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If your Web site uses applets, plug-ins, or PDF files, you should provide equivalent text that is accessible to a ‘screen reader.’

A screen reader is a device that allows people with specific disabilities (blindness, for example) to be able to hear Web pages spoken out to them rather than being displayed on the screen.

If alternative text is not available, a screen reader will not be able to accurately convey what is being displayed by the scripts.


Here are some tips on how to design accessible content with.


Most browsers used by people with disabilities do not work with Java applets. While Sun Microsystems – the creators of Java – have incorporated accessibility features with Java, most Java developers do not make use of these features.

Therefore, these users might not be able to access all of the information unless you provide an equivalent alternative.

Where browsers don’t support a particular applet or plug-in, the accessibility goal is to inform the user of the existence of the applet and to provide an equivalent alternative in HTML.

For example: Inform the user of an applet’s purpose by adding alternative text to the APPLET element.

<APPLET CODE="menu.class" ALT="Java menu applet"></APPLET>

You should include equivalent HTML in the content of OBJECT elements too.

When a browser does not support an applet, the browser renders the HTML content in the OBJECT element.

<OBJECT CLASSID="java:menu:class">Java menu...</OBJECT>


Some video (e.g. “.mov” files) and audio (e.g. “.wav” files) players are compatible with screen readers.

However, an alternative to the audio content is needed for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. An alternative to the visual content is also needed for users who are blind or have poor vision.

PDF Files

PDF files are used as an accurate way to reproduce and transport documents for printing or reading. They are created using Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat Capture, or similar products.

Download Adobe Acrobat Reader

To view and use PDF files, you need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in, that anyone can download. Once the Acrobat Reader has been downloaded to a computer, it will start automatically whenever a user views a PDF file.

Accessibility Tools for Adobe PDF Documents

Visually disabled users find it difficult to understand the contents of a PDF file. Screen readers often can’t read the text in that file, because a PDF file can contain complex layouts and large graphics. Access.adobe.com provides a set of free tools that allow visually disabled users to read documents in Adobe PDF format. These tools convert PDF documents into either HTML or ASCII text, which can then be read by screen readers.

Web-Based PDF Conversion Tool

Adobe also offers a useful service whereby a PDF document is converted on the fly to HTML and returned immediately to the user’s Web browser. A screen reader can then read the document.

E-mail PDF Conversion Tool

PDF files that are stored on a user’s computer system (local hard disk), CD-ROM, or local area network (LAN), can also be converted by attaching the PDF file to an e-mail message. The converted PDF file is returned in the body of a new mail message, as plain ASCII text, in a matter of minutes.

AskAlice Web Site Accessibility Checker

Receive an online report containing:

  • A thorough assessment of your site’s accessibility;
  • An analysis of the opportunities accessibility offers your organization;
  • Information on how you can make your site accessible.

Provide Equivalent HTML Files

Even with all the tools Adobe offer to assist visually disabled users, the best solution is to offer a HTML version of the PDF file in your Web site.