Understanding the Accessibility Differences in EPUB and PDF Reading Experiences




  • Rachel Comerford, Senior Director of Content Standards and Accessibility, Macmillan Learning
  • Darrin Evans, Director, Virtual Learning Center, Wake Technical Community College
  • George Kerscher, Chief Innovations Officer, DAISY Consortium

Session Details

  • Length of Session: Quick Talks
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: Pre-conference


PDF is the familiar format for many schools but EPUB popularity is growing and for good reason - it brings with it an improved user experience for many students. In this presentation we'll look at the changing educational landscape and the changing ebook landscape and how the pros and cons of each ebook format fit in with those futures.


PDF has always been a well established format in the education and publishing worlds. We attach PDFs to our emails, print them out and distribute them as assignments, use them as an element of our print book production workflow... all of those uses for PDF were and in many cases may still remain valid. But is PDF the best experience for ereading in an academic environment?

We will talk about the many features that EPUB has brought to the reading experience (including, but not limited to): - variable fonts - accessibility metadata - reflowable text

How are these features creating a better reading experience for students who are using assistive technology in their everyday lives? How are they helping students who are impacted by the sudden change in their learning environment as more of their classes shift to an an online environment?


  1. PDF and EPUB both now have an established position in the ebook market with a number of active and happy users
  2. EPUB has a number of key built in accessibility features and a growing focus on accessibility and usability
  3. The educational landscape is changing, in part due to the online move, and EPUBs can make that easier

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Alternate Format, EPUB Track, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Rachel Comerford

Rachel Comerford is the Senior Director of Content Standards and Accessibility at Macmillan Learning where she spearheads cross-functional efforts to ensure customer satisfaction and access for all. Recent projects include the implementation of a company-wide accessibility training initiative, accessibility authoring and quality assurance guidelines, and a new customer outreach and response plan.

She has over a decade of experience in the print and digital publishing world. Prior to coming to Macmillan as an editor, she held a variety of editorial and sales positions at WW Norton and Pearson.

Darrin Evans

Darrin Evans is an Accessibility Technologist and the Director of the Virtual Learning Communities Professional Development Center. Darrin has a Master’s in Instructional Technology Darrin has over 15 years of experience in eLearning and accessibility of digital content. The Virtual Learning Community is a partnership between the 58 community colleges of the North Carolina Community College System and Wake Technical Community College. Darrin enjoys technology and is always looking for ways to make digital content more accessible to all learners.

George Kerscher

“Access to information is a fundamental human right.” 2003 to the United Nations George Kerscher began his IT innovations in 1987 and coined the term "print disabled." George is dedicated to developing technologies that make information not only accessible, but also fully functional in the hands of persons who are blind or who have a print disability. He believes properly designed digitally published materials and web pages can make information accessible to all people. George is an advocate for semantically rich content which can be used effectively by everybody. As Chief Innovations Officer of the DAISY Consortium, Senior Advisor, Global Literacy to Benetech, and member of Publishing Groups in the W3C, Kerscher is a recognized international leader in document access. In addition, Kerscher chairs the DAISY/NISO Standards committee, Chairs the Steering Council of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI, and also serves on the Advisory Board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).


Understanding Accessibility of PDF and EPUB: Use EPUBs, Please - AHG 2020