How to 'screen read' a locked PDF

by Rhodri Buttrick on 13 December 2010

Regular readers of my blog will know I have a lot of difficulty with sustained reading.  I can read a few pages okay, or more if the subject matter is quite light.  However, I am studying Philosophy at university and the subject matter is seldom light. The effort it takes for me to read is often so great I have little brain capacity left for actually understanding the material.  This is the case for many dyslexic people and the programme on Kara Tointon (see my earlier blog) illustrated this well. Kara’s brain was scanned and monitored as she read words. Later analysis showed that, whilst she used the same areas of the brain to read, the effort she had to use to decode the words was significantly greater than that for the “normal” population.

new-picture-23Fortunately for me, many of the key texts are provided electronically. I can therefore use a text reader and gain an understanding of the text far more easily by listening to it. My brain does not have to waste valuable capacity on decoding.  I was struggling with some research for an essay and so decided to “read” around the subject and came across a 6 page article which looked as if it might help. Unfortunately this pdf was “locked”. The screen reader could not access it. Help!

After a short panic I thought that perhaps I could print it out and then scan the printed pages and convert them to text.  It would work, even if it was a bit of an effort. However, the solution was better than that. ClaroRead, one of the commonly used assistive programs for dyslexics, is able to “scan” directly from a pdf.  In a matter of seconds, I have a version of the article in a format which Claro’s screen reader could access.

I’d better get on with that essay now.

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