March 12, 2018

Strategies for Enterprise Document Accessibility

Document Accessibility Blog Posts

Your organization has made a decision to make your documents accessible.  Good news!  Now it’s time to discuss this with your stakeholders.  But before you begin this journey, you may want to consider an understanding of what type of documents exist in your organization.

  • Do you have a lot of documents that are produced in the office – MS-Word, PowerPoint, perhaps Adobe InDesign to name a few?
  • How many of these documents reside on the web as downloadable or web accessed content?
  • How about system generated documents that are either personalized or have transaction content like statements and invoices?
  • What documents exist in archives? Are they exposed to your employees and to the public?

Next, you will want to consider how you and your organization plan to execute on making documents accessible.

  • Do you plan to train everyone or partially train your staff?
  • Will you provide awareness training to a broader group – like your CSRs?
  • Do you want to send everything through an accessibility department?
  • Do you plan to outsource?
  • Do you plan to use an enterprise Auto Tagging tool and perhaps use your accessibility or publishing department to review all documents?

You need to also consider what happens to documents that require on-going updates and plan for how accessibility updates are added.

Finally, you may also want to consider how to provide clients or employees with documents that are in traditional alternate formats like large print, braille or audio.

Here are some additional things to really think about when you deploy accessibility.  You want to consider speed, volume, and cost while also factoring in the necessity of quality assurance to ensure your documents are truly accessible.  There is nothing worse than a poor customer experience!

What is the right strategy?

Documents that are authored and published using office tools can be made accessible using typical authoring tools like MS-Word, PowerPoint or Excel.  A little bit of training on accessible documents and an accessible corporate template goes a long way.  Please note, there is no standard for Accessible Word, PowerPoint or Excel, but this category of documents are good for internal consumption.

These documents can be output to an Accessible PDF for tagging and testing to WCAG 2.0 AA or PDF/UA so you can meet minimum requirements for regulations like Section 508 ICT Refresh, EN 349-501 or AODA.  Documents exposed on the Web should be tagged to WCAG 2.0 AA at a minimum so that users of assistive technologies like screen readers or refreshable braille displays can easily navigate these documents.

You may have to look at what is stored in the archive and implement a strategy for easily remediating these documents.  You could have hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of documents.  If this is the case, consider what documents need to be exposed and what can be made accessible on-the-fly.

Testing is important, and understanding the requirements for accessible documents is paramount.  When we consider so many documents, the ideal way to attack this would be to have an accessibility department that is trained to tag and test.  The reality is that not many people are trained to tag documents, let alone test them, and as such they are generally overburdened with work or are more focused on web accessibility.

An enterprise auto tagging solution is a powerful and effective solution since it can push through thousands of pages in seconds.  However, although an auto tagger solution is great for scoping a document and tagging it, it will never achieve a 100% perfectly tagged document unless the document is very simple.  Content like tables and graphics need to be tagged separately and manually since it requires human interpretation and intervention — for example to develop descriptions for alternate text for graphics and images.

Documents can be submitted to an enterprise or cloud auto tagging solution to reduce the need to build internal competencies for tagging.  Once tagged, a document will require some touch up, and that can be done with a specialist who understands tagging.

For system generated documents, you can look at solutions that tag at composition and solutions that use templates at post composition.  We believe both are valid, however post composition provides greater efficiency as it requires one template that can be used for multiple document types and multiple print description languages.

With at-composition tagging, your document programmers need to understand accessibility, including factors such as read order, and be up to date with the most current accessibility standards.  This can be costly and only addresses documents from today forward.  For post composition, there is a single change point, with no need to go back into the programming of the composition tool.  Composition systems often over tag and cause document to grow in size – sometimes dramatically.  Post composition maintains your workflow without the need to store documents as larger accessible PDFs.  This is important for archiving or presenting.  Post composition also allows you to tag on the fly, maintaining existing document workflows and not impacting storage or presentment times while also addressing archives of documents that need to be made accessible.

For output to other formats, look for a provider or a software solution that can go from one format to another like Accessible PDF to braille.  This will save a significant cost while allowing you to meet the requests of those that can only read braille.

If you are starting out and you are unsure of your volumes, an outsourced provider can help.  Make sure they have the right tools or even a cloud offering allowing you to crawl before you run.  Ask questions and find the right solution that you can scale.

If you’re attending the CSUN conference in San Diego the week of March 19, be sure to visit CrawfordTech in booth 516 to learn more about how we can help you with your document accessibility journey.