To help them achieve complete web accessibility, organizations require a viable technology solution for automatically generating high-volume (i.e., enterprise-level) personalized customer communications in Accessible PDF format. Such a solution would give blind and visually impaired people immediate and equal access to electronic documents, which they currently do not have.
This series of blog posts explains why demand is increasing for customer communication documents in Accessible PDF format, describes current industry practices for producing these documents, and introduces a new technology option that enables organizations to keep PDF format as their default electronic format for high-volume, web-delivered documents of record while enabling full accessibility and usability of those PDFs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
In recent blog posts we examined the Drivers behind Web Content Accessibility, Best Practices for PDF and Accessible PDF and Approaches to Generating Accessible PDFs. In this post, we will examine a new, patented, state-of-the-art technology solution that is specifically designed to generate high volumes of Accessible PDF. You can also access the complete white paper on this topic, Enterprise-Level PDF Accessibility: Drivers, Challenges and Innovative Solutions.
New Technology for Generating Enterprise-Level Accessible PDFs
A first-to-market, enterprise-level technology for automatically producing personalized customer communications in Accessible PDF format is now market available. The new technology converts print streams, documents, and data into Accessible PDFs, either in high-volume batches (i.e., thousands, millions) or individually on demand (dynamically in real time).
Organizations can use this type of innovative technology to simultaneously improve customer experience for people with visual disabilities and comply with relevant accessibility legislation such as the ADA, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act, and the CVAA.
Unlike manual remediation, this automated technology leverages a sophisticated, inherently flexible rules model, ensuring that each source document, whether in PDF or print stream format, completely incorporates the specified accessibility rules. Accessibility templates can be easily edited to ensure production continuity of recurring (e.g., monthly) high-volume transactional documents.
Organizations may need to secure accessibility expertise (at least initially) to define PDF accessibility rules for each document type, although the various document authors and creators require no specialized accessibility knowledge because the automated technology includes a highly intelligent graphical user interface.
Visual PDF tag inspection and usability testing is not required on every page, as it is with manual remediation. Instead, quality control can be maintained with automated and manual accessibility/usability testing on small batches of documents.
This patented technology utilizes PDF/UA format (ISO 14289-1) and incorporates the Matterhorn Protocol2 to generate Accessible PDF output that has been independently tested and found to conform to WCAG 2.0, Level AA, by nationally and internationally recognized prominent advocacy organizations and well respected worldwide accessibility firms.
This innovative technology can be deployed as a traditional on-premise traditional or virtual software installation, or as a cloud-based solution.
Observed Effect on Traditional Format Production
Recent cloud deployments of this new technology are having an unexpected, positive effect on the production of traditional alternate formats such as Braille, large print, and audio. These traditional formats, like manual PDF remediation, can be time and cost intensive to produce, and can delay the delivery of customer communications.
The rich, structured output from this automated technology has allowed for automation of the production of traditional formats, including Braille, large print, and audio, lessening the labor resources needed for manual processing. Each personalized communication statement or notice can be produced more efficiently, reducing cost and delivery time for alternate hardcopy formats.
With the advent of affordable, scalable technology for automatically producing high-volume Accessible PDF documents, private organizations and government agencies suddenly have a number of new options for presenting online customer communications.
For example, organizations can provide Accessible PDF communications by default, creating an inclusionary environment while meeting legislative mandates.
This delivery scenario enables blind and visually impaired people to access their personal information at the same time as other customers, without the delays associated with requesting alternate hardcopy formats.
Or, instead of producing Accessible PDFs by default, organizations with existing systems for online presentment of PDF documents may choose to provide customers with on-demand conversion to Accessible PDF format, both for current PDFs and archived documents. For online users, this would mean replacing an inconvenient exception process with merely a few button clicks.
Implications for Organizations and Individuals
This innovative technology solution for enterprise-level PDF accessibility offers blind and visually impaired people equal (and instant) access to electronic documents, empowering them to be more independent, make more timely financial and other critical decisions, and participate more fully in the 24/7 digital world. Imagine, individuals who prefer digital technology can finally say “No, thanks” to exception processes, accommodations, late-arriving hardcopies in alternate formats, and other such hassles.
For blind and visually impaired people who do not currently request documents in alternate formats, and instead rely on family, friends, and support workers to help them manage their affairs, this technology gives them another avenue for becoming more independent.
With the arrival of this groundbreaking automated technology and its ready availability to organizations producing customer communication PDFs, 20+ million blind and visually impaired Americans have an opportunity to use their buying power to affect meaningful change. They can achieve this by patronizing service providers that offer instant online access to Accessible PDF versions of bank and credit card statements, phone bills, insurance documents, and other routine (yet vital) communications. Likewise, they can demand a comparable level of service from government agencies, non-profits, and institutions of higher education.
This type of technology is a game changer for industry, for government, and most importantly for blind and visually impaired people who deserve equal access to the entire internet, including websites, web content, and web-delivered documents.