PDFs: Into the Metaverse (panel discussion on PDF accessibility)

Presented at 3:30pm in Colorado F on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.



  • Chad Chelius, Trainer/Consultant/Accessibility Wizard, Chax Training and Consulting
  • Dan Comden, Access Technology Center Manager, University of WA
  • Dax Castro, Accessible Document Specialist, AbleDocs
  • Susan Kelmer, Alternate Format Production Program Manager, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Hadi Rangin, IT Accessibility Specialist, University of Washington

Session Details

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


PDFs are still a challenge in the higher education accessibility community. But not everyone agrees on where the challenges exist, and there are multiple perspectives about how to tackle these challenges. Attendees will hear from 3 different accessibility professionals to be inspired, consoled, validated, and re-energized with how to address the pervasive problem of inaccessible PDFs. Based on last year’s engaging panel, we present PDF Accessibility Panel, The Sequel.


Many of us bemoan higher ed’s seemingly dependence on PDFs, simply because inaccessible PDFs are often challenging and time-consuming to fix. But PDFs as a file type have several benefits to many users, which is why they are rampant across academia.

The purpose of this panel is to learn from 3 different experts about questions surrounding PDFs and accessibility. We will hear from Susan Kelmer, an alternate format expert who often needs to make content accessible to students as fast as possible. We have Dax Castro, an Adobe certified trainer who helps organizations improve the quality of their PDFs. And Dan Comden will share insights from an IT perspective and campus strategy. We will discuss questions such as:

• Can you summarize your overall position on using PDFs in academia from AHG 2021? And can you share how/if that position has changed this last year? • What are the strengths/benefits of PDFs for the people with whom you work? • What are the challenges of making PDFs accessible for the people with whom you work? • What do you think is most needed in higher education and why? o Wider awareness as to the impacts of inaccessible PDFs o Stricter polices about using PDFs o Stricter polices about ensuring PDFs used are accessible o Better tools to help identify inaccessible PDFs o Better tools to help remediate inaccessible PDFs o Improved training faculty/content creators on making PDFs accessible-born o Enhanced support for making PDFs accessible for faculty/content creators o Research on the impact of inaccessible PDFs on all students o Your own answer here • What would you desire a higher education institution to have done regarding inaccessible PDFs at their school, by the next AHG conference in Nov 2023?

We hope to document ideas, comments, tools, suggestions, etc. in a document that can be accessed by participants live (and shared with other parties after the session).


  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

Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Administrative/Campus Policy, Alternate Format, Faculty Development & Support, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Chad Chelius

Chad Chelius is a trainer, author, consultant, and speaker as well as Director of Training Solutioins and Principal for Chax Training and Consulting. He resides in the Philadelphia area and has been using Adobe products for over 25 years. He began his career in the design and publishing industry. As an Adobe Certified Instructor and consultant he teaches and advises on all Adobe print and web products, specializing in InDesign and InCopy workflows, Illustrator, automation, and PDF accessibility using InDesign, Word, and Adobe Acrobat. He works with clients both large and small in and outside of the United States, helping them to solve design, workflow, and accessibility challenges using Adobe products. Chad is a LinkedIn Learning author and you can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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.

Hadi Rangin