• 39th Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference - March 18 - 22,2024 at the Anaheim Marriott

    The Premier AT Conference

38th Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Has Concluded

Pitfalls of Machine Generated PDFs

Date & Time
Friday, March 17, 2023 - 3:20 PM PST  
Grand JK  

PDF files have been around longer than widespread use of the internet. Although some in the accessibility community treat PDFs as a "stepchild," technology advances suggest they are not going away and may even become more complex. HTML may rule supreme, but if a person wants to download and store a bunch of statements, they're usually going to prefer saving them as PDF files.

Most accessibility professionals are familiar with PDFs created by people using desktop apps. These PDFs or their source documents can be fixed manually. But what do you do when a PDF is generated on demand? Think of every receipt, credit card, bank, sales, inventory, or invoicing statement you have ever downloaded. The method used to generate the PDFs matters. Many server-based tools can create PDFs, but the majority can't produce accessible PDFs even if the source HTML they are based on is accessible.

In the meantime, PDFs have developed a bad reputation among many screen reader users because millions--if not trillions--of PDFs on the internet today are not accessible. If your organization allows people to generate PDFs on demand, the problem grows exponentially.

The speaker has been manually fixing PDFs for accessibility since 2006—about as long as PDF tags have existed. Now in the financial sector, he has worked with developer teams to improve accessibility of on-demand PDFs. He will review the history of PDFs, the PDF/UA standard, and some good and bad methods for creating machine generated PDFs.

This Presentation Link is provided by the Presenter(s) and not hosted by the Center on Disabilities at CSUN. The Center on Disabilities has confirmed, as of March 2, 2023, content linked is relevant to the presentation, but has not been reviewed for accessibility nor will the Center on Disabilities attempt to remediate any accessibility issues in the linked content. Please contact the Presenter(s) with any accessibility concerns.

  • Information & Communications Technology
  • Government
  • Finance & Banking
  • Retail & Wholesale
  • Administration & Business Support
Audience Level
Session Summary (Abstract)
Accountancy, sales, or invoicing systems can generate on-demand PDFs, but only a handful of tools create screen-reader friendly PDFs. You can't manually fix these files, but your organization can choose an export method that works for all.  
Primary Topic
Secondary Topics
  • Blind/Low Vision
  • Development
  • Evaluation & Remediation
  • Information & Communications Technology (ICT)
Session Type
General Track  


  • Richard Steinberg
    Wells Fargo

Add to Outlook/iCal (How it works)

Back to Session List