A document or application is accessible if people with disabilities, such as mobility impairments, blindness, and low vision, can use it. Accessibility features in Acrobat Reader and PDF file format enable people with disabilities to use PDFs, with or without screen readers, magnifiers, and braille printers.

Making PDFs accessible tends to benefit all users. For example, the document structure that enables a screen reader to read a PDF out loud also enables a mobile device to reflow and display the document on a small screen. Similarly, the preset tab order of an accessible PDF form helps all users, not just users with mobility impairments, fill the form more easily.

Setting accessibility preferences

Acrobat Reader provides several preferences that make the reading of PDFs more accessible for visually impaired and motion-impaired users. These preferences control how PDFs appear on the screen and read by a screen reader.

Most preferences related to accessibility are available through the Accessibility Setup Assistant, which provides onscreen instructions for setting these preferences. Some preferences that affect accessibility aren’t available through the Accessibility Setup Assistant including preferences in the Reading, Forms, and Multimedia categories. You can set all preferences in the Preferences dialog box.

The names shown for some preferences in the Accessibility Setup Assistant are different from the names for the same preferences shown in the Preferences dialog box

Set accessibility preferences with the Accessibility Setup Assistant

  1. Start the Accessibility Setup Assistant by doing one of the following:

    • Choose Edit Accessibility Setup Assistant.
    • (Windows only) Start Acrobat Reader for the first time while a screen reader or screen magnifier is running.
  2. Choose the option that is appropriate for your assistive software and devices.
    The assistant presents only preferences that are appropriate for your assistive software and devices, according to the option that you choose.

  3. Follow the onscreen instructions. If you click Cancel at any point, Acrobat Reader uses default settings for the preferences that the assistant sets (not recommended).

Set accessibility preferences with the Preferences dialog box

To access the preferences dialog of Acrobat Reader, select Edit > Preferences.
Set preferences as appropriate for your assistive software and devices in various panels of the Preferences dialog box.

Accessibility preferences

Accessibility preferences in Accessibility panel

  • Replace Document Colors: Select this preference to choose from a list of contrasting color combinations for text and background, or you can create your own. 
  • Always Use Page Layout Style: Corresponds to the Override Page Layout Style option in theAccessibility Setup Assistant.
  • Always Use Zoom Setting: Corresponds to the Override Document Zoom option in the AccessibilitySetup Assistant.
  • Use Document Structure For Tab Order When No Explicit Tab Order Is Specified: Improves navigation of form fields and links in documents that don’t specify a tab order.
  • Always Display The Keyboard Selection Cursor: Select this option if you use a screen magnifier. This preference corresponds to Always Display The Keyboard Selection Cursor option in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.
  • Always Use The System Selection Color: When selected, the default selection color (blue) is overridden with a color that the system specifies.
  • Show Portfolios In Files Mode: When selected, shows PDF Portfolio component files and file details in a list. Files mode provides a better reading experience for people with disabilities, such as mobility impairments, blindness, and low vision.

Accessibility preferences in Documents panel

  • Automatically Save Document Changes To Temporary File Every: When deselected, this preference disables the auto-save action. Each time a PDF is saved, the screen reader or magnifier must reload the document. This preference corresponds to the Disable Document Auto-Save option in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.

Accessibility preferences in Forms panel

  • Fields Highlight Color and Required Fields Highlight Color: These preferences specify what colors are used to highlight fillable form fields. They correspond to the Field Highlight Color and Required Field Highlight Color options in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.
  • Auto-Complete: Enables Acrobat Reader to automatically offer to complete some entries in form fields so that filling form fields requires fewer keystrokes. This preference doesn’t correspond to an option in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.

Accessibility preferences in Multimedia panel

  • Show Subtitles When Available.
  • Play Dubbed Audio When Available.
  • Show Supplemental Text Captions When Available.
  • Show Audio Description (Or Video Description, Or Descriptive Video) When Available.

These preferences don’t correspond to any options in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.

Accessibility preferences in Page Display panel

  • Zoom: Sets the onscreen magnification of documents and allows low-vision readers to read reflowed PDFs more easily. This preference corresponds to the Override Document Zoom option in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.
  • Smooth Text: Controls anti-aliasing of text. To disable smoothing of text and make text sharper and easier to read with a screen magnifier, choose None. This preference corresponds to the Disable Text Smoothing option in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.

Accessibility preferences in Reading panel

  • Reading Order: Specifies the reading order of documents. The reading order preferences also appear in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.
  • Infer Reading Order From Document (Recommended): Interprets the reading order of untagged documents by using an advanced method of structure inference layout analysis.
  • Left-To-Right, Top-To-Bottom Reading Order: Delivers the text according to its placement on the page, reading from left to right and then top to bottom. This method is faster than Infer Reading Order From Document. This method analyzes text only; form fields are ignored and tables aren’t recognized as such.
  • Use Reading Order In Raw Print Stream: Delivers text in the order in which it was recorded in the print stream. This method is faster than Infer Reading Order From Document. This method analyzes text only; form fields are ignored and tables aren’t recognized as such.
  • Override The Reading Order In Tagged Documents: Uses the reading order specified in the Reading preferences instead what the tag structure of the document specifies. Use this preference only when you encounter problems in poorly tagged PDFs. This preference corresponds to the Override The Reading Order In Tagged Documents option in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.
  • Page vs Document: This preference determines how much of a document is delivered to a screen reader at a time.  If a PDF isn’t tagged, Reader analyzes the document and attempt to infer its structure and reading order. This process can take a long time for a long document. Set Reader to deliver only the currently visible page so that it analyzes only a small piece of the document at a time. This consideration varies depending on the size and complexity of the document and on the features of the screen reader. When Reader delivers information to a screen reader, screen magnifier, or other assistive software, it loads information into a memory buffer that is directly available to the assistive software. The amount of information that is delivered to the memory buffer can affect how long Reader takes to perform tasks, such as opening the document, advancing to the next page, changing views, and carrying out commands.
  • Only Read The Currently Visible Pages: This option is best when you use a screen magnifier. It improves performance by eliminating the need for the software to process parts of the document that aren’t visible. When Reader sends only the currently visible pages of a PDF to the memory buffer, the assistive technology has access to those pages only. It cannot go to another page until the next page is visible and Reader has sent the page information to the memory buffer. Therefore, if this option is selected, you must use the navigation features of Reader, to navigate from page to page in the document. Set the Default Page Layout option in preferences to Single Page if you choose to have Reader send only the currently visible pages to the assistive technology. Because Reader sends page information about all visible pages, the assistive technology receives information about pages that is only partially visible (such as the bottom of one page or the top of the next) and those pages that are visible. If you use a page display setting other than Single Page, such as Continuous, and then you display the next page, the technology will not correctly track which portion of a previous page it has already read aloud. For instructions on setting the default page layout to Single Page, see Preferences for viewing PDFs. This option corresponds to Only Read The Currently Visible Pages option in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.
  • Read The Entire Document: This option can be best if you use a screen reader that has its own navigation and search tools and that is more familiar to you than the tools in Acrobat.
  • For Large Documents, Only Read The Currently Visible Pages: This option is selected by default and is best if you use a screen reader with long or complex PDFs. It allows Acrobat to deliver an entire small document but revert to page-by-page delivery for large documents. This preference corresponds to For Large Documents, Only Read The Currently Visible Pages option in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.
  • Confirm Before Tagging Documents: When selected, lets the user confirm the options that are used before Acrobat prepares an untagged document for reading. Tagging can be a time-consuming procedure, especially for larger documents. This preference corresponds to Confirm Before Tagging Documents option in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.
  • Read Out Loud Options: Set preferences into control volume, speed, and pitch of the voice used for Read Out Loud. You can choose to use the default voice or any of the voices that your operating system provides. You can also use the up and down arrows to read blocks of text. These preferences do not have corresponding options in the Accessibility Setup Assistant.

Keyboard shortcuts to mouse actions

Acrobat Reader DC and Acrobat DC have the same keyboard shortcuts. To view the full list, see keyboard shortcuts in Acrobat DC Help.

Use a screen reader or magnifier

Use the Accessibility Setup Assistant to set up Acrobat Reader DC for either a screen magnifier or a screen reader.

  • Choose Edit > Accessibility > Setup Assistant, and then select the options you want from each screen of the Setup Assistant.

Use the Read Out Loud Text-to-Speech tool

Read Out Loud is a Text-to-Speech (TTS) tool that is built in Acrobat Reader DC. The Read Out Loud feature reads aloud the text in a PDF, including the text in comments and alternate text descriptions for images and fillable fields. In tagged PDFs, content is read in the order in which it appears in the document’s logical structure tree. In untagged documents, the reading order is inferred, unless a reading order has been specified in the Reading preferences.

Read Out Loud uses the available voices installed on your system. If you have SAPI 4 or SAPI 5 voices installed from text-to-speech or language applications, you can choose them to read your PDFs. 

To use Read Out Loud, you need Acrobat Reader DC and a Text-to-Speech engine installed on your system. Acrobat Reader must have a voice selected that you have installed. Also, the document must be accessible, otherwise it is not read at all or it is read in the wrong order.

To verify your settings in Acrobat Reader:

  1. Go to the Preferences dialog box of Acrobat Reader by selecting Edit Preferences.

  2. In the left pane, select Reading.

  3. In the right pane, deselect the Use Default Voice and select a voice from the drop-down list that you have verified installed on your computer.

  4. Click OK.

Note:

Read Out Loud isn’t a screen reader, and some operating systems don’t support it.

Activate or deactivate Read Out Loud

Activate Read Out Loud to use it. You can deactivate Read Out Loud to free system resources and improve the performance of other operations.

Do one of the following:

  • Choose View > Read Out Loud > Activate Read Out Loud.
  • Choose View > Read Out Loud > Deactivate ReadOut Loud.

Read PDF form fields out loud

  1. In the Reading panel of the Preferences dialog box, select Read Form Fields in the Read Out Loud Options section.
  2. In the PDF form, press Tab to select the first form field.
  3. Make entries and selections as needed, and then press Tab to move to the next field, repeating this step until the form is completed. Acrobat reads the state of selected check boxes and radio buttons.

    Note:

    Read Out Loud does not echo your keystrokes. To hear what you have typed, use a screen reader.

Reflow text in a PDF

You can reflow a PDF to temporarily present it as a single column that is the width of the document pane. This reflow view makes the document easier to read on a mobile device or magnified on a standard monitor, without scrolling horizontally to read the text.

  • To reflow text, choose View > Zoom > Reflow.

Usually, only readable text appears in the reflow view. Text that does not reflow includes forms, comments, digital signature fields, and page artifacts, such as page numbers, headers, and footers. Pages that contain both readable text and form or digital signature fields do not reflow. Vertical text reflows horizontally.

Note:

You cannot save, edit, or print a document while it is in Reflow view.

About operating system accessibility tools

Accessibility tools in Windows OS

Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7 operating systems have built-in tools that provide increased or alternate access to information on a computer screen. The narrator is a light version of a screen reader. Magnifier is a screen magnification tool.

Getting started with the narrator in Windows 10.

Setting speech option in Windows 7.

For more information to set the Text-To-Speech settings in Windows operating systems, see the Microsoft accessibility website.

 

 

Accessibility tools in Macintosh

Mac OS X has built-in tools that provide increased or alternate access to information on the computer screen.
For more information on the accessibility tools in the Mac OS X operating system, see the Apple® Inc. accessibility website.

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