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Accessibility

Enhance your e-book reading experience

Tools you can use, options you can alter

Reading an e-book from a screen is difficult for everyone at times, no matter what device or sized screen you are using. One of the big advantages of e-books over print is that it's easy to manipulate and change the text, making e-books more legible and easier to read. We've listed some tools below you can add to your device or web browser to improve your e-book reading experience, as well as tips for reading downloaded e-books. These should help all staff or students regardless of whether you have a visual impairment or special accessibility requirement.

If you'd like to learn how improve your reading experience on a specific e-book platform and make it more accessible, you can find a comprehensive guide of each e-book platform's inbuilt accessibility features on our E-book Platforms In Depth page.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

If you are able to download a whole e-book as an unsecured PDF (or even just a chapter from any provider), you can make use of the following features within Adobe Reader:

Read Out Loud

  1. To activate, go to the View menu, then Read Out Loud
  2. Click Activate Read Out Loud (or press Ctrl+Shift+Y)
  3. To start, go to the View menu, then Read Out Loud again
  4. Then close and re-open your PDF document
  5. Choose Read This Page Only (or press Ctrl+Shift+V) or Read To End Of Document (or press Ctrl+Shift+B)
  6. To stop, go to the View menu, then Read Out Loud again 
  7. Choose Pause (or press Ctrl+Shift+C) or Stop (or press Ctrl+Shift+E)

You can change the default Read Out Loud voice in the following way:

  1. Click on the Edit menu (or Adobe Acrobat Reader on Apple Mac), then Preferences (or press Ctrl+K)
  2. Under Categories, click on Reading
  3. Untick Use default voice
  4. Change the drop-down box to a different voice. Note that the voices available depend on what is installed on your PC
  5. Click OK

You can also change other default Read Out Loud settings (namely the speed and pitch of the narration) in the following way:

  1. Click on the Edit menu (or Adobe Acrobat Reader on Apple Mac), then Preferences (or press Ctrl+K)
  2. Under Categories, click on Reading
  3. Untick Use default speech attributes
  4. Change the drop-down box to raise or lower the pitch of the default or selected voice (see above)
  5. Enter a number in the box below the drop-down to change the speed of the narration. Anything below 100 words per minute is extremely slow; anything above 200 words per minute is extremely fast. Between 100 and 150 words per minute is most natural.
  6. Click OK

Turn on Text Reflow

When you zoom in on a PDF the text will run off the side of the screen. This means that you have to scroll left and right to read each line of text, making PDFs difficult to read. Reflow converts the text into one column so that you don't need to scroll when you zoom in:

  1. Click on the Edit menu (or Adobe Acrobat Reader on Apple Mac), then Preferences
  2. Under Categories, click on Accessibility
  3. Tick Always use Zoom Setting
  4. Change the drop down box to Reflow
  5. Click OK

Note that you will have to close and reopen Adobe Reader for the changes to take effect. Some documents may not display correctly with reflow turned on but you can quickly turn it off by clicking the View menu, then Zoom, then Reflow.

Change ​​​​​​Page Background colour

  1. Click on the Edit menu (or Adobe Acrobat Reader on Apple Mac), then Preferences
  2. Under Categories, click on Accessibility
  3. Tick Replace Document Colours
  4. Choose Custom Colour
  5. Choose Page Background colour
  6. Click OK

The background colour should change immediately and will remain the same whenever you open a PDF from now on.

Change Document Text colour

  1. Click on the Edit menu (or Adobe Acrobat Reader on Apple Mac), then Preferences
  2. Under Categories, click on Accessibility
  3. Tick Replace Document Colours
  4. Choose Custom Colour
  5. Choose Document Text colour
  6. Click OK

The text colour should change immediately and will remain the same whenever you open a PDF from now on.

Adobe Digital Editions 

Adobe Digital Editions allows you to download secured e-books in PDF and EPUB format for offline use. This software does not have its own built in accessibility features, and users are limited to highlighting and bookmarking text as well as adjusting font size and zoom.

Instead, this software uses the tools included in Windows and Mac operating systems to provide accessibility, including support for high contrast modes and support for resizing book text. It can also be used with screen readers, including JAWS and NVDA on Windows, and Voiceover on Mac OS. To make downloaded e-books only available through Adobe Digital Editions more accessible, we recommend you:

  • Read online instead, using platforms' inbuilt accessibility features or any of the tools, plugins, and extensions listed in this guide.
  • Download individual e-book chapters instead of whole e-books. Downloaded chapters which will always be unsecured PDFs and can therefore be read in PDF software (such as Adobe Acrobat Reader) that does have inbuilt accessibility features.
  • Consider purchasing screen reading software that can narrate and display text from Digital Editions in a more accessible way.

When viewing secured EPUB format e-books in Adobe Digital Editions, users can choose to show or hide page numbers within the full text. These page numbers correspond to those in print versions of the same book. Page numbers can be shown in the following way:

Show Page Numbers

  1. To show page numbers, first go to the Reading menu
  2. At the very bottom of the menu, choose Show Page Numbers (or press Ctrl+Shift+H)

Page numbers can then be hidden in exactly the same way:

  1. To hide page numbers, first go to the Reading menu
  2. At the very bottom of the menu, choose Hide Page Numbers (or press Ctrl+Shift+H)

Links and instructions on how to download Adobe Digital Editions for free are available on Adobe's website

F.lux

F.lux is software designed to adjust your screen colours to the time of day, reducing the blue glow, which might help improve the e-book reading experience. It is available as a free download for Windows and Mac here.

Visor

Visor is a screen dimmer and reading aid which may help with fluency, eye-strain, concentration, and comprehension. It also provides overlays, as well as a point of focus feature designed to reduce further visual confusions. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.

Screen Shader

Screen Shader is an extension designed to tint your computer display to a soothing orange colour to reduce eye strain and eye fatigue. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.

Dark Mode

Dark Mode is an extension that helps you quickly turn your browser dark. A toolbar button serves as an on/off switch which enables you to easily and quickly turn the extension on or off. If you do not like the current dark theme, you can visit the options page and choose a different theme from over 50 available options. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.

PDF Colour Inverter

PDF Colour Inverter is an extension that inverts background and text colours of PDFs only when viewed within your web browser, rather than software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader or Adobe Digital Editions. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.

Built-in Browser Settings

Don't forget that there are also screen colouring settings built into your computer's web browser. Click to learn more about changing these settings in Google ChromeMicrosoft EdgeSafari, and Firefox.

Changing Computer Settings

Please visit the AbilityNet Changing your colours page and choose your device and operating systems for instructions on how to change the colours of your screen.

Open Dyslexic

OpenDyslexic is an extension which allows you to format pages using the Open Dyslexic font, an open-sourced font designed to improve readability for readers with dyslexia. It is available to download for free as a chrome extension here.

Reader Mode

Reader Mode is a feature-packed extension designed specifically to help dyslexic users as a distraction-free web reader. It removes clutter, ads and distractions, while also includes dyslexia support, bookmarking, annotating, highlighting, text-to-speech and many other features all in one tool. It is available to download for free as a chrome extension here.

Minimal Reading Mode

Minimal Reading Mode is an extension which allows you to change the font size, colour, margins, line heights and spacing, and enable dark mode on any website for optimised reading. It is available to download for free as a chrome extension here.

Substital

Substital is an extension which enables you to add captions to videos on any online streaming site. You can search for subtitles with the built-in search feature, add your own subtitles, and change the subtitle font size and text colour. It is available to download for free as a chrome extension here.

Magnification Tools

Don't forget that there are magnification tools built into your computer. Click to learn more about Windows Magnifier and Apple Zoom.

Selection Reader

Selection Reader is a text-to-speech tool which can read near-unlimited amounts of text without cutting out. It is available download for free as a Chrome Extension here.

NaturalReader

NaturalReader is a text-to-speech tool which converts text into natural sounding audio, supporting most document formats, including PDF, txt, and doc(x) files. It is available for free as a chrome extension here and also as desktop software for Mac and Windows here.

Intelligent Speaker

Intelligent Speaker is an advanced text-to-speech tool with a human-like voice which supports web pages, documents and PDFs. It is available for free as a chrome extension here.

Narration Tools

Don't forget that there are narration tools built into your computer. Click to learn more about Windows Narrator and Apple VoiceOver.

Weava

Weava is a highlighting tool which enables the user to highlight websites and PDFs with multiple colours and to annotate the highlighted text. These annotations can be revisited in a single click and organised into sub-folders. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.

Copyfish

Copyfish Screenshot Reader is OCR software which allows the user to copy, paste, or translate text from any image, video, or PDF without retyping. It is available to download for free for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge here.

OneNote Web Clipper

OneNote Web Clipper is an extension that lets you quickly clip all or part of a web page into OneNote and save it for later. Clip images, PDFs, videos or a visual bookmark of a page. Best of all, you can access them from any computer, tablet or phone – even when you're offline. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.

Grammarly

Grammarly is a writing assistant which offers you specific suggestions to help you improve your writing, from grammar and spelling, to style and tone. It is available to download for free here.

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