Skip to Main Content
Chat With Us

Making Accessible Documents


Making Accessible Documents

Preparing Documents for Screen Readers

Before uploading documents to Canvas that are made from scanned texts please do the following: 

  • Make sure the text is legible. For example, it is not too light and the text is not obscured by any markings.
  • Make sure the pages are:
    • properly aligned, meaning not askew, and
    • oriented, meaning the top of the page up.
  • Make sure no pages are cut off.
  • Check that the document is machine-readable by attempting to select text. If you can select (and copy/paste) text, or if you can find a common word by using a control-f search, the document is machine readable.
  • If it is not machine readable, turn the scanned document into text so that it is readable to screen readers. See below.


What is OrbitNote? OrbitNote is an online tool combining accessibility, text-to-speech, and annotating options for PDFs.

Why it's useful: both students and faculty are often confronted by old PDFs that are image-based and not machine readable, which means people can't search (ctrl-f), copy, annotate, or take advantage of text-to-speech tools. OrbitNote uses advanced Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tools to convert images to machine-readable text, opening up all of those options.

Who it's for: Everyone. Faculty can use it to convert old image-based PDFs to share more functional documents with their students, and students can use it whenever machine-readable PDFs aren't available. Teachers can also use the annotation tools as pedagogical aids, assigning students to comment on articles.

How do I install it? There's nothing to install. It's a web-based app to which BC ITS has purchased access. Just go to this ITS page for access instructions.

Turning Images into Text with OrbitNote

OrbitNote by TextHelp can be used on Mac or Windows computers to add accessibility options to working with PDFs. When you upload a PDF to OrbitNote, it will automatically check whether it's machine readable. If it isn't, you'll see a pop-up window that gives you the option to "scan" the document: that is, run an optical character recognition (OCR) program to convert images to text. Then you can save the scanned version, which anyone will now be able to annotate within OrbitNote or any other annotation tool, search, copy/paste, highlight, or use Read&Write for text-to-speech.

See the 1 minute video below for a demonstration.

OrbitNote Help