Google will soon make it easier to interact with PDFs if you have low vision. The company has added OCR (optical character recognition) technology to Chrome that can convert PDFs to text making them more accessible, especially if you want to read them aloud with a screen reader. The tool will also provide image descriptions.
The feature will be available in the “coming months,” Google said. The company also plans to expand the functionality beyond Chrome later this year, though it hasn’t said which platforms will receive the upgrade. We’ve asked Google for more details and will let you know when we hear back.
The introduction comes as part of a broader education push that includes app licensing for school Chromebooks and free access to Adobe Express in the US. Administrators also have tighter control over what students and teachers can access on their Chromebooks — they can ban students from copying and pasting text from certain websites, such as generative AI tools that help them cheat on tests. Users, on the other hand, will have an easier time turning off their camera or microphone wherever they are in Chrome OS.
The read-aloud PDF feature is intended for classrooms, where students with vision issues will have an easier time reading scanned material in class or required research articles. However, it will also make the internet more accessible to the general public. It’s common for websites to put terms of service or other important information in PDFs. The upgrade puts that information within reach of more people.