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SensusAccess is an online document conversion system that converts text and image-based files into more accessible formats. It can also be used to transform text and image-based files into different outputs including audio, Braille, or e-text formats.

SensusAccess is meant to compliment accessibility services. It will not make a document fully accessible, but for images and image-based PDFs, it can create a readable, tagged document that will only require some simple manual additions for full accessibility.

SensusAccess Conversion Form

What can it used for?

SensusAcess can be used for accessibility conversions or to convert documents into alternate formats such as audio, Braille, or e-text. 

  • Accessibility conversions: As the primary way this service will be used, image and PDF files can be converted to more accessible formats (Tagged PDF, Word documents, HTML, etc.) SensusAccess is an automated tool, so it will not make a document fully accessible, but converting a document from image-based to text-based will allow most to use the document and is a good first step toward creating an accessible document
  • Audio: Files can be converted into plain MP3 files using high-quality, customizable computer generated text-to-speech voices.
  • Braille: Documents can be converted to and from contracted and uncontracted Braille. These documents can be formatted and paginated, and delivered as ready-to-emboss files in a variety of digital Braille formats. 

Who can use it?

SensusAccess is available to Northwestern faculty, staff, and students. There is no cost associated with use of this service. Users are free and encouraged to convert as many documents as necessary.

  • Instructors are encouraged to utilize the SensusAccess accessibility conversion feature on PDFs posted to Canvas or shared with students to ensure their readability with screen readers or text readers
  • Staff are encouraged to utilize the SensusAccess accessibility conversion feature to help ensure that accessible document are posted to websites. Prior to posting an image-based file containing text (image or PDF) to a website, staff should run it through the SensusAccess accessibility conversion feature to create a tagged PDF. From there, staff will be able to more easily complete the accessibility conversion process by manually adding a title, language, alt text, headings, and proper hyperlinks, etc.
  • Students are encouraged to use SensusAccess to convert inaccessible documents found on Canvas pages to readable text. If they prefer to listen to text, they are also encouraged to use SensusAccess to convert readings for class into MP3s. 

How to use it?

Obtaining a converted file through SensusAccess is a simple process. 

  1. Visit Northwestern's SensusAccess convert a file page
  2. Choose whether you'd like to convert a File, URL, or Text
  3. Upload your file, enter your URL, or copy and paste the text to convert
  4. Select your output format (Accessibility conversion, MP3, Braille, etc.)
  5. Based on your output format, specify your options (ex. for an accessibility conversion, choose a tagged PDF or Windows text)
  6. Enter your email address and click "Submit"
  7. The service will run the conversion and email you the desired output. The amount of time to get it returned will depend on the size of the file.

Conversion Results

The quality of the converted file depends on the quality of the original file. A well formatted Word document will be properly rendered into the desired output. Conversely, a scanned document with folds, smudges, tears, underlined or skewed text may not provide the desired results. If converting this type of document to a text file, it would be helpful review the converted document to make any necessary adjustments. Further, while SensusAccecss does a good job converting a variety of input and output types, it should not be used to convert files with tables or complex formulas.


The SensusAccess e-learning course covers how SensusAccess can be used to improve the accessibility of documents and to make documents easier to work with.