them with a screen reader

Accessibility Settings and Navigation of a PDF using Adobe 

o   Opens in your browser as a webpage

o   Contains useful information on navigation of the document from a screen reader user’s perspective

o   Provides guidance on downloading Adobe and additional information on the accessibility preferences outlined in this document.