Accessibility File Scan in Moodle

Posted August 11th, 2021 at 4:12 pm.

The Moodle Accessibility FileScan tool checks and reports on the accessibility of PDF files added to a Moodle course. (Student Assignment submissions and PDFs provided as Feedback to individual students are excluded from the scan.)

Table of Contents


File Scan Summary Block

The File Scan Summary block on the course page summarizes the results.

Screen shot of FileScan summary block

Accessible — how many PDFs passed all accessibility tests.

Inaccessible – how many files lack searchable, text-to-speech readable text.

Partially accessible – how many files have searchable text, but lack one or more of the other key accessibility features.

File error — how many files the tool could not scan (e.g., due to password-protection or corruption).

Click View File Details for a list of PDF files found in the course and information about what accessibility issues are reported.


Fixing Inaccessible and Partially Accessible PDFs

Files that are inaccessible or partially accessible need to be fixed and replaced.

  1. Click View File Details to find out which files are inaccessible or partially accessible.
  2. You can fix most PDFs using Adobe Acrobat’s Make Accessible wizard.  Adobe Acrobat is part of Adobe Creative Cloud and available on all college-owned computers. Faculty and staff can also install copies on personal devices.
  3. However:
    • If the PDF is a copy of a file you created in another program (e.g., Microsoft Word), it is usually faster to make that original document accessible, and then re-save as a PDF. See Create Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word and Create Accessible Slides in PowerPoint, for info on making files accessible in these programs.
    • If the PDF is an old scan or download of a print journal article, check whether a newer, accessible version is available in repositories like JSTOR or ProQuest. Most have been working to improve the accessibility of their holdings over the past few years.
  4. Once you have an accessible version, delete the files in Moodle and replace them with the fixed copies.

Time-saving tips:

  • Also replace any copies you store outside Moodle with the accessible versions as well, so you have them to use in future courses.
  • Consider adding an abbreviation to the filenames (such as “_av”, “access”, “_rev” etc.) of PDFs you’ve fixed so you can easily identify them.
  • Bibliographic tools can make it easier to organize and manage PDF libraries. Some, like Zotero, enable people to group libraries, which can be an easy way for departments or disciplinary colleagues to share accessible PDFs of commonly taught texts.
  • Adobe Acrobat’s Make Accessible wizard will apply OCR to file that lack text, but it will have difficulty with scans that are highly skewed, made from poor photocopies, blurry, shadowed, obscured, underlined or annotated. Finding and rescanning a clean, unmarked original is usually much faster than trying to fix the OCR errors in a bad scan.


File Details Explained

The detail report indicates when each file was scanned and which accessibility tests it passed or failed using the following icons:

(green check mark) — passed

(red X) – failed

(blue question mark) — file has not yet been scanned or an error is preventing it from being scanned (e.g., it could be corrupted or password-protected).


This column indicates the document’s overall accessibility. Files with a (green check mark) passed all accessibility tests, files with a (orange exclamation mark) or (red X) did not and need to be fixed.


A PDF will fail this test if it lacks text. Documents that fail are typically scans of print documents. Scanners only create an image of a page; OCR (optical character recognition) software must convert the pixels within that image into text that can be searched, highlighted, and read by screen readers, text-to-speech software, and other assistive technologies. Because text is fundamental for accessibility, documents without text are flagged as completely inaccessible.


A PDF will fail this test if the title field is blank or missing from the descriptive metadata — or data about the file — that is stored with it. The title of the document is different from the file name and is used by screen readers to identify documents and windows. A clear and accurate title helps screen-reader users identify which document they are reading and navigate between windows.

  • Adobe Acrobat’s Make Accessible wizard will prompt you to add a title to the metadata.
  • You can also edit the Title on the Description tab of the Document Properties window (click File, Properties …, then Description).


A PDF will fail this test if the language field is blank or missing from the descriptive metadata for the file. Screen reader software and other assistive technologies need language metadata to ensure proper text-to-speech recognition and pronunciation.

  • Adobe Acrobat’s Make Accessible wizard will prompt you to specify the language of your document
  • You can also edit the language on Advanced tab Document Properties window (click File, Properties …, then Advanced).


A PDF will fail this test if the document has not been “tagged” with structural information about headings and sections. These tags ensure screen readers read text in the proper order and helps all readers navigate within a document.

  • If you created your document in a program like Word, and used built-in heading styles to add information about the structure of the document, these will be converted to the appropriate tags when you save as a PDF. See Create Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word.
  • If the PDF does not already have tags, Adobe Acrobat’s Make Accessible wizard will attempt to “autotag” it. You will need to check this auto-tagging as the final step and fix any errors.
Filed under: Accessibility,Building and Managing Courses by Jenny Spohrer

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