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Home > Canvas User Experience > Easy Fix #5: The Scary Truth About Scanned PDFs | 2024
Easy Fix #5: The Scary Truth About Scanned PDFs | 2024
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Banner: The Scary Truth About Scanned PDFs

Why Scanning Your PDFs Will Create Accessibility Issues

Today, we’ll focus on scanned PDFs – why you shouldn’t use them and how to find alternative solutions. Please note that if you cannot find an accessible copy of your content online, it is your responsibility to make one, but be assured that the Office of Digital Learning is happy to provide tips and additional resources.


Thank you for following along with the Easy Fix campaign. We appreciate your time and attention and hope that you’ve already started implementing these simple changes into your courses.

Why You Should Avoid Scanned PDFs

Here are two key reasons why you should steer clear of scanned PDFs in your classroom:

Text on the page cannot be selected, copied, or searched.
This is because scanned PDFs are only a picture of a text, not text itself. Screen readers will not work with pictures of text, making scanned PDFs inaccessible.

Scanned PDFs are often of poor quality.
The pages are usually rotated incorrectly, there can be dark spots and shadows on the page, the text may be marked up with highlighters or pens, and the paragraphs are often clipped. These unnecessary obstacles make documents harder to read.

Keep in mind that high-quality, searchable documents are crucial for maintaining an accessible classroom.


How to Find Alternative Solutions

Example: FSU libraries home page

Use the FSU Libraries Database

Look for online versions of your materials that are accessible. Usually, these are web-based versions that are considered accessible if they have their own form of tagging.

When distributing links to your students, either copy and paste the permalink or copy and paste the FSU Libraries URL. If your students are attempting to access the article off-campus or without using FSU Wi-Fi, let them know they may be expected to self-identify their university to access the article. The article’s database will likely ask them to access the article through their institution. They should select Florida State University or Florida State University Library Resources. From there, they may be prompted to log in with their credentials.

Example: SpringerLink online version of The Merchant of Venice

Example: Springer Nature search within your institution

To access the permalink, click the Permalink icon.

Example: To access the permalink, click the Permalink icon.

From there, you can copy it to your clipboard.

Example: From there, you can copy it to your clipboard.


Work with a Librarian

Example: Work With A Librarian Link landing page

With enough notice, your subject librarian may be able to help you find accessible, alternative documents. You can also give them the original book or document and ask them to scan it using optical character recognition (OCR), which converts scanned images into machine-readable text. Visit the FSU Libraries accessibility page for more information about their services.

If you cannot find your desired content through the FSU Libraries, you may be able to locate a free online version. Be careful to check that these copies are accessible and free for everyone and that they have the headings and proper tagging needed for accessibility.


Easy Fix Recap

The previous Easy Fixes covered in this campaign were Canvas’s built-in accessibility toolsTidyUP (a Canvas cleanup tool aimed at improving your Ally score by detecting and removing duplicated and unused files), Kaltura (a Canvas tool that allows you to upload and caption YouTube videos), and PDF conversions. Be sure to check out those Easy Fixes as you work to improve your courses’ accessibility. For more accessibility information, please see our Ally Resource Guide.

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