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PDF Conversion to Braille Ready Files

A greater percentage of the worksheets that teachers need for translation into braille and tactile graphics are being sent to the braille production staff via email or other file sharing method such as Dropbox, or a local ISD file sharing portal.  This is a good thing because the files are getting to the production staff at a much quicker rate which ultimately means that the materials will be under the fingers of students sooner.

Files sent to the production staff usually come as Word documents, PDF documents or spreadsheets.  All these types of files require editing preparations before they are ready for braille translation.  PDF documents are a special case.

PDF documents sent for reproduction in Braille documents are received from teachers in one of two ways, bitmap or text tag.  Bitmap is a fancy word for picture or image file like jpeg, tiff, gif, or pic.

A text tag file is a one that can be edited through cut and pasting.  Both types of file formats are problems for the production staff.  There is no copy and pasting with a bitmap and there are some formatting issues when copy and pasting with text tag files.

Besides giving up by transcribing the whole text by hand there are some software workarounds.   This involves opening a PDF file in an optical character recognition (OCR) software application.  Usually these software solutions contain a "scanning" feature (which really is not actually scanning) that will convert the document into editable text.  Costs vary from free to "very" expensive.  The converted text file will also vary as to how much cleanup is needed.

Here are some OCR software applications:

Adobe Professional,, $200.
Convert PDF documents into a Word document but only works with text tag files.  The converted Word document is clear and may need very little clean up.

FreeOCR,, Open source free.
Converts both bitmap and text tag files.  Clean up is laborious but conversion is quick.

DocuSan Plus,, $300
Converts both bitmap and text tag files into an editable .txt file.  It will also read the file with its own speech output.  Conversion time is quick

Dolphin Easy Converter,, $1400
Converts both bitmap and text tag files into editable text files.  This is a very quick and powerful software solution for braille, large print, and text file conversion.

Patrick Van Geem, TVI
Assistive Technology Consultant
Outreach Department
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

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