By Megan Dausch, College Success Program Mentor
It was mid-April and final papers stretched out before me like a mountain range. Luckily, I felt prepared for the climb. I had topics and notes all ready to go; I just had one smaller paper left to write before getting into final paper writing mode.
One of the most challenging courses I took in graduate school was language acquisition. The professor was excellent and had high expectations. She frequently used handouts, and the PDF documents she had available were often scanned images. We had an assignment where we had to read several journal articles and write a paper on these specific articles. She didn’t have electronic copies, so I took the handouts and dropped them off at my school’s DSO (Disability Services Office). They had scanned plenty of material for me before, so I wasn’t too worried. However, when I received the material in a couple of days in my email, I was shocked. I opened the file, expecting to hear the beginning of a journal article. All I heard was my screen-reader saying “image one.” As I arrowed down hoping to hear more text, I only heard the monotonous and dreadful sound of my screen-reader uttering “blank, blank.”
I emailed the DSO asking them to please re-send the file, as it appeared blank. I figured there was just an issue with the file, and a quick re-send would do the trick.
They did, and once again, the document seemed to be blank except for something that my screen-reader read as an image.
I picked up the phone to let them know that it appeared the document was not complete.
“No, it’s all there,” the student worker told me. “Maybe you should check again.”
Finally, I called my roommate over to take a look at the document.
“Yeah,” she said, “it looks like a whole book is there. It looks like a picture.”
Something clicked in my mind. The file had not been run through optical character recognition software. The image had been copied into Microsoft Word.
I called the office back to explain.
“It seems that the file was not run through OCR software,” I explained.
“They weren’t what? I’m sorry, I’m new here.”
“So this file is an image file. My screen-reader can’t read images taken from Adobe Acrobat; they need to be run through an OCR program first. The center has a copy of Kurzweil which they usually use to perform the OCR.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that. I’ve seen that program before. So should I open the files with that program first, and then send them to you?
“Yes, please. Open them with Kurzweil, and then you can save them as Microsoft Word files in the save as dialog box."
“I’ll try that. Thanks for letting us know that we didn’t do it right.”
“No problem. If I can help, let me know.”
Shortly after, my converted files appeared in my in-box.
Even though I had educated the DSO early on about what I needed, I learned that you never know when you may have to do some more education and advocacy. I also learned that Microsoft Word can have text embedded as an image —something I had never given much thought to before!
Read part 1 of this 2 part blog series here: Working with your Disabilities Office, Part 1
is one of Learning Ally’s College Success Program mentors. The College Success Program is a free program for students who are blind or visually impaired. You are connected with a mentor, audiobooks, and advice. Find out more by visiting LearningAlly.org/CollegeSuccess