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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources Series: Resolutions for Resilience, January 2022

Resolutions for Resilience: Hacks for Making Text PDFs Accessible

January always ushers in a new year, and many take the opportunity to develop New Year’s Resolutions during this month. While Resolutions can take many forms (including diet, exercise, etc.), the Free Bridges Helpdesk offers some tips for helping you get the access you need with Resolutions for Resilience.

  • Coaching Your Teachers on Accessibility
  • Controlling the Chat in Online Classes
  • Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screen-shares Accessible
  • Hacks for Making Text PDFs Accessible

In this fourth installment of our “Resolutions for Resilience” series, we share some tips to help you access text on inaccessible PDFs.

Why It Matters

PDFs are everywhere; PDF accessibility is not. To complicate matters, the ability of PDFs to be accessible is widely misunderstood; some have the mistaken belief that PDFs cannot be made to be accessible for blind individuals and thus prevent blind students from having the opportunity to learn how to interact with accessible PDFs and how to remediate inaccessible PDFs.

Navigating PDFs

Even if a PDF is accessible, you need to know how to use your accessible assistive technology to access it efficiently. Here is a quick “cheat sheet” from Freedom Scientific, the creator of JAWS screen reading software, to get you started: Prevent Document Frustration: JAWS and PDFs Guide, and check out Elizabeth Whitaker’s APH Access Academy presentation Prevent Document Frustration JAWS and PDFs. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk with any questions.

Accessing Text on Inaccessible PDFs

Often, when a PDF is inaccessible, it has been saved as a graphic. Even though text might appear on the screen, the screen is actually showing a PICTURE of text. The computer only recognizes the picture; it cannot recognize the text.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can be the answer to this problem. As its name implies, OCR software scans the picture and attempts to recognize portions of the picture as alphabetical or numerical characters (letters or numbers). As discussed in last week’s Bridges Blog post, “Resolutions for Resilience: Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screen-shares Accessible,” the widely-used screen reading software JAWS has built-in OCR capabilities with its tool called Convenient OCR.

OCR Inaccessible PDFs

Sometimes people share PDFs that they have scanned into the computer as image files. Many times, they might not realize what they have done; they are just using the default settings of their scanners. Convenient OCR is a great tool to provide you immediate access to these PDFs! Here are the steps to perform this Inaccessible PDF Hack:

  • Open the PDF and use Convenient OCR:
    • JAWS key and spacebar at the same time (you’ll hear JAWS announce “space”)
    • Then the letter O (you’ll hear JAWS announce “O; OCR”)
    • Then the letter D (you’ll hear JAWS announce “Document OCR started”)
  • JAWS will open up another window that contains the text from the inaccessible PDF and will begin reading it.
    • In that new window, there is a link called “Open in Word…” You can quickly navigate to that link by:
      • Type “U” for unvisited link
      • Use JAWS key plus F7 to display Links list
      • Tab to the “Open in Word…” link
    • Open the link, and you have a new Word document with accessible text from the PDF.
  • Name and save the file, and you now have access to that text anytime you want!

OCR Saved Screen-shares

Screen-shares are a perfect example of an inaccessible PDF.

Last week’s blog discussed using Convenient OCR to access screen-shared text in real-time, but you might also want to save the screen-shared information for later reference. To do this, you can take screenshots during the presentation, save them, and use OCR on them after the presentation to create your own accessible document. Here are some steps that can make this process easier:

  • First, open a blank Word document and give it a name. This document will be the place you store all of your screenshots.
  • When you want to capture a screen during the presentation, take a screenshot. Most laptops have keys or key combinations to perform this function. When you take a screenshot, the image will automatically be saved to your clipboard.
  • Tab over to that blank Word document and paste your screenshot (Control plus V is the paste command). Save the document (F12 or Control plus S), and jump back to the shared screen.
  • Continue taking screenshots, pasting them into your new Word document, and saving the updated document.
  • At the end, save as a Word document AND save as a PDF (F12, then change document type to PDF).
  • Open the PDF and use Convenient OCR:
    • JAWS key and spacebar at the same time (you’ll hear JAWS announce “space”)
    • Then the letter O (you’ll hear JAWS announce “O; OCR”)
    • Then the letter D (you’ll hear JAWS announce “Document OCR started”)
  • JAWS will open up another window that contains the text from the inaccessible PDF and will begin reading it.
    • In that new window, there is a link called “Open in Word…” You can quickly navigate to that link by:
      • Type “U” for unvisited link
      • Use JAWS key plus F7 to display Links list
      • Tab to the “Open in Word…” link
    • Open the link, and you have a new Word document with accessible text from the PDF.
  • Name and save the file, and you now have access to that text anytime you want!

Note: Convenient OCR “is only available in JAWS and Zoomtext Fusion, it is not available in Zoomtext Screen Magnifier” and it “requires an active internet connection.” From New Features of JAWS and Zoomtext Fusion 2021.

Continue Advocating for Accessible Documents

Tools like Convenient OCR are great, but they are not perfect. Convenient OCR provides you text, but it cannot create headings or other text features (including tables). Also, poor-quality PDFs may keep Convenient OCR from providing you accurate text, and, while Convenient OCR is quick, it does take a bit of time to perform.

Know that there are federal laws that require most schools and businesses to provide “reasonable accommodations” that you request, and accessible files (whether PDFs, Word, or PowerPoint) are examples of reasonable accommodations.

The Free Bridges Helpdesk is here to help with you what you need, whether it’s technical help, advocacy, or anything else. Remember, all Bridges Helpdesk help is private and confidential, and we are here for you.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Live Chat

I AM: Monday, January 24, 2022

Speakers: Sara Miller and Cory Warren with Disability Rights Maryland

Frustrated with Baltimore City sidewalks? Unable to travel by your wheelchair through Baltimore because the sidewalks are not accessible? During this Independence Amplified Maryland, we speak with Disability Rights Maryland about accessibility in your neighborhood.

Recording of the Independence Amplified Maryland event from January 24, 2022.

Don’t forget to visit our registration website to donate to support these events or register for upcoming calls!

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Teen Blog

Jan 22 Newsletter Teen and Young Adult Programs

News from IMAGE Teen and Young Adult Programs January 2022

Highlights

The New Year doesn’t feel so new, but were still here together!
As we approached 2022 many of us have had daydreams of life back to “normal”. While the reality is that this newest year has not quite gotten us there yet there are still ways that we can adapt to keep life enjoyable and moving forward for ourselves and the one’s around us. We hope this month’s newsletter helps you to realize that we are still all here, together, no matter the circumstance. We will keep moving forward. We will keep learning. We will keep growing. More importantly we will keep engaging. We will keep laughing. We will keep showing up. Cheers to 2022!


Our Current Reality
Our teen and young adult programs here at IMAGE were bursting at the seams excited to end the year with higher requests for in person learning sessions and our hybrid learning options were giving students and their families wonderful options for both virtual and in person opportunities. Unfortunately, extending COVID numbers began cancelling out many of our in person sessions as we began approaching this new year. As much as we idolize our rock star students, staff and families none of them have been immune to this nasty virus. We don’t have the answers, but our only goal remains to keep everyone learning and to keep everyone safe. With the majority of our programs being community based our options for restrictions are extremely varied at this time as you can imagine. With more and more students accessing our programs we certainly do not want to limit our programming options for students based on smaller group sizes. With all of these things in mind you will see that once again our upcoming teen and young adult programs will be virtual and that’s okay. We are still here. We are going to continue to provide learning opportunities to as many students as possible no matter what this virus has to say about it. So stay with us. We, as always, are monitoring the best options for everyone. We continue to hear each and everyone of you. We know that our community is extraordinary and that at times we have to weigh many extraordinary considerations. So we will continue to do that. Together we will keep moving forward even if sometimes it feels like we are moving backwards!

Peer Mentor Spotlight

A female Peer Mentor student assisting another male student in a learning activity with pencil and paper at a Connect program event.

Winter Application is OPEN!

Applications for students wishing to become Peer Mentors for the Winter session of the Connect program are now open.
Interested in applying for Peer Mentorship?
This winter Peer Mentors will have the opportunity to work alongside student interns from Towson University in addition to participation in the Connect Program. Peer Mentors will engage in both zoom training sessions, as well as peer mentor opportunities within our Connect program.

Click here to apply

Questions? Email Jessica Leone at Jleone@imagemd.org

Celebrating Fearless Moments

At IMAGE we encourage our teens and young adults to step outside of their comfort zone to reach their greatest potential. One way that we do that is by reminding students that is okay to be unapologetically themselves, fearless of who they are and what others may or may not think of them. We hope this month’s celebration of fearlessness past and present inspires you to celebrate yourself and all that you contribute to the world around you!
Here is to being FEARLESSLY you today!

Self Care Bingo. Give yourself a compliment. Do a hobby. Have fun. Drink Water. Challenge Negative Thoughts. Listen to your body. Sit with your feelings. Talk with a friend. Get dressed. Stay Alive. Practice Mindfulness. Take a break. Try something New.
This month we celebrate you! Our students. Our families. You are fearless every darn day! Don’t forget to take care our yourselves! Right Click and save this self-care bingo card to print. You can use it alone or as a family. Either way don’t forget to take care of YOU! That is the only way that we can be sure to help take care of others too. Thank you to @AlyseRurianiDesign for this fun idea!

Upcoming Events

The Connect Program


Registering now for our virtual winter sessions!

Session Dates: 3/1, 3/15, 3/29, 4/12, 4/26 and 5/10.

The Connect Program is a program that empowers teens and young adults with disabilities to step outside of their comfort zone, make connections with their community, build social experiences and recognize and achieve skills needed for increased independence in adulthood. These skills include money management, time management, social and communication skills, personal hygiene, meal planning and decision making skills just to name a few.

Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.


Click here to Register
PreETS Self Awareness and Self Advocacy Training Program


Registration now open for sessions starting in February!

Want to be referred for this program?
Contact Jessica Leone jleone@imagemd.org for information


The Self Awareness & Self Advocacy Training program through DORS is a five week program utilizing curriculum designed to empower teens with disabilities to explore areas of self awareness and promote the importance of self advocacy to enhance the overall independence and vocational opportunity of each student. During this program students will work with professional staff from The IMAGE Center to begin to engage in curriculum addressing Self Awareness & Advocacy, Disclosing Disability, Rights, Future Outlook, Transition Outlook and Utilizing Resources.


Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.

Support Youth Programs at The IMAGE Center

Categories
Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources Series: Resolutions for Resilience, January 2022

Resolutions for Resilience: Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screen-shares Accessible

January always ushers in a new year, and many take the opportunity to develop New Year’s Resolutions during this month. While Resolutions can take many forms (including diet, exercise, etc.), the Free Bridges Helpdesk offers some tips for helping you get the access you need with Resolutions for Resilience.

  • Coaching Your Teachers on Accessibility
  • Controlling the Chat in Online Classes
  • Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screen-shares Accessible
  • Hacks for Making Text PDFs Accessible

In this third installment of our “Resolutions for Resilience” series, we share some tips that can help you get access to text that is shared in online classes.

Why It Matters

People who are unfamiliar with blindness/low vision often assume that any text that is in electronic and/or digital form is automatically accessible. For instance, they may take a picture of a text-filled flyer and assume that a blind/low vision individual can read the text because “It’s digital!”

In reality, this is not the case. While digital documents CAN be accessible, many are just as inaccessible as are paper documents. Screenshots and screen-shares are perfect examples of taking accessible information and making it inaccessible.

Distance Learning is Here to Stay

Even though schools and other organizations are beginning to meet in person more, we have reached a point in society at which distance communication tools, like Zoom, have become fixtures as meeting spaces for school, employment, and community organizations, including seminars about special interests.

Zoom, in particular, is a very accessible platform for blind/low vision individuals. However, when an accessible document is screen-shared, that document becomes completely inaccessible because it is “rendered to meeting participants as an HD video stream.” From Zoom’s Accessibility Frequently Asked Questions web page. This same technology is used in other online meeting platforms.

Thus, for the foreseeable future, individuals who cannot easily access video sharing must find alternative solutions to achieve accessibility.

Potential Solution: Get Accessible Documents Ahead of Time

As noted above, many people, including educators, do not understand how blind/low vision people interact with digital documents. This is a great time for you, and teach your teachers!

Let them know that screen-shared documents are not accessible. Tell them that you aren’t getting access to the video portion of Zoom – it’s like you are only on the phone. Even if you can see the video a bit, you cannot access it with the ease or the speed of typically-sighted peers.

Next, offer solutions! Explain to them what kind of document works best for you. Examples may include Word documents and PowerPoints instead of printouts that are then scanned in as PDFs. Ask for the documents before the presentation so that you can preview them to help you follow along during the presentation. Share these Word and PowerPoint Accessibility Resources with them, too!

Potential Solution: Make the Inaccessible Accessible

While it is best to get accessible versions of documents being shared, you might not get them. What to do then?

Screen-sharing isn’t accessible, and neither are screenshots – until YOU make them accessible! When you do not receive accessible versions of screen-shared documents ahead of the presentation, there are tools you can use to TAKE CONTROL and get ACCESS to the text on the screen-share!

Freedom Scientific software provides a great tool for this purpose: Convenient Optical Character Recognition (Convenient OCR). You can use Convenient OCR with files (such as PDFs and images), but you can also use it “on the fly” to capture screen-shared information DURING a distance video presentation.

Take Control of the Screen in Real-time

Here’s how to use Convenient OCR to access text on an inaccessible screen:

  • For best results, use the “Full Screen” option to display the screen-share you wish to access.
  • Run Convenient OCR by using the following layered commands:
    • JAWS key and spacebar at the same time (you’ll hear JAWS announce “space”)
    • Then the letter O (you’ll hear JAWS announce “O; OCR”)
    • Then the letter S (to OCR the screen – you’ll hear JAWS announce “OCR started using Omnipage; Finished; JAWS cursor”)
  • Now that JAWS has performed OCR on the screen, you can access the information by using typical JAWS reading commands (such as JAWS key plus down arrow)
  • ** Note that Convenient OCR leaves you with the JAWS cursor. JAWS will begin reading wherever your JAWS cursor is, even if it is not at the top of the page. For this reason, you may need to arrow up to get to the top of the page.
  • ** Note: If you tab away from the screen where you have performed Convenient OCR, the OCR is lost. When you go back, you’ll need to use Convenient OCR again (JAWS key plus spacebar; O; S).

Distance Presentations are only the Beginning!

Optical Character Recognition tools like Convenient OCR offer you the power to use your computer to access inaccessible text both independently and efficiently. Even more: you can save that now-accessible text to access (and edit) later.

Of course, the availability of OCR does not diminish the value of accessible documents. OCR is good, but it’s not perfect, and OCR doesn’t necessarily give you information about headings and text structure. Moreover, with OCR, you are having to capture and convert the documents during the presentation – which interferes with your ability to pay attention to the presentation itself. Nevertheless, Convenient OCR can be a valuable tool in your toolbox, and you could use it in other ways, such as on inaccessible websites and text on YouTube videos.

Practice Early, and Let Us Help

Using Convenient OCR and other OCR software can be quite empowering, but it’s no fun to have to practice new skills in real-time. Please call on us here at the Free Bridges Helpdesk to help!

Contact us, and we’ll set up a time that’s convenient for you to talk about OCR and other tools and to practice using them. We can set up a Zoom session where you can practice capturing screen-shared text with us supporting you every step of the way. Remember, all Bridges Helpdesk help is private and confidential, and we are here for you.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Blog

Solutions 2021

2021 Solutions Celebration Opening Video
The Smiles Behind the Masks: A Tribute to our Bike Team!

Click here for a text description of the Smiles Behind the Mask video.

2021 Solutions Celebration!

Click here for closed captions of the 2021 Solutions Celebration.

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