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

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



  • Karen McCall, Accessible Document Design Consultant and Educator, 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. has been working in the field of accessible document design since 1999. She began her career in website accessibility and auditing and moved to accessible Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents in 2004. Karen is:

A Canadian delegate of the ISO 14289 or PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility) committee and has been for a number of years. A Canadian delegate to the ISO 32000 PDF committee. A Microsoft MVP for Word (Most Valued Professional) since 2009. A Microsoft Accessibility MVP since 2017 when this category of MVP was established.

Karen has written several books on the topic of accessible document design for Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents as well as smaller publications with specific techniques for working with Office applications if you are using adaptive technology and/or the keyboard.

Karen is the president of Karlen Communications.