LAST UPDATED: January 1, 2000

Accessibility Instructions

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) is an open de facto standard for electronic document distribution worldwide. Adobe PDF is a universal file format that preserves all of the fonts, formatting, colors, and graphics of any source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it. Adobe PDF files are compact and can be shared, viewed, navigated, and printed exactly as intended by anyone, anywhere with the free Adobe Acrobat® Reader software. You can convert any document to Adobe PDF, even scanned paper, using Adobe Acrobat 4.0 software.

When information is in electronic form, it is not always easily accessible to persons with low visual acuity or blindness, hearing impairment, motion impairment, and other disabilities. Because Adobe PDF can represent documents that are graphically rich or that may have complex layouts, making the content in Adobe PDF files accessible to users with visual disabilities can be challenging.

Current Solutions

Adobe Systems Incorporated currently provides two solutions that help make information in Adobe® PDF files accessible to the visually disabled. These solutions convert Adobe PDF files into a format that can be read by screen readers. Screen reader programs allow the visually disabled to interact with their computer by interpreting what is happening on the display and outputting that information to speech synthesis or refreshable Braille output devices.

The first solution is a free, Web-based service at http://access.adobe.com. Through access.adobe.com, any PDF document on the Internet can be converted into HTML or text. Because the service converts PDF files into formats that can be represented by ASCII text, access.adobe.com works best on documents in English. Documents in European languages, such as French or German, should convert fairly well with the exception of symbols that cannot be represent by ASCII text, such as umlauts. Languages requiring double-byte characters, such as Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew and Russian, are not supported.

Adobe Acrobat Access 4.0 for Microsoft Windows software is an alternative solution for reading PDF files. This free, English-language plug-in for Adobe Acrobat software provides accessibility through cooperation with Windows screen reading programs. The Acrobat Access plug-in converts PDF files on a user's local system into plain text, which can then be read by screen reading programs.

Like access.adobe.com, the Acrobat Access plug-in extracts the text of a document in approximate reading order and in a single column, making it easier for screen readers to follow the flow of the document. It can also preserve navigational elements, such as hypertext links and bookmarks. Acrobat Access 4.0 is available now and can be downloaded for free from the Adobe web site, http://access.adobe.com/tools.html

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