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Currently, I'm generating the following pdf with pdflatex: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2682197/book.pdf

Unfortunately, this document is a bit incompatible with adobe screen reader (for blind people).

This audio recording demonstrates the result of using adobe screen reader with that document: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2682197/speech.mp3

In the recording, it's impossible to hear the chapter or section headers.

Any ideas of how to build a "more accessible" document?

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What is the code that produces the output PDF? –  Werner Oct 9 '12 at 19:32
I've done a lot of experiments with screenreaders on a lot of different documents; so far we have concluded that pdf documents are not screen-reader-accessible. We have found, particularly for documents that have mathematical content, the best way (by far is to use htlatex myfile.tex "html,mathml" and then have the screen reader act on the (x)html file. MathML was designed with accessibility in mind. If you'd like me to convert this into an answer, let me know –  cmhughes Oct 9 '12 at 23:08
This is not surprising at all, given that PDF doesn't really care about the meaning of its content, while HTML is a markup language, (theorically, when properly used) emphasizing the meaning of its content over the aspect (which should be dealt with using CSS). –  ℝaphink Oct 11 '12 at 12:30
Thanks for the help, guys. You convinced me that there's not a good way to make my pdf document more accessible. @cmhughes, you may convert your comment to a answer if you want. –  Francisco Sokol Oct 11 '12 at 16:23
See tex.stackexchange.com/questions/128454/…. Maybe people will see this as an interesting project? –  Andy Clifton Aug 17 '13 at 3:45
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Your PDF doesn't has the right Character Map defined. You can see that when you copy an heading:

CucZ Z u«±§¶±¶§Z o £§u±

You have the same problem many people have, that you can't copy or search the text in the pdf. There are basically two different things you can use: cmap or \pdfgentounicode. How and when you should use which, is explained here by Heiko. I have found that it resolves all issues I had with copying and now I can even copy most math.

There is also the package mmap, which you can use instead of cmap. More is explained here

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It worked! I used the \pdfgentounicode solution and it solved the chapter/section headers reading! Thanks! –  Francisco Sokol Oct 16 '12 at 14:49
I'm still having problems with the reading of excerpts of programming languages code in the document generated... Any ideas of how to make them more "readable"? Some punctuation chars from the code (such as "object.method();" from a java code) are ignored by the reader... Thanks anyway! –  Francisco Sokol Oct 16 '12 at 17:13
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I'm working on a committee to address accessibility at my institution, and we have done a lot of experiments with screen readers on a lot of different documents.

So far we have concluded that pdf documents, no matter how they were generated (LaTeX, Word, LibreOffice, etc), are not screen-reader-accessible when they contain mathematical content.

We have found, particularly for documents that have mathematical content, the best way by far is to convert the .tex file into an html file that has MathML content using, for example,

htlatex myfile.tex "html,mathml" 

and then have the screen reader act on the (x)html file. Interestingly, we have found that while Firefox can render MathML easily, the screen reader (we use Jaws) works better with Internet Explorer with Mathplayer.

MathML greatly improves accessibility of mathematical documents. Indeed, from this format one can either go down the screen reader or the Nemeth Braille route. Some questions that you might also like to have a look at:

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One problem with doing a good conversion to a readable document can also be that you haven't got the reading order in the PDF right. This is related to the internal structure of the PDF. There are no widely-recognized or default solutions for this, but you might be interested to try the accessibility package.

If you can't read the German documentation at http://www.babs.gmxhome.de/download/da_pdftex/dok_pdf.pdf, the short version is that you need to include this line in your preamble:


which is enough to generate a tagged pdf which then has the correct reading order. Because this is a package that is useful for other solutions, it would be interesting to hear more about your experiences.

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I realize that this is not the issue with this specific case, but it may be a solution to other problems with the same symptoms. –  Andy Clifton Aug 13 '13 at 23:17
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