Screen readers accessing pdf in browser

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  • Problem
  • Updated 4 months ago
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We have several documents online that are PDF, including our college catalogs. Recently, someone pointed out to me that when using a screen reader and following the link to the PDF, the screen reader is not reading the content when the PDF is in the web browser. We tried several web browsers, but using arrow down and tab does not read the document, it doesn't even give the option to download the document. The PDF's pass the accessibility checker, but if a screen reader cannot read the PDF in the browser window, that doesn't help us.
How do we go about making these documents work for screen readers?
  • Do we add a button to force the document to download? 
  • Do we save them differently, like we do for forms? 
  • Are there special instructions for using a keyboard to read a pdf in the browser window?
Thank you for your help. I'm thankful we have a resource for these issues.
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Aricia

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  • confused

Posted 5 months ago

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Gian, Official Rep

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Hi Aricia

Can you please provide us with a link of the page containing the PDF links - we will try and figure out what is happening. It may be an issue with the link, the screen reader or the PDF itself.

Thanks
Gian
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Aricia

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Gian,
Sorry, I should have included it to begin with: https://www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/academics/catalog
Thank you for looking at this.
Aricia
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Gian, Official Rep

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Hi Alicia

Apologies for the delay in replying. I was traveling and had not passed this on to another member of our team.

When I activate any of the links I get a timeout:
This site can’t be reached
files.bakersfieldcollege.edu took too long to respond.
ERR_CONNECTION_TIMED_OUT
So I cannot reach any of the PDF files. Do you need to be logged in to view the files?

Cheers
Gian



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Aricia

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Sorry about that, you do not need to be logged in. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the server and the files were down until late Friday. They are back online for everyone now.
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Gian, Official Rep

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Thanks Aricia

We have downloaded them and are looking and will let you know.

Cheers
Gian
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Gian, Official Rep

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Hi Aricia

Our screen reader tester came back with this:
I’vechecked a few PDFs and they work fine. I conducted tests with JAWS and NVDA onlatest Chrome and Firefox. On both browsers the Download button was accessibleand worked well.
The onlyproblem I encountered was the table of contents, which didn’t work (with JAWSespecially), but this issue may be related to screen reader + browser problem.I would need more time to check exactly what is going there.
In mostcases blind users will download the PDF and read it in Acrobat, which worksrelatively fine.
The Downloadbutton for PDF is always a good idea. Many users do not know how to download afile without opening it.
I recommendasking the user to repeat the test. It’s possible that he or she encountered atemporary problem. It happens that when a browser is updated, problems appear.
If theissue still takes place I need to know what PDF file is troublesome. I tried afew of them.
Generallywhen the screen reader is on, using Arrow Down should read the content line byline. But the PDF must be fully opened. On Firefox I couldn’t read anythinguntil all over 400 pages were opened by the browser, although the first pagewas already on the screen. So I could read the content after a minute or morefollowing the appearance of the first page.
I hope ithelps.
Is it possible that the user is not waiting enough time for the PDF to load? Alternatively, it could be a temporary problem. Are you able to check the PDFs and see if they work now? If not, are you able to specify an exact PDF that does not work and specify the exact steps to attempt to open the PDF. Alternatively, we could schedule a time to jump on a video call and watch what you are doing so we can troubleshoot the problem.

Cheers
Gian
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Aricia

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Thank you so much. I will ask her to try updating the browser and to try again. I will add a download option for all of the documents too to make it easier for screen reader users. I really appreciate this resource.
Aricia
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Aricia

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Sorry, I'm back. I would love to have download buttons for the PDFs, however the download attribute no longer works in link tags for any of the main browsers. Do you know of another way to achieve making them download rather than opening in the browser?
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Tom

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Hi Alicia,

Gian has asked me to have a look into this. I believe the issue with the "download" attribute not working is that in order for the attribute to be honoured, the PDF needs to be hosted on the same domain as the link that is referencing it.

In this case, the page with the links is hosted at www.bakersfieldcollege.edu, whereas the PDF files are at files.bakersfieldcollege.edu. I understand it might not be possible to move all of your PDF files to the www.bakersfieldcollege.edu domain, but it could be something done by your web administrator - by rewriting certain paths to "appear" as though they are on the same domain.

I hope this helps.