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Inclusive technology

a guide to finding inclusive technology to support your learning.

At some point you are likely to find yourself wanting to download or being supplied with material as a PDF document. PDF can be a useful and versatile format if the document has been properly structured and if you know a little bit about how to get the best out of it.

If you have been supplied with a PDF by a member of staff and it is not in a format that you can use (for instance if the file is a scanned image without selectable text), you should contact the member of staff and make them aware of the problem.  If you have other problems with the accessibility of a PDF you can also contact

What you will need: Adobe Reader and Adobe Digital Editions

Adobe Reader is a free download that enables you to open and view PDFs. The current version is called Adobe Acrobat Reader DC and is available from Adobe's website

Adobe Digital Editions is another free download that is necessary for accessing many of the Library's e-books. Adobe Digital Editions enables you to download some Library e-books onto your computer for a period, where the option is available. For more information about using e-books, see our guide.

Read Out Loud

When you open a PDF you will have the option of having the text read out to you. The Read Out Loud tool can be found by clicking on the View menu at the top of the PDF.

pdf with read lout loud menu

Changing text and background colour

You may find that it is possible to change the text and background colours of a PDF.

To fnd out, choose 'Preferences' from the Edit menu.

From there click on 'Accessibility', tick the 'Replace document colours' box and choose the colours you want to use.

pdf with colours changed

Text reflow

This option allows you to reflow the text and magnify it while keeping it within the width of the window. From the View menu choose 'Zoom', then 'Reflow'. Text in columns will reflow into a single column.

CAUTION: Reflowing text may not always work. Sometimes all the spaces between words disappear, making the text unreadable. Another problem which is more difficult to spot is that sometimes when a document is reflowed text at the bottom of the page may disappear altogether.

pdf reflowed

Searching the text

The text of a PDF should be searchable.

Find: Use Ctrl+F to open a search box and type in your search term or phrase, then press Enter. This will highlight instances of your search term in the text, and give you the option to go forward or backward through the text to the next occurrence of the search term.

Advanced search: Use Shift+Ctrl+F to activate Advanced Search. This will open up a new window into which you can type your search term. With this option you can search within a PDF document, or choose the option to search across all PDFs in a particular folder or on your computer

The results of your search are displayed as a list of phrases in which your search term occurs.Clicking on an item in the list will take you to that point in the text.

Adding your notes and highlighting

You can access other tools by clicking on Tools at the top of the PDF and choosing 'Open'

The Comments speech bubble icon enables you to add your notes and comments anywhere within the text. Comments are searchable, and can be included in the Advanced Search options.

The Highlight text tool enables you to use different colours to highlight passages you want to refer back to.