Accessible Communications Deadlines Looming for Public & Private Sectors in Ontario

Hand with a timerDo you communicate with your customers electronically? An important deadline is looming for businesses that operate in Ontario. If your organization uses PDF documents in its Customer Communications strategy, then you should be concerned about the deadline for providing accessible communication supports in those PDF documents.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was established in 2005 to help fight discrimination against people with disabilities in Ontario. Since then, in 2010, the Ontario Government enacted the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the AODA. The IASR has deadlines for organizations to provide accessible communication supports which are prescribed based on type and size of organization. The Ontario Government and Legislative Assembly are already on the hook to meet this requirement as of January 1st, 2014. The Public and Private sectors are expected to comply according to the following schedule:

  • Large Public Sector Organizations as of January 1st, 2015;
  • Small Public Sector Organizations and Large Private Organizations as of January 1st, 2016; and
  • Small Private Organizations as of January 1st, 2017.

A large organization is one which employs 50 or more people.

Programs such as paperless billing, which may involve electronic delivery of PDF-based statements, invoices and bills, are almost ubiquitous in industry today, due to their cost savings advantages and various corporate green initiatives. People with disabilities such as blindness, partial vision loss and cognitive disabilities interfering with reading ability, should be as much able to take advantage of these socially-responsible programs as anybody else. Not having communication supports built into these documents creates barriers to their participation and violates their rights under the law.

Accessible Communication Supports for PDFs are provided by adhering to the PDF for Universal Accessibility (PDF/UA) standard which requires including a tag structure and other metadata within the file. PDF/UA compliant documents provide information to assistive technologies such as screen readers with regards to what is the meaningful content, and in what order it is to be read. It includes such information as language specification, identification of document hierarchy and alternate text for images used as content. Without these, screen readers see a PDF document as essentially empty.

Many organizations take a manual approach to providing accessible formats, by responding to customer requests and sending documents to service providers at tremendous cost (from $5 to $35 per page) to be converted on-demand. However this is an exclusionary approach, requiring people with disabilities to inform these organizations of their disability, which to them is private information. In addition, delays in having documents made accessible by hand can disadvantage the consumer, especially when the information requested is time-sensitive in nature.

An automated transformation approach, as provided by Actuate’s Document Accessibility Solution, can solve this problem by providing consumers with virtually instant access to accessible versions of their statements, allowing them the same timely access to information enjoyed by their sighted compatriots. Because of its ease of integration with an organization’s existing Customer Communications Management (CCM) systems, it can be provided inclusively eliminating the need for consumers to divulge private information. This can all be done at a small fraction of the per-page cost as compared with the labor-intensive manual remediation approach. This not only improves an organization’s public image, but also reduces expenses improving the bottom line.

Organizations facing these deadlines under the IASR should already be thinking about how they will comply. To find out more about Actuate’s Document Accessibility Solution, simply send your request for information to ccminfo@actuate.com, and we would be delighted to start that discussion with you.

OpenText

OpenText is the leader in Enterprise Information Management (EIM). Our EIM products enable businesses to grow faster, lower operational costs, and reduce information governance and security risks by improving business insight, impact and process speed.

Related Articles