Comparing the CommonLook PDF Validator and the PAC (PDF Accessibility Checker)

Scheduled at 8:00am in Standley I Lab on Thursday, November 17 (2016).



  • Karen McCall, Accessible Document Design Consultant, Karlen Communications

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 2-hr
  • Format:
  • Expertise Level: Not provided
  • Type of session: General Conference


This lab provides hands-on experience using the CommonLook PDF Validator and the PAC (PDF Accessibility Checker). Both of these validation tools for accessible PdF documents are free and can be used in combination with the Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Full Check or as stand alone validation tools.


This two hour lab walks participants through the features of the CommonLook PDF Validator and the PAC (PDF Accessibility Checker). Both PDF accessibility validation tools are free and can be used in combination with each other and the Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Full Check. While both have similar features, there are differences in the user interface and the types of help that are available when an accessibility issue is found. For example, for novice accessibility testers, the PAC screen reader view is helpful in identifying structural elements of a PDF document. On the other hand, the CommonLook PDF Validator has a Ribbon to easily switch between views of the document structure. The PAC is an accessibility checker for PDF/UA compliance only, while the CommonLook PDF Validator divides checks into structure (based on ISO 3200) and Accessibility (including PDF/UA, HHS, and WCAG) conformance. Learn how to use both of these tools effectively as part of your quality assurance process.


  1. Identify the differences between the two PDF accessibility validation tools.
  2. Identify the similarities between the two accessible PDF validation tools.
  3. Identify a strategy for using the accessible PDF validation tools in an accessible PDF workflow.

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Administrative/Campus Policy, Assistive Technology, Legal

Speaker Bio(s)

Karen McCall

Karen McCall, M.Ed. is the owner of Karlen Communications. She has been working in the field of accessible document design for over ten years and has written several books on creating and working with various document formats including Word, PowerPoint and PDF. She is currently working on the fourth edition of her book “Accessible and Usable PDF Documents: Techniques for Document Authors.” Karen is a Canadian delegate to the ISO PDF/UA committee. Her current activities include creating the PdF and the User Experience Survey for people with disabilities using adaptive technology and advocating for a global inclusive quality education standard.