Thursday, December 06, 2007

Accessibility experience teaches how to include pdf presentations into Word documents

I want to present something today that isn’t exactly what Access Ability is about, but it is related as it comes from my own experience in creating accessible documents from inaccessible files.

What prompted the theme for this post was a phone call I received earlier this week, seeking a work-around solution to a document problem. The main file of a particular report was a Microsoft Word document, but there were other parts that included an Excel spreadsheet as well as a 4-page Adobe pdf document. Of course, the Excel portion was able to be placed directly into the Word document as both applications are Microsoft products and made to be integrated in reports such as this, but the pdf file was still an additional piece to the main report. The recipient of the document wanted the electronic report to be all-inclusive, not a Word document with an additional pdf document to be viewed separately. The caller was asking me if I knew of any solution that would save or convert the pdf document into a Word document, so that it could be integrated into the body of the other, main report.

This dilemma caused me to call upon my own experience of taking something and making it accessible, applying a work-around that I’ve used in the past. However, this expertise was something I had learned a few years ago, a time when pdf documents weren’t near as accessible as they are today. What I used to do was to open the pdf document, then print it up. I would then scan it back into the computer and process it with my Kurzweil 1000 OCR software to get the text of the document. (Of course, that was before I figured out what the Kurzweil virtual printer was!)

Now, to solve the caller’s dilemma, I suggested first that they print the pdf file. Then, they would only need to scan it into an open Word document.

That’s it. That would basically take the visual presentation and formatting features of the pdf document and put them directly into a Word document, assuring compatibility with the main body of the report. They would then only need to copy and paste that document into the proper place in the main report. It is what sounds like a simple solution to an apparently complex problem.

What causes me to take pride in this solution is that I was the one who presented it. I was the one who was called after the university’s own tech help desk and other resources had already been called upon, only to leave the caller with no working solution. There is some irony in that a man who is blind and cannot see the visual presentation of pdf documents being the person who resolved this problem when other, more technologically trained folks couldn’t.

I hope this doesn’t come across as being overly proud. I’m just presenting it here, as it may be of use to others. It is really an easy to resolve problem. I feel certain that there are software solutions that could have achieved the same end result in some fashion, but the method I presented worked and didn’t send the caller scrambling to find some program or add-on when time was of the essence. I hope that this work-around is of assistance to others some time in the future.


Maine VRC said...

Another way built right into Acrobat reader is going to the file, Save as Text option. From there you have a text document that you can copy and paste into a word document as you need.
Ctrl + A to select all
Ctrl + C to copy
Ctrl + V to past in Word document

Ron Graham said...

Thanks for sharing that.

I’m not sure if it mattered, but my friend had specifically pointed out that they were using Adobe 6.0.

Is the option you describe exclusively available on the newer 7.0, or was this also available in the earlier flavors of Adobe?