Panel: Do PDFs Belong in our Accessible Future?

Presented at 8:00am in Gov Square 11 on Thursday, November 18, 2021.



  • Krista Greear Wright, Senior Accessibility Strategist, Anthology
  • Dan Comden, Access Technology Center Manager, ATS
  • Dax Castro, Accessible Document Specialist, AbleDocs
  • Susan Kelmer, Alternate Format Production Program Manager, University of Colorado Boulder

Session Details

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


PDFs are notoriously challenging to make accessible and everyone has them. Some take a strong stance that PDFs are not a desirable choice for delivering content in an accessible manner; others disagree. This panel is to explore some of these perspectives as we discuss the future of accessibility and PDFs place in it.


There are several automated accessibility tools that help higher education institutions to identify their scope of inaccessible content. One is Blackboard Ally, a tool that integrates with the major Learning Management Systems to scan and identify the number of inaccessible documents, including PDFs. In the 2020-21 academic year, across 5.9 million courses in over 1,000 global higher education institutions, Ally scanned approximately 90.5 million PDFs. Of those 90.5 million PDFs, 13% are scanned and 43% are untagged, both of which are major accessibility issues. This is a staggering and indicates a world-wide, systematic problem that is not diminishing. Using this data as a starting place, this panel will discuss questions such as:

  • What has been your experience with inaccessible PDFs?
  • Do you think PDFs are part of our desired future regarding accessible content? Why or why not?
  • In your experience, what is the root cause of the pervasiveness, and inaccessibility of PDFs?
  • If you got to determine how the global higher education community addresses inaccessible PDFs, what would be your strategy?


  1. Participants will hear various perspectives from professionals in the accessibility industry.
  2. Participants will consider ways that inaccessible PDFs could or should be address on the global stage.
  3. Participants will acquire additional insight and ideas as how to address never-ending inaccessible PDFs.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Faculty Development & Support, Research, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Krista Greear Wright

An enthusiastic, data-driven individual, Krista is passionate about inclusivity. With over 12 years of experience in higher education accessibility, Krista’s focus is to accelerate the educational landscape regarding digital content. Her expertise is in document and video accessibility, although is interested in web and application accessibility as well.

Leveraging her Master of Education in Educational Technology, Krista is interested in the intersection of accessibility, inclusion, and instructional design. She is excited about improving the educational experience for all students by working with administrators, faculty, and students to make changes at a system level.

Dan Comden

Dan manages the Access Technology Center (ATC) at the University of Washington. The ATC is a UW system-wide resource within central IT that works directly with students, faculty, and staff with disabilities who need to access computing resources. The ATC also help web and application developers make exciting and accessible online resources. In his free time, Dan plays with cars and rides his bike.

Dax Castro

Dax is an Adobe Certified PDF Accessibility Trainer, Accessible Document Specialist and member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. He has more than 25 years experience creating digital content using InDesign, Acrobat and other creative software. Dax specializes in user-centered accessibility approaches that push the envelope of technology to produce more robust accessible documents that still meet Section 508, WCAG 2.0/2.1 and PDF/UA compliance.

Susan Kelmer

Ms. Kelmer has been working with alternate format and accessible technology for nearly 20 years in a higher education environment. Currently she works at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Alternate Format Production and Access Center, where alternate format materials for students are produced. She also consults with other departments on campus and other campuses about alternate format and how to produce it. She has presented at multiple AHG conferences in the last seventeen years.