Portable Document Formats or PDFs are used worldwide to share and present documents. Educational institutions distribute learning materials, the government sends important public service information, retailers and eCommerce businesses disclose important product and service information and financial institutions share statements and insurance claims via PDFs.
However, these PDFs aren’t accessible to all, especially the disabled communities. According to the latest reports released by WHO, an estimated 1.3 billion, or 16% of the global population experience significant disability. It could be 1 in 6 of us. For people who have low vision or cognitive disability, an inaccessible document would appear blurry while for people with dyslexia, inaccessible content is like reading a page written in codes. Thus, here comes the concept of PDF accessibility – an initiative to create equal access for all digital users including differently abled ones.
The Need for Accessible Documents
The digital-first approach has created a ‘divide’ for disabled communities to access and consume the content. That said, accessibility now involves two key issues—how disabled users access electronic information and what initiatives businesses take to help the disabled population use electronic documents, web pages, etc. Think of a visually impaired job seeker struggling to navigate an inaccessible application form, a student with dyslexia unable to access course materials due to poor formatting, or a senior citizen left frustrated and confused by a dense, untagged document – each instance, here, is a missed opportunity. Hence, businesses need document accessibility solutions to bridge the ‘digital divide’ and pave the way for equal access.
Case Study: A Missed Million: How Inaccessible PDFs Costs Business Opportunities
A leading global fashion retailer, known for its trendy designs and commitment to sustainability prides itself in catering to the unique needs of a diverse clientele. But a nagging concern lingers as the company misses out on a significant market segment, which is individuals with disabilities. This is because their product descriptions, online catalogs, and return policies, all are presented in dense, inaccessible PDFs.
The consequences were far-reaching. Negative reviews poured in, social media erupted with criticism, and locked doors for millions of potential customers. Had the situation been any worse, the company would have faced a potential lawsuit from a disability rights organization. The financial repercussions were significant: reputational damage, lost sales, and potential legal fees.
Embracing accessibility isn’t just about ethics; it’s a strategic move that highlights a business’ commitment to fostering inclusivity. It helps businesses with:
- Market Expansion: As per WHO reports, 1 in 6 individuals globally live with some form of disability, representing a massive untapped market. Making electronic documents, whether PDFs, Word files, PPT, etc., accessible opens doors to this segment, enabling the fashion retailer to increase its customer base and gain loyalty.
- Improved Brand Image: Every extra mile taken to cater to the unique needs of the customers, especially the proactive efforts towards inclusion, resonates positively with customers. It solidified the brand as socially conscious and responsible, translating into improved brand reputation and greater customer trust.
- Better SEO and Search Engine Visibility: Unlike regular PDFs, accessible PDFs have additional tags, semantics, and descriptions, making them easy to navigate. These are more likely to be indexed and ranked higher in search engine results, leading to increased organic traffic and brand visibility.
- Reduced Legal Risks: Adhering to accessibility laws is a pressing legal mandate. Inaccessible PDFs can violate these accessibility regulations, leading to lawsuits and hefty penalties. Prioritizing accessibility mitigates these risks and ensures compliance with relevant laws.
The Solution Implemented
Quickly understanding the gravity of the situation and investing in quality PDF accessibility services, the global fashion retailer implemented a comprehensive plan. This included:
- Retrofitting Existing PDFs: All internal and customer-facing PDFs were retrofitted with alt-text descriptions for images, proper heading structures for screen readers, adjustable font sizes, and keyboard navigation capabilities.
- Creating Accessible Templates for New Documents: New PDFs were created using accessible design principles, including descriptive language from the outset, clear typography, and high-contrast color palettes, ensuring consistent accessibility across all content.
- Training and Awareness: Marketing personnel, content creators, designers, and all other stakeholders were trained on accessibility best practices and the importance of creating inclusive content, making sure that future documents are accessible.
The impact of accessible PDFs goes beyond the immediate financial benefits:
- Increased Website Traffic: Within the first year of investing in document accessibility services and fostering inclusion, the fashion retailer witnessed great footfall as the web traffic of users with disabilities surged by 20%.
- Amplified Online Sales: Sales conversions from accessible PDFs increased by 15% as online orders from visually impaired customers started to pour, demonstrating the purchasing power of this previously untapped market. This also translated to a significant revenue boost, demonstrating the untapped potential of an inclusive approach.
- Improved Brand Reputation: The company’s commitment to accessibility garnered positive media coverage and strengthened its image as a socially responsible and inclusive brand, attracting a wider customer base.
It is quite evident that accessible PDFs are not just a matter of compliance, but a ‘smart’ business move with tangible benefits. Embracing accessibility by taking small steps such as document remediation can help businesses open doors to new markets, build a better brand image, and ultimately drive growth and success.
At the same time, remediating documents in-house to make them accessible is a time-consuming and complicated process. For businesses, particularly those with a global reach, outsourcing accessible PDF services can be a cost-effective and efficient way to ensure compliance with accessibility regulations and standards.
Step-by-Step Guide to Remediate PDFs for Accessibility
However, when outsourcing accessible document services, there is an optimal balance to be achieved between speed and accuracy. On one hand, businesses want to get accessible PDFs as quickly as possible, they should also ensure that the remediated documents are accessible to the highest standards at the same time.
Achieving the Optimal Balance
Striking a perfect balance between speed and accuracy is vital to helping businesses gain a competitive edge. Thus, here are some key considerations:
1. Choose the Right PDF Accessibility Service Provider as a Key Partner
Conducting thorough research and due diligence is crucial when selecting an outsourcing partner as there are plenty of PDF accessibility companies in the marketplace, each claiming to be the best. Go for vendors with a proven track record of success in delivering high-quality remediated documents, preferably with experience in your specific industry. Important of all, check their certifications and ensure they comply with relevant accessibility standards, including WCAG 2.0 & 2.1, ADA, PDF U/A, etc.
2. Establish Clear Expectations
Before signing the contract, define your expectations and requirements clearly in writing. Mention the accuracy benchmarks, specify the desired turnaround times, and decide upon communication protocols. Make sure the contract outlines the consequences of non-compliance with agreed-upon standards.
3. Implement Quality Control Measures
Incorporate quality control checkpoints throughout the process, including regular reviews and testing to ensure that the accessibility features are correctly implemented. This can help catch errors early on and prevent the need for extensive revisions later.
4. Monitor Performance
Regularly monitor the performance of your outsourced accessible document services. Track key metrics such as turnaround time and accuracy rate. These observations can help in identifying areas for improvement and ensure that you’re getting the best value for your money.
Balancing speed and accuracy while outsourcing the document remediation process requires careful planning and execution. Businesses can strike the perfect balance and ensure that their PDFs are accessible to everyone by following the above-mentioned tips. After all, investing in accessibility is not just a legal mandate, but a business opportunity in guise.