How To Turn Off Accessibility Features In Adobe Acrobat

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Every time I opened a PDF file in Acrobat, a window would appear to notify me that I was reading an Untagged Document that had to be prepared for reading out loud.

Every time. Every PDF. I’d have to click “Cancel” on this dialog:

“This document is untagged and must be prepared for reading. While the document is being analyzed, your assistive technology will not be able to interact with this application.

“Reading Order: Infer reading order from document (recommended)

“Reading Mode Options: Read the currently visible pages only.”

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That’s a sweet, generous offer by Acrobat but, hey, call me ungrateful – I actually did not want each PDF read out loud to me. In fact, I kind of wanted it to stop asking. A lot.

As always, tracking down strange unwanted behavior can lead to sidetracks and wasted effort and breaking things. After a lot of work, this is the best information I can put together, in case Acrobat starts wanting to read to you too.

  • Acrobat and Adobe Reader are designed to sense the presence of voice recognition software on a computer. A few months ago I set up my computer to start Windows 7 Speech Recognition automatically. Other people see this behavior when they install Dragon Naturally Speaking.
  • If you run voice recognition software, Adobe assumes you’re blind.
  • Seriously.
  • There’s no way to turn off the “accessibility” features. Once they decide you’re blind, Acrobat and Adobe Reader will throw up that window about “Reading Mode” every time, or launch into “Content Preparation” every time. You can imagine a checkbox to turn it off. I can imagine a checkbox to turn it off. Lots of people can imagine that checkbox. Adobe – not so much. No checkbox. Acrobat 8, 9, and X all behave the same way.

The accessibility features in Acrobat are profoundly helpful to people with disabilities. The flaw is a small one; the programs are a bit too aggressive about deciding they are necessary.

I’ll give you the answer that worked for me, after trial and error with several of the other possible solutions found online. You’re going to be deliberately breaking features that are deeply baked into the programs. Please be aware that the programs may break or there might be unwanted side effects if you try this yourself. If you have any doubts, ask for help!

  • You have to be able to see file extensions – the three or four letters that identify each type of file, .DOC or .PDF or .EXE. If you don’t see the file extensions when you look at lists of files, open up Windows Explorer and click on Tools / Folder Options / View. Remove the checkmark by “Hide extensions for known file types.”
    • If you open Explorer and you don’t see the menu with File / Edit / View / Tools, hit the Alt key.
  • Close Acrobat.
  • Look for an Acrobat folder named plug_ins. On my Windows 7 64-bit computer with Acrobat X, for example, the folder was here: C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Acrobat 10.0\Acrobat\plug_ins. If you have trouble locating the right folder, manually comb through C:\Program Files and C:\Program Files (x86), or do a search in those folders for files named “accessibility.”
  • Rename three files in the plug_ins folder by changing the extension from .API to .API.BAK. You’ll get a warning about changing file extensions.
    • Accessibility.API –> Accessibility.API.BAK
    • MakeAccessible.API –> MakeAccessible.API.BAK
    • ReadOutLoud.API –> ReadOutLoud.API.BAK

The next time I opened a PDF after renaming all three files, a window came up with this warning: “This version of the Adobe Reader does not support screen readers. [] Do not show this message again.”

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I put a checkmark in the box and clicked OK and have not been asked again about preparing a PDF for Reading Mode. One more niggling annoyance solved!

Again, your mileage may vary. There is advice on this page claiming the problem will be fixed when one those files is moved, and advice in this forum that renaming the other two will fix it. I found it was necessary to rename all three. If there are any side effects, you should be able to return the files to their original names and – with luck – everything will go back to normal.

Oh, and don’t be surprised if you have to do this repeatedly. I’d expect those files to be replaced with new versions each time the program is updated.