Using Assistive Technology to Check Reading Order

1. Review Reading Order in Tags Panel

2. Review Reading Order in Order Panel

3. Export/Save As Text Accessible

4. Assistive Technology to Check Reading Order

Now that you have visually assessed the reading order of the document, the next step is to use assistive technology software such as JAWS and the built-in screen reading feature in Adobe Acrobat, Read Out Loud, to aurally assess reading order.

Assessing Reading order with JAWS

If JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is installed on your computer, double click on the JAWS shortcut icon on your desktop or go to your start menu to locate the program.  When JAWS opens, it will say "JAWS for Windows is Ready" and announce the title of the PDF document.  To begin reading the PDF document, select the following keystrokes and listen for the order in which the document is read.  These are some of the most common keyboard shortcuts used to read the entire document and list items such as links, headings, frames, and form fields.  To learn about more keyboard shortcuts for JAWS, visit WebAIM's Keyboard Shortcut for JAWS web page (, and Freedom Scientifics' JAWS Keystrokes web page (

  • Insert + down arrow = Say All, reads until the end of the page from where the cursor is located
  • CTRL = Interrupt Speech
  • Insert + up arrow = Say Line, Reads the line at the active cursor
  • Insert + left arrow = Say prior word
  • Insert + right arrow = Say next word
  • Insert + F6 = List of Headings
  • Insert + F7 = List of Links
  • Insert + F9 = List of Frames
  • Insert + F5 = List of Form fields

Video Tutorial - Using JAWS to Assess Reading Order (4:59)

Using Adobe Acrobat Read Out Loud Feature

You can also assess the reading order of your PDF document by using the built-in screen reader for Adobe PDF, Read Out Loud (also available in Acrobat Reader).  To access Read Out Loud:

  1. Go to the View menu and select Read Out Loud.
  2. Select Activate Read Out Loud.
  3. Go back to the View menu and select Read Out Loud.
  4. You will see three options: Deactivate Read Out Loud, Read this Page Only, and Read to End of Document.  Select the appropriate option to read the document.

Video Tutorial - Using Adobe's Read Out Loud Feature to Assess Reading Order (3:26)


Setting Page Properties for Reading Order

  1. Go to the View menu > Navigation Panels > select Pages (see screenshot below)

    Selecting the Pages Navigation Panel to display from the View menu.
  2. The Pages panel will display to the left of the screen.
  3. Click the first page displayed in the Pages panel pane so that it is highlighed.

    The Pages panel displays at the left of the screen when enabled from the view menu.

    Selecting the "Use Document Structure" option from the Page Properties Dialog box for Reading Order.
  4. Click the Options drop down menu button and select Page Properties... (screenshot at right)
  5. The Page Properties dialog box displays.  Under the "Tab Order" tab, select the Use Document Structure option and click the OK button.
  6. After going through these steps to assess reading order of your document, you will have an idea of how the document is read to a screen reader user.  Performing the Full Check for Accessibility will pinpoint exactly where corrects need to be made in the document to make it accessible.

Video Tutorial - How to Set Page Properties for Reading Order (1:50)


  • This training has been funded in part by the EnACT (Ensuring Access through Collaboration and Technology) grant. 
  • Written and developed by Sacramento State Online Learning professionals, Monica Range and Cryssel Vera and technical crew, Ivan Vajar, Ken Young, and Jennifer Wicks with guidance from the CSU Professional Development Work Group.


If you have difficulty accessing any material on this site or need an alternate format, or you just have questions and want to give feedback, contact the Accessible Technology Initiative.

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