The first PDF reader for visually impaired people

The first PDF reader for visually impaired people
St. Gallen – 24 June 2013. The Swiss National Association of and for the Blind (SNAB), in collaboration with the Access for All foundation and the service provider xyMedia, has developed an important innovation for visually impaired people. The VIP PDF-Reader overcomes a previously insurmountable problem for people with a visual impairment who want to read and work with PDF files. This innovative product is now available free of charge to Windows, Mac and Linux users.

Insurmountable obstacles for the visually impaired
Nowadays PDF documents are one of the key digital communication formats. Thousands of PDF files are sent by e-mail and made available to download from websites. However, for visually impaired people, who have to enlarge text on the screen and increase the contrast between the text and the background, PDFs present an insurmountable obstacle. The font is often too small, which makes it difficult to read and the text may be laid out in columns. In addition, when users zoom in or enlarge the font, they constantly have to scroll horizontally. This means that they may miss out on information, because they do not have a clear overview.

Accessibility on the Internet
But now there is a solution to all these problems. The new VIP PDF-Reader (in this case VIP stands for visually impaired people) is an assistive technology developed by the Swiss National Association of and for the Blind (SNAB) and its partners, which makes PDFs easier for people with visual impairments to read. The VIP PDF-Reader filters the text out of a PDF file and presents it in a user-friendly interface. The text can be enlarged and contrasted with the background and line breaks are inserted automatically, which means that the text is always fitted to the size of the window. The information is displayed in the correct order with columns below rather than next to one another. Images, logos, graphics and tables appear in the correct place in the form of icons and can be displayed in a separate full-screen window.

Numerous other functions
The VIP PDF-Reader has a range of functions which make PDF documents accessible to visually impaired PC users and also to older people and those with learning disabilities. It displays a table of contents that lists all the correctly formatted headings. This makes it easier for users to find their way around documents quickly. The VIP PDF-Reader’s toolbar can be enlarged and can be used both with the mouse and the keyboard, which is very useful for people with disabilities. The font and the background colour can be set to meet each user’s needs. The software includes fonts such as Tiresias, which has been designed for visually impaired people and is used for TV subtitles. The VIP-PDF Reader can store several different profiles so that users can choose a different view during the daytime and in the evening, when there is more glare from desk lamps, for example. The VIP PDF-Reader runs on Microsoft, Apple and Linux operating systems.

Reading is good – accessible formatting is even better
The VIP PDF-Reader can read accessible PDF documents most effectively. These contain hidden additional information in the form of tags. Headings, paragraphs, lists, tables, links and images with legends or alternative text are some of the most important content of the tags. Correctly tagged, accessible PDF files are high-quality documents and provide the most benefits for all PC users. Accessible PDFs can be viewed on a variety of devices, for example, those with a speech output system and with very small screens, such as smartphones and mini tablets.

Formatting PDF files correctly means making your own contribution to creating an accessible Internet. This is why the SNAB, in addition to the VIP PDF-Reader, is providing simple guidelines on how to create an accessible PDF file from a source document such as a Word or InDesign file using correct formatting. On the website of the Access for All foundation the PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC) tool is also available free of charge.

The development of the VIP PDF-Reader has been supported by the Bureau for Equality of People with Disabilities and the Emmy Hedinger Foundation.

The VIP PDF-Reader is available to download free of charge on this page on the right side.

Here you can find information about how to create accessible PDF files (in German only):

The latest images can also be downloaded from:

The Swiss National Association of and for the Blind (SNAB)
Since 1903, the Swiss National Association of and for the Blind (SNAB) has been committed to helping deafblind, visually impaired and blind people to take responsibility for determining the course of their own lives. As an umbrella organisation, the SNAB holds training courses for specialists who work with deafblind, blind and visually impaired adults and children, provides information about visual impairments and their consequences, runs a specialist library and coordinates collaboration projects and research on behalf of visually impaired people, while also representing their interests. As a direct service, SNAB advises and supports deafblind and hearing and visually impaired people, develops and sells aids, runs a specialist centre for optical aids and carries out research and training in the field of low vision, in order to help visually impaired people to make the best possible use of their remaining sight.

Access for All

Access for All, the Swiss foundation for accessible technology use, was established in November 2000. It regards itself as a competence centre and a mediator between people with disabilities who are most affected by technological barriers and providers of information and equipment from the public and private sectors.


xyMedia GmbH supplies solutions and services relating to PDF documents and PDF forms. The company has been working with accessible PDF documents and forms since 2005. In addition to providing consultancy, presentations, courses and services, xyMedia develops a range of specialist tools and solutions for creating and checking accessible PDF documents.

Kindly supported by:

  • The Bureau for Equality of People with Disabilities
  • The Emmy Hedinger Foundation

Download Manual VIP PDF-Reader here

Support deafblind and hearing and visually impaired people with a donation of your choice.

Das ZEWO- Gütesiegel für einen sorgfältigen Einsatz Ihrer Spende.

Links and downloads on this page


Download manual VIP PDF-Reader

Please read first the manual before you download the programm. 

Download PDF-Reader

Please read first the manual before you download the programm.