Automation in PDF Accessibility: What Can and Can’t Be Done


Presented at 2:15pm in Westminster IV on Thursday, November 15, 2018.



  • Paul Rayius, Director of Training, CommonLook

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Building on last year’s session “Understanding the Standards and Mitigating Risk,” in which a “Multi-Phase Accessibility Plan” was proposed for achieving document accessibility, this year we’ll look at where automation can fit into this plan to help with accessible document creation, remediation, testing, and more.


As attention to electronic content accessibility grows, and as more lawsuits are filed, organizations are looking for better, and easier solutions to reach their accessibility goals. Many companies have begun pushing various automated solutions, especially when it comes to solving the problem of PDF accessibility. Anyone who has experience with PDF accessibility knows that it’s pretty involved and can get complicated quickly. Sure, an automated solution that fixes everything would be great – but is that really possible? In this session we’ll look at PDF accessibility automation and examine claims that are being made, read the “fine print,” and address how much can be done automatically vs. what requires human intervention. We’ll explore automation in various phases of PDF accessibility, from authoring and creating, to remediating “legacy” PDFs, including scanned documents, and testing and monitoring PDF holdings--whether it’s with a single document or an entire library.


  1. Automation in PDF accessibility may have its place.
  2. Some things can be done automatically and some require human interaction.
  3. How do you know if the automated work was done correctly?

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Mobility, Vision

Topic Areas

Administrative/Campus Policy, Assistive Technology, Legal, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Paul Rayius

Since 2013, Paul has helped a variety of organizations, including healthcare, government agencies (local, state and federal), financial institutions, and colleges and universities meet their PDF accessibility needs. In addition to his expertise with the CommonLook suite of tools for testing, creating and remediating PDFs, he is also well versed in accessibility standards including Section 508 (including the recent “refresh”), Health and Human Services (HHS), WCAG 2.0 and PDF/UA. Paul is a member of the IAAP (International Association of Accessibility Professionals) and serves on various committees for the CPACC exam, WAS, and BOK. In addition, he is a member of the PDF Association and participates in the PDF/UA Competence Center and the PDF/UA Technical Working Group. Paul also participates in, and moderates, several online accessibility groups and forums. Prior to joining the CommonLook team, Paul graduated with a BMe in Instrumental Music Education from Florida State University and taught middle school band for 11 years. In his spare time, he enjoys various outdoor activities and is an avid lacrosse player and geocacher.