PDF Files in Adobe Reader with JAWS and MAGic

Often we receive questions from customers as to why one particular PDF (Portable Document Format) file or another does not read well with JAWS® screen reading software or MAGic® screen magnification software. There can be many reasons for this. Did you know you can do some basic investigation of the PDF file on your own to determine some of these reasons? In this article we'll show you how to check a PDF file for basic accessibility and readability.

Versions of Adobe Reader

The most recent version of Adobe® Reader® at the time of this writing is version 10 (or Adobe X). If you do not have this version you can download Adobe Reader from the Adobe® Web site. If you already have Adobe Reader installed, go to the Help menu in Adobe Reader and choose Check for Updates.

The Accessibility Setup Assistant

When you first start Adobe Reader and JAWS or MAGic are running, an Accessibility Setup Assistant dialog box opens and walks you through some simple steps to optimize Adobe Reader for your adaptive software. If you miss this dialog box the first time you start Adobe Reader you can open it at any time from the Edit menu, Accessibility submenu.

Initial Page of the Accessibility Setup Assistant

In this initial dialog box there is a group of three radio buttons and an optional button to "Use recommended settings and skip setup." Pressing the optional button will bypass any other dialog boxes and apply the recommended settings for whichever radio button you choose. The three radio button choices are:

If you want to have the ability to pick and choose from among the options for any of the given radio buttons then press SPACEBAR on the "Next" button and not on the "Use Recommended Settings" button. The individual choices include the following:

Second Page of the Accessibility Setup Assistant

Third Page of the Accessibility Setup Assistant

Fourth Page of the Accessibility Setup Assistant

The first group of three radio buttons has the following choices:

When the third radio button is selected (the default) an edit box is available when you press TAB to move to the next control. The default is 50 pages but this can be changed.

NOTE: Even though it may take a few seconds longer to open larger documents, this is needed if you intend to search through the entire document for information. Therefore, you may want to change this to the option that reads "Read the entire document at once."

Final Page of the Accessibility Setup Assistant

NOTE: All of the options found in the Accessibility Setup Assistant are also found individually in the Adobe Reader Preferences dialog box. You can access the Preferences dialog box from the Edit menu or by pressing CTRL+K.

Tags in PDF Files

In 2001, Adobe enhanced the PDF specification to allow the creation of “tagged” PDF files in Adobe® Acrobat® software. Tagging a PDF file improves the accessibility of the document, indicating the reading order and improving navigation, particularly for longer, more complex documents. It is also possible to add alternate text descriptions (ALT attribute) to graphics appearing in tagged PDF documents and more.

Reading Untagged Documents

With Adobe Reader when you open a PDF document that is not tagged, a dialog box appears, asking if you want it to add tags to the document. When this happens you are given the ability to choose from different reading orders and reading modes. Press ENTER to accept the default settings when you encounter this dialog box.

Accessibility Quick Check for PDF Files

To do a quick check of a document's accessibility, go to the Edit menu, Accessibility submenu, and then choose Quick Check. A dialog box opens giving you a summary of how the document is set up. For an untagged document, you may get something like the following:

Accessibility Quick Check
Accessibility Quick Check is complete:
This document is not structured so the reading order may not be correct. Try different reading orders using the Reading Preferences panel.

Scanned Images as PDF

In some cases you may open a PDF document that has been scanned and converted to PDF without any optical character recognition. Text may appear in the document visually, but it is only a scanned image and is not seen as text by the computer. When you run the Accessibility Quick Check on such a document you will receive a message something like the following:

Accessibility Quick Check
This document appears to contain no text. It may be a scanned image.

If that happens, you can try to contact the author and ask them to convert it to text format. Alternatively, if you own a product that converts scanned images or PDF documents to text, such as OpenBook™ scanning and reading software (another Freedom Scientific product), you can try that.

Document Properties

In the File menu there is a choice called Properties. You can also open the Properties dialog box by pressing CTRL+D. In this dialog box there is static text on the Description page that gives information such as PDF Producer, PDF Version, and whether the document is Tagged PDF or not. On the Security page of this dialog you find such things as whether Content Extraction for Accessibility is allowed, as well as if printing, copying, and other things are allowed.

PDF Forms with JAWS or MAGic

JAWS and MAGic use the virtual cursor when reading PDF documents, just as they do when reading Web pages or HTML documents. When you encounter a PDF form, press the TAB key to move from field to field. JAWS 10 and later and MAGic 11 and later automatically go into forms mode so you can type in the edit boxes. You may also press INSERT+F5 to open a JAWS list of form controls to review the form or move to different parts of the form. To get out of Forms Mode, press the NUM PAD PLUS key when using JAWS. MAGic users can get out of Forms Mode the same way, or by clicking outside the form fields with the mouse.

Contact us at training_info at FreedomScientific.com

JAWS® and MAGic® are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Freedom Scientific, Inc in the United States and/or other countries.
Adobe®, Acrobat®, and Adobe® Reader® are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.
Last updated 2011-06-01