PDF Accessibility – When is Good, Good Enough?

Handouts Media

Presented at 9:15am in Penrose 1 on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.



  • Christa Miller, Associate Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, Virginia Tech

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Interactive/Discussion
  • Expertise Level: All Levels
  • Type of session: General Conference


PDF as an accessible format continues to be on the chopping block. Some argue that the availability of more accessible formats makes PDF obsolete. And yet, there are still valid use-cases for PDF. Add to that greater awareness and campus policies requiring document accessibility. The pressure is on with content volume increasing and no additional resources. What can we do to find balance? How can we decide when a PDF is accessible "enough"?


Creating fully accessible PDF documents is daunting. It requires increasingly high levels of expertise based on the document's complexity. Even more challenging is vying for the attention of instructors, graduate teaching assistants and others to share the responsibility. This is particularly frustrating when a student needs coursework in a timely manner. How do you prioritize which documents deserve the most effort? Similarly, when time and resources are in competition what are reasonable trade-offs to make between accessible and usable?

In this interactive, discussion-based session, participants will explore a variety of PDF document ranging in complexity. Together we will consider strategies for prioritizing your work. We'll also consider impact, risk, and longevity. Ultimately, participants will decide when good enough is good enough.


  1. Determine strategies for prioritizing PDF usability and accessibility.
  2. Identify key factors for determining how accessible a PDF should be.
  3. Compare and contrast how strategies are affected by campus culture.

Disability Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Alternate Format, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Christa Miller

Christa Miller is currently the Associate Director for Services for Students with Disabilities at Virginia Tech (VT). She has a BS Electrical Engineering (2008) and MS Industrial Systems Engineering (2012) both from VT. She started working in VT's Assistive Technologies group in 2006 as a student employee teaching students how to use assistive and accessible technologies. From 2010 to 2015, she transcribed STEM materials into Braille, and then transitioned into teaching instructors to create accessible educational materials by design.

For the last several years, she's helped VT grow their digital accessibility footprint by helping to establish the centralized captioning fund, building up the campus' Accessibility Network, creating training on PDF accessibility, and leading cohorts of individuals preparing for the IAAP CPACC Certification.

Christa is an active member of regional and national disability and accessibility organizations (AHEAD in VA, AHEAD, ATHEN, and Accessing Higher Ground). When she has the opportunity, her research interests include accessibility in STEM courses and Universal Design for Learning.