The Moodle File Scan block—or Moodle PDF Accessibility Check—was developed to help determine how friendly course PDFs are to assistive technology such as Read & Write, Kurzweil, screen readers, and various other tools students might use to help them consume course readings.
The Moodle File Scan tool checks the accessibility of PDF files in a Moodle class and provides a report on the accessibility of each file. The status is either pass, fail, check, or question. A PDF file fails if it does not contain any text. A file is marked as "check" if the file has text but does not have other accessibility elements. A PDF passes if it meets all the accessibility checks.
Please utilize the Moodle File Scan
Even if an instructor is not requiring students to utilize Moodle, the File Scan can be a great tool to see where the course stands in terms of accessibility, so do consider uploading files but hiding them from students in order to check their accessibility.
What the tool checks for
If a PDF file does not have text it means the file has been scanned as an image. This means that screen readers and other assistive devices will not be able to read the content. As of spring 2022, our current goal is to strive for green checks under the "Text" column on all documents (except where files are legitimate images not images of text).
A PDF file stores metadata about the document, including the title of the document, which is different than the filename. Having a clear and accurate title helps ensure that users are reading the correct document. If the title is missing from the metadata fields, the PDF will fail this test.
A PDF file stores information about the language of the document, which is used by screen readers and other assistive devices to ensure proper pronunciation.
Creating structure in a PDF file allows screen readers to easily navigate a document. For instance, if every section of a document is tagged, a user can quickly jump from one section to the next. For example, someone looking at a syllabus could scan the document for the section on grading, while someone using a screen reader could do the same audibly if the sections are marked correctly. Documents created in a word processor (Word, Google Docs, Pages) create a structure using the built-in heading styles (e.g. Heading 1, Heading 2). That structure will be saved in the native document format, or by saving as a tagged PDF. PDFs created from a scanned document usually do not have outlines because the scanner cannot distinguish between chapters or sections within a document. It can be complex to tag PDF files, and we suggest contacting the accessibility team if you need help.
The following symbols are used to display the result of the accessibility File Scan.
A green check means the test passed
A purple X means the test failed
An orange exclamation mark means that the PDF is partially accessible
A blue question mark means that the file has not yet been scanned or the file has an error that prevents it from being scanned. The file could be corrupted or have a password that prevents the tool from opening the PDF.
How to Fix PDF Files
Check with the Library
Before fixing a document, check with the Library to see if they have the document in an accessible electronic format. This can save a lot of time.
Converting to Text
Use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to extract the text from the image of the document. Here are a few options:
- For existing PDF documents, upload your file on the convert inaccessible course material page and choose the accessibility conversion option. It is possible to select multiple documents to be converted at one time. You will receive the converted document(s) via email within a few hours.
- For newly scanned documents, all department Canon printers have been set to automatically scan documents using OCR.
- Consult this guide from the University of Washington for what makes a high-quality scan.
- A high-quality scan contains easily readable text, is free of marginalia, and is not skewed.
To check that your scan was OCR'd, try copying some text from the document and pasting it into Word. If you can successfully paste the text you copied, your document has been OCR'd, but you should check a few things:
- If there isn't any text in the document, please open a ticket with the help desk explaining that the Canon copier is not OCRing documents.
- How accurate is the text? If there are significant errors with the accuracy or the reading order, please open a ticket with the help desk and flag the document for the accessibility team.
Setting PDF Title, Language, and Outline
The title, language, and outline can often be fixed by using Adobe Acrobat DC's "Action Wizard", which can be found in the right sidebar. Look for this icon:
Alternatively, navigate to the Tools menu → Customize → Action Wizard
One of the first options on the Action Wizard Actions List is to Make Accessible. Follow the steps. This will work for about 70% of documents.
Quality of the original document is very important
Not all documents can successfully be made accessible. A great deal depends on the quality of the original document (consult this guide from the University of Washington for what makes a high-quality scan). Even if Acrobat successfully translates an image of text to text, it is very important to review the document. Original documents of poor quality, documents that have a lot of notes or underlines, and documents with blurred text may result in inaccurate translations and gibberish. If you find this to be the case, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance in working with your file.
The Moodle PDF Accessibility Check or Moodle File Scan is a very useful tool to use as an indicator of how much of your course material may be friendly to assistive technology. By assistive technology we mean tools like Kurzweil, Beeline Reader and Read & Write, screen readers such as VoiceOver, NVDA and JAWS, and various other tools people might use to help them consume course readings.
We have a short video on the ITS blog space which explains how to access the block.
If you'd like to learn more about accessibility, check out these posts on the ITS blog.