Core Principle: Provide digital text rather than images of text.

What is an image of text?

When you scan a document or take a screenshot of a digital file, that process creates an image of text.

An image of text differs from digital text because the text in an image cannot be selected, copied, or edited. Digital text can be enlarged indefinitely without loss of quality or sharpness, while an image of text degrades as it is increased in size.

Why is digital text important?

In order to make an image of text accessible, you will need to convert it into digital text. Digital text can be selected, copied, or modified, which benefits readers who need to adjust the visual appearance of the text for accessibility purposes. It can also be enlarged without resulting in any loss in clarity, which is important for people with low vision. Digital text can also be read by assistive technology.

Images of text are inaccessible to a variety of people with disabilities. Images of text include scanned PDFs, photos of text, or screenshots of text. Readers cannot adjust the size, color, alignment, or spacing of text contained in an image, which can significantly impact the readability of the document for people with certain cognitive or visual disabilities. Additionally, some screen readers and text-to-speech software cannot detect text contained in an image, which means any text contained in an image is inaccessible to people using those tools.

This isn’t to say that digital text alone makes a document fully accessible. In most cases, there is more work needed to make an electronic document fully accessible, but converting images of text to digital text is a great start.

How do I convert images of text to digital text?

To convert an image of text to digital text, you can use optical character recognition (OCR) software. OCR software uses a computer algorithm to convert images of text into digital text. CU Boulder offers SensusAccess as a free OCR service to campus. Google Drive and Microsoft OneNote also provide free built-in OCR tools.

SensusAccess is a web-based document conversion program that provides a variety of accessibility conversion services, including changing images of text into digital text. It is available to all CU Boulder employees and students. To convert a file to digital text using SensusAccess, follow our SensusAccess file conversion tutorial.

Because OCR conversion is conducted by software, the converted text may not be 100% accurate. It is important after using OCR to check over your content and fix any errors resulting from the conversion. If you need to edit the text in a PDF, CU Boulder faculty and staff can download Adobe Acrobat Pro at no cost.