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PDF Tech Guide
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Last Updated: March 21, 2024

What is a PDF?

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It is designed to make a document accessible regardless of software, hardware, and operating systems. However, it does need a viewer. Viewers are typically free. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a viewer. Preview is the viewer that comes with a Mac. When in view mode, a PDF is not editable, but a student can use an annotation tool to “write on top of it”.

PDF files can become editable through the purchase of additional software, but then this becomes redundant to other word processing applications.

How do I use PDFs?

At HPDS, our assistive technology is accessible online. Many teachers assign classwork and homework via Google Classroom. One of the formats for a worksheet is PDF. When a student opens the PDF worksheet with TextHelp PDF Reader called OrbitNote (, the student can use the assistive technology s/he needs. There is a click-to-speak feature that allows students to highlight words, sentences or paragraphs from a PDF and a text-to-speech feature will read it to them. There is also a Typewriter Annotations Tool that allows students to type onto the worksheet or even use Voice Typing.

Snap&Read is another assistive technology that allows students to highlight words, sentences or paragraphs from a PDF. It also has a text-to-speech feature that will read the text to the student. Snap&Read has added features allowing students to annotate on PDFs.  Here is the link to the Chrome extension -

Devices need a PDF viewer. On a PC, the most common viewer is Adobe Reader (aka Acrobat Reader). On a Mac, a viewer comes installed called Preview, but Adobe Reader can also be downloaded. Adobe Reader is free.

How does this help students?

A PDF is a digital worksheet. When students have access to information in a digital format, they can use their assistive technology tools, like text-to-speech, voice typing or keyboarding.

Here are a few examples:

What are the steps to converting a paper worksheet into a PDF?

There are a number of methods and programs that easily convert a paper worksheet to a PDF.. Here is a list of some ways to do this. Most of the time, a student will need an adult to help them, but some older students may also be able to do this independently.

What else is good to know about working with PDFs?

How much does it cost?

Converting a worksheet from a paper copy to a PDF ranges from free to around $20, depending on the app chosen.

Does it work on other devices?

Yes. Macs, PCs, Android devices, iPhones and iPads.

What do I need to know when my student transitions?

  1. Find out the devices a student will be using.
  2. Determine which programs will be used to annotate on the PDFs based on the assistive technology your students needs and uses.
  3. Determine how worksheets will be converted to PDFs and who will be responsible for this. Be sensitive to time and audience.

When would a student use this?

A student would need a PDF when s/he is expected to complete worksheets that require reading or providing short answers. Graphic organizers or concepts maps may be appropriate to convert to a PDF depending on how much text is required within the provided space. Worksheets with higher vocabulary might also be a good fit. Working with a PDF covers all subjects, including math. It really depends on what the student needs, not what is convenient.

Where can I find more information?

How Does Optical Character Recognition Help Kids With Reading Issues?

*Please note that technology and pricing is always changing. This document reflects the most recent known information as indicated by the Last Updated Date at the top of the page.