Section 508 and WCAG compliance has been an important mandate for the U.S. Federal Government, and the Department of Education is one of the government agencies actively working towards meeting these requirements for visually impaired students receiving federal loans. The Department of Education has now issued time frames and deadlines for WCAG compliance to student loan servicers that generate and distribute federal Direct Loan Program (DLP) statements, notices and communications.
Accordingly, all loan statements, notices and communications, forms and websites need to be made available to borrowers in accessible read-only HTML format or non-proprietary equivalent (e.g. accessible PDF), complying with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and WCAG 2.0, within a few short months. The Federal Government has also established additional time frames for testing and verification of accessibility compliance before the actual deadline, for making accessible content available to borrowers.
Loan service providers typically generate statements, notices and communications in print stream or PDF formats. Making these accessible using traditional methods is manual, laborious, time-consuming and expensive. Visually impaired students therefore typically experience a lag in receiving critical information included in their statements, notices and communications in formats they can access due to the time lines and delays involved in generating manually tagged accessible PDFs, Braille, Large Print, Audio or HTML formats. This is far from ideal, and visually impaired students are now expecting to be treated the same as anyone else would be with regards to the timely availability of important information.
Most Federal Student Loan Statement Servicers are still struggling to find a solution that meets compliance and can be made operational before the required deadlines. While building a new solution from scratch is often how IT departments approach technology challenges, given the tight timelines involved and the level of accuracy, expertise, testing capabilities and technological know-how required in building a solution, it is not an efficient way of addressing this particular requirement.
Key points for Federal Loan Service Providers to consider when implementing an automated accessibility solution:
- The solution should be easy to implement and should not require management of multiple formats
- Storage costs should not increase as a result of the solution
- The solution should be infinitely scalable and be able to support the demands of generating millions of documents without performance issues
The OpenText Automated Output Accessibility solution addresses each of these requirements, and can generate accessible PDFs from any input print stream format quickly and efficiently, while keeping storage size at bay. The solution was designed using thousands of man-hours worth of very specific experience and expertise in the system-generated document accessibility space, and our industry-leading transformation engine enables generating accessible output in the milliseconds. In fact, the output generated from this solution has been reviewed by the National Federation of the Blind as well as the Department of Education.
Using best-of-breed technology and accessibility-specific expertise is the only fool-proof way of meeting the tight time frames and deadlines defined by the Department of Education. Learn more about our solution here.