Adobe delivers enhanced PDF reading experience for accessibility

by Rob Haverty

posted on 12-10-2020

I’d like to share an exciting new way to read PDF documents on mobile devices, called Liquid Mode, found on the Adobe Acrobat Reader app (iOS and Android). Liquid Mode provides a much easier way to read documents on mobile and comes with some incredible benefits for a more accessible PDF reading experience.

Reading experiences made more accessible

Liquid Mode automatically reformats text, images, and tables in PDFs for quick navigation and consumption on small screens – regardless of which application was used to create it. Powered by Adobe Sensei, our AI and machine learning technology, Liquid Mode can understand and identify parts of a PDF, like headings, paragraphs, and lists. This automatic tagging feature boosts mobile productivity while helping make PDFs more accessible by representing the type of information needed to feed into assistive technologies. Notably, screen reader users need a document’s content structure appropriately tagged in order to represent that information accurately. These tagging features have additional accessibility benefits to support other users, such as low-vision users or people who prefer a simplified reading structure.

As I think we all recognize, AI it isn’t perfect. For example, alternative text currently cannot be generated for images and not all document types, such as forms, can be converted yet. We are constantly working to evolve the reading experience and enhance our AI technology to provide an improved reading experience. Although we are proud of the progress we’ve made, we recognize there is still plenty of work to do. Our goal is to use the power of AI to further reimagine how people read and interact with PDFs – ultimately transforming a static PDF into a more dynamic and customizable user experience.

For documents that have already been made accessible, screen reader users may find the original layout (non-Liquid Mode) a better experience. This will allow them to read the document using accessibility work that authors previously added into the PDF document, including alternative text for images.

Intelligent outline view

As a result of automatic tagging in Liquid Mode, an intelligent outline view is generated, allowing for quick navigation to specific sections within the document. Additionally, these sections can be collapsed and expanded, reducing the amount of space taken up on the screen.

The outline view provides a better experience for individuals with certain types of cognitive and learning disabilities – the high-level outline serves as a simplified summary of the document, helps users scan for content to locate specific information, and the outline helps frame users’ expectations of what they are reading to support comprehension. It also reduces the amount of scrolling of a document, making navigating easier for those with mobility disabilities.

Reading settings in Liquid Mode

Additional reading settings are available in Liquid Mode, allowing users to change the font size, character spacing, and line spacing. These settings help support the WCAG 2.1 Resize Text Success Criterion and Text Spacing Success Criterion.

There is always more to be done in this area as well, but these enhancements benefit individuals who find reading a challenge by allowing them to further customize their preferred reading experience.

Content reflow in Liquid Mode

Regardless of the font size or characteristics, the document content will now seamlessly reflow to fit the visible portion of the screen. This functionality supports the WCAG 2.1 Reflow Success Criterion.

As a reader with low vision myself, I typically found reading on my mobile device to be a very challenging experience. The new reading experience made possible with Liquid Mode is almost magical in the way it allows reading in a continuous stream. No more pinching, zooming and scrolling side to side, which can often lead to a feeling of losing context of the narrative/content!

Summary

These are just some of the highlights of Liquid Mode for accessibility. I hope you find using Liquid Mode as exciting as we do and continue to enjoy the enhanced reading experience it as it evolves even further.

Please provide feedback within the Liquid Mode experience in the Adobe Acrobat Reader mobile app.

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